12 Ways to Increase Enrollment in your Family Childcare Program
As many childcare programs face challenges in the current economic reality, many are seeking advice on how to increase program enrollment. The following list is adapted from a conversation posed by a member in HELLO, NAEYC’s online community.
- Register with your local Childcare Resource and Referral agency. Parents look at agency websites to find licensed childcare programs that have openings. Make sure your information is listed on these websites, and that the information is up to date, including changes to ages served, hours open and holidays.
- Post flyers. Think of places near your center where families tend to go, such as your local laundromats, grocery stores, and library. Be sure to ask business what their regulations are for posting and follow their direction. You can even try pediatrician’s offices as they sometimes keep a list of local childcare options for parents.
- Let realtors know. Find the realtors in your area and give them a flyer (either physical or digital). This is usually well-received by realtors because they want to be prepared to let families moving into the area know about the services families will be asking about.
- Talk with your school district. Ask your local schools or school district how they might allow you to get the word out. Some school districts ask that you get a flyer pre-approved with them first to post in teacher’s lounges. Others don’t allow flyers at all, while others may let you send flyers home with the children. They may also allow you to advertise at Kindergarten round-up or other Kindergarten enrollment events. Some elementary schools keep a list of childcare programs that have after-school care or do care for school-aged children during breaks, so letting them know you are available for those services is very useful for elementary schools.
- Make friends with other Childcare Programs. Get to know other childcare center directors or other family childcare providers in your area. You might ask if they have openings, and if so, ask if you can refer people to them if you become full and they may do the same in return. Collaborate with each other, and perhaps hold a combined open house for all programs in your area on a specific day so parents can tour all the childcare programs in the area in one day. Rather than seeing each other as competitors, working together helps everyone in the long run.
- Develop a website and be active on social media. Use your website and social pages as a way to show families that you are active and give them a glimpse of the activities that take place in your program. You can write about your teaching philosophy and your ideas for families who have children with challenging behaviors, or fun things families can do at home to encourage children’s learning.
- Have a presence at city events. Call your city’s chamber of commerce and ask when city events will be held and sign up for a booth. Set up a fun activity for children to do as they visit your booth. Hand out business cards and have additional information on hand for families who enquire about childcare.
- Develop word-of-mouth buzz. To obtain a positive word-of-mouth reputation, you can start by joining some family groups on social media. Instead of selling your program join and be active in discussions and questions and provide helpful information. You can gradually share that you have a childcare program if a question comes up about childcare by posting a link to your website or facebook page. Use social media to network, befriending family member’s from the family’s groups and mentioning when appropriate that you have a child care program.
Do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis. Do this by writing down your program’s strengths and weaknesses. Strengths may be that you have been doing childcare for 10 years, you have excellent staff, your program has a high rating from your state’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), and you take state subsidized payments. Examples of weaknesses may be that you do not have a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, your play area needs repairs, or your program is not accredited.
Then determine what weaknesses you can turn into strengths and which strengths you can emphasize in your flyers or other marketing activities. Examples of opportunities are things like you are in a great location where new homes are being built with young families moving in. A threat might be that your state is not able to pay as much to low-income families for childcare as they had in the past. In addition, look into the needs of families in your area. Maybe they need infant care, but you do not offer that. Maybe you can decide to do infant care or offer an after-school program if that is a need. Maybe you can lengthen your hours if you find out that local businesses who have families that need childcare get off work after you are closed. Widening your hours can help if you see a need.
- Work with foster care and social work agencies. These programs periodically need emergency care for last minute situations when the foster parent has something come up or if a child was removed from a home and needs temporary care until a foster parent can be located.
- Call business HR departments in your area. Call the local businesses in your area and let the HR department know you have openings for their employees. They often appreciate knowing that information for employees who ask.
- Ask current or former parents to promote your business. Ask parents to post about your business on social media when someone asks about childcare in the area. Prospective clients may be more likely to talk with a parent who uses your services before calling you directly.
DeAnn Jones is a co-facilitator of the Family Child Care Intest Forum, the director and lead teacher of an accredited family child care program, and an instructor at North Seattle College and at Purdue University Global.