Five Tips to Increase Camp Signups – Without Spending Any Money

By Peggy Chang of Activity Hero

Science classes and art lessons and soccer camps, oh my! Activity providers across the country are essential for providing enriching programs for the over 11 million Americans that attend camps and the 8.4 million children enrolled in afterschool programs. However, many wonder how they can reach more families and increase their program enrollments.

The seemingly obvious solution is to increase spending on advertising or offer discounts, but there are relatively simple ways to increase enrollments without spending a dime. We’ve done research to see what parents want and the best practices for increasing enrollments — so before taking out your wallet, try these five tips to increase your program’s registrations for free.

Show which sessions are available vs. waitlisted.

Parents are afraid of missing out, and are more likely to register if they see that sessions are filling up fast. Showing session availability on your website stops parents from putting off signups and also makes the registration process easier. In addition, it saves your staff time fielding calls and processing applications for programs that are already full.

Publish schedules months before the session start date.

A lot of parents make plans months in advance. If you have your schedules published well before the start date, you can not only get the early planners to sign up, but they will likely bring in a few friends. In fact, about 7 percent of registrations for summer camp are completed more than five months ahead of the camp’s start date, and almost 40 percent of all parents register for camp three months before the start date. To make sure you catch these advance planners during their search process, make sure to have schedules available at least three months before a class start date, and five months before the camp start date.

Allow parents to register at the last minute.

Just as there are the early planners, there are the last-minute planners. More than 20 percent of registrations come in two weeks before the camp or class starts, and about half of those come less than a week before. Whether plans fell through or they were just busy, these parents are looking for next week’s activities the weekend (or often the day) before, so plan for this and ensure your website is accommodating. Allowing online registration, clearly indicating availability and spelling out late registration processes and policies will give them the chance to fill up the last spots.

Allow drop-ins.

Word about your amazing program has gotten around, and now you have families showing up, excited to participate — but not pre-registered. Though allowing drop-ins after your programs have started is less than ideal, activity providers can gain plenty of customers by allowing late registrations, even on-site. Accommodate drop-ins by making your late registration policy clear on your website and bringing extra registration materials to your programs. This way, even if families miss out on the first few days, they’ll still be able to participate and you’ll be able to fill your sessions. Classes and summer camps that offer drop-in or one-day rates are very popular with parents, and can usually charge a higher daily rate because of the flexibility.

Offer sessions in August.

Did you know that half of camps don’t offer sessions during August? Parents’ camp demands are still just as strong until school starts, so see if your staffing and location allows for August sessions. If so, you’re likely to appeal to a wider audience and have new families attend.

August is also a great time to take advantage of the rapidly approaching start of the school year. Try new types of activities during the last days of summer, like back-to-school prep sessions for academic programs and fall sports training for athletic camps.

Unless otherwise noted, all data in the article from ActivityHero.

Follow Activity Hero on Twitter: @ActivityHero

Peggy Chang is the COO and co-founder of ActivityHero, the one-stop shop for activity planning. With over 15 years of experience developing industry-leading online services and software applications, Peggy has led product management teams for Intuit’s QuickBooks software,, Charles Schwab and The Los Angeles Times. She is a graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and has a EECS degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  As a mom with two children, Peggy enjoys introducing her kids to many different year-round specialty activities and camps.

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