As an afterschool program coordinator, you’re all too familiar with the sometimes stressful nature of your position. You’ve got kids to keep entertained, parents to stay in touch with, and school administrators to coordinate with. All in all, this can create a hectic workload.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools and best practices in 2022 that simplify the afterschool program management experience. These practices offer greater convenience and ease for staff members and parents alike, from applications that help with program marketing to school management software that streamlines afterschool program administration.
In this guide, we’ll cover the top five afterschool program management best practices to keep in mind, including:
- Facilitate contactless interactions.
- Maintain transparency with caregivers.
- Plan engaging activities.
- Fundraise smarter.
- Improve your program marketing efforts.
With these strategies in your pocket, you’ll be able to manage your afterschool program more efficiently to improve the experience for students, guardians, and staff members alike. Let’s jump in!
1. Facilitate contactless interactions.
Since the start of the pandemic, your afterschool program has placed a stronger emphasis on keeping students and staff members healthy and safe. When possible, part of this development has probably included transitioning in-person activities to the virtual realm.
You can continue facilitating smoother online processes to help keep your school community safe by using a powerful afterschool program management solution. These software platforms allow you to manage the following processes in a streamlined, contactless way:
- Registration: Simplify registration for parents by allowing them to browse and register for all programs online.
- Safety considerations: Parents will be assured that you’ll have all of their students’ important information since they can input details like medical history and allergies during the registration process.
- Drop-offs and pick-ups: Facilitate contactless, digital check-ins and check-outs to streamline the attendance process and reduce face-to-face interactions.
- Payments: According to CommunityPass’ guide to school payment solutions, afterschool program software gives parents access to a contactless and convenient online payment process. Plus, parents can set up automatic bill pay to speed up the payment process each month.
Managing these elements within a single software solution provides greater flexibility and convenience for your staff members, too. They’ll be able to view student information and transactions in a centralized system, saving time (and eliminating the need for binders or cabinets full of printed papers).
2. Maintain transparency with caregivers.
Parents and guardians want to see that you’re doing everything possible to keep their kids safe and happy while they’re in your care. They place their trust in you and your program, which isn’t something to be taken lightly. Show caregivers that you understand their concerns by using program management tools that allow for transparency.
This is another area where robust afterschool program management software comes in handy. Using your program management tools, you can improve transparency with caregivers by:
- Creating better, more frequent communications. Segment your contact list based on shared characteristics, such as days of the week they attend or grade level. Send relevant information to each group, or key details to your entire email list. Plus, you can create email messages in advance and schedule them to be sent at the ideal future time when parents are most likely to open them.
- Make pick-ups more secure. Allow staff members to approve pick-ups using signature and photo matching to keep students safe and keep track of who will be coming to pick them up.
- Identify student absences with digital attendance. Staff members will know exactly which students are in their care at all times, ensuring everyone is accounted for.
When parents are completely in the know about everything going on with your afterschool program, they’ll feel much more comfortable leaving their kids in your care for several hours a week.
3. Plan engaging activities.
Your students are the heart of your afterschool program. Without engaging and entertaining activities for them to participate in, students will be listless and frustrated, creating a more chaotic environment for them and your staff members as well.
Keep students engaged by offering exciting activities such as:
- A mentorship program: Pair up older students with younger ones or pair students who need extra help or guidance with specific afterschool program staff members.
- Homework help: Leave some time for students to get started on their homework assignments with the help of your staff members. Give students a fun activity to look forward to once they’ve completed their assignments, such as a movie or Lego set.
- Physical activities: Plan engaging games for students to participate in, such as a dance party or scavenger hunt. You can even take students on a nature walk if your school has trails nearby.
- Multimedia activities: Allow students to have some computer or tablet time playing games or making videos with friends (with supervised browsing, of course).
- Crafts: Tie-dye, making Play-Dough, and coloring are all easy, fun, and quick craft ideas.
- Gardening: Create a garden for students to work in after school and learn more about the ins and outs of gardening. This is a great way to offer continuing education in a fun, relaxed environment.
- Family activities: Invite students’ families to participate in activities on special days. This can include anything from fundraising events to a field day. This helps students feel more comfortable within your afterschool program and allows them to introduce their family members to their afterschool program friends.
Remember, the key to making your afterschool program more engaging is to meet students where they are. Every day will be different for each student and the group as a whole. If students aren’t enjoying a certain activity, take it as a cue to pivot to a different activity or stay flexible with your plans.
4. Fundraise smarter.
You likely engage in fundraising from time to time to raise money for your school and, by extension, your afterschool program. But fundraisers can often be draining and time-consuming when it comes to planning, marketing, and execution.
Luckily, in 2022, there are plenty of ideas that make fundraising extremely easy for supporters to participate in and for school administrators to manage. Double the Donation’s school fundraising ideas roundup covers a few of these options, including:
- Online shopping fundraisers: Raise money for your school through passive fundraisers such as online shopping fundraisers, which allow school supporters to raise money while they shop. Supporters will make online purchases through their favorite retailers, and a portion of the sales will go directly to your school.
- Product fundraisers: With a product fundraiser, students will become the fundraisers by selling products such as cookie dough, gourmet popcorn, or coupon books. This helps students earn important leadership and money-management skills while supporting your school’s programs.
- Grocery store fundraising: Similar to online shopping fundraisers, grocery store fundraising raises money for your school while supporters complete their everyday shopping. Research the large grocery chains in your area to determine the process for getting involved in their fundraising program.
These ideas help you incorporate a mix of active and passive fundraising efforts to raise more for your school over time. Plus, they help get the wider community involved in supporting your school, generating more awareness of your school’s programs.
5. Improve your program marketing efforts.
Imagine you’re a busy working parent with a couple of kids in the school system. You likely have a lot on your plate, from going to your job every day to keeping up with your kids’ appointments, sports practices, and more. Therefore, you might not spend a lot of time browsing social media or your personal email, and when you do, it’s only for a few minutes at a time.
That’s why your afterschool program marketing efforts need to be wide-ranging and consistent. Use your marketing strategy to deliver the information busy parents need about your afterschool program and allow them to sign up quickly and efficiently.
Enhance your program marketing efforts by focusing on the following platforms:
- Your website: If you’re creating a new website from scratch, be sure to use a robust website builder platform such as Morweb or Wix. If you already have a school or afterschool program site, make sure it’s equipped with everything parents need, from your program schedule to your online registration page.
- Email newsletters: Use your email newsletter to share schedule updates, reminders about things students may need to bring (such as permission slips or craft supplies), and contact information for parents to get in touch with you or your staff.
- Social media: Use platforms like Facebook or Twitter to reinforce your other platforms and post reminders and other relevant information.
- Text messaging: Some robust afterschool management software solutions allow you to gather caregiver contact information and send text message updates. This can be a great way to stay in touch and share timely updates, such as early release reminders or weather cancellations.
Using a combination of digital communication methods helps you reach the widest possible audience. Whether a certain parent prefers social media, email, or text messaging, they’ll be able to see your messages and updates on their go-to platform.
This shows parents that you prioritize keeping them involved and in the know and helps grow awareness of your program among parents whose children aren’t yet involved in your program.
Afterschool program management doesn’t have to be a hassle in 2022. These best practices and software solutions allow you to spend less time worrying about the administrative aspects of your program and more time interacting with students, parents, and other staff. Plus, you can create a better afterschool program culture and encourage other parents to sign their students up, too. Good luck!