Just Released: The 2024 State of the Arts Report - Your Blueprint for Arts Education Success

Author Archives: Abigail Green

About Abigail Green

Abby has overseen content development for higher education degree programs related to education, technology, business, and healthcare. One of her first jobs after college was working with children’s programs for the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She is an experienced and versatile writer and editor whose work has been published by Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore Alumni Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.
  1. How Nonprofit Arts Organizations Can ‘Run It Like a Business’

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    Aubrey Bergauer has been called “the Steve Jobs of classical music” and “the Sheryl Sandberg of the symphony” for her customer-focused, data-backed strategies to help performing arts organizations be as profitable as corporate heavy-hitters like Amazon, Zappos, and Netflix. 

    “I believe that nonprofit is a tax status, not a scarcity mindset or can’t-make-money mandate.” – author and arts consultant Aubrey Bergauer

    A former chief executive of the California Symphony, Bergauer led the organization to double the size of its audience and nearly quadruple its donor base. As a speaker, consultant, podcaster, and now author, she encourages arts and culture nonprofit organizations to take lessons from the for-profit sector to become more relevant, inclusive, and growth-minded to reach modern audiences. 

    “I believe that nonprofit is a tax status, not a scarcity mindset or can’t-make-money mandate,” Aubrey Bergauer writes in the introduction of her new book, Run it Like a Business: Strategies for Arts Organizations to Increase Audiences, Remain Relevant, and Multiply Money—Without Losing the Art. Here are some other takeaways from the book. 

    Create a Better Customer Experience

    While the industry cry is, “We need new audiences!” Bergauer says we have misidentified the problem. An analysis of 400 arts databases in North America and the U.K. found that more than half of all ticket-buyers are first-time bookers. Yet in the U.S., 90% of first-time orchestra attendees never return. Yikes. “The issue isn’t getting people to come to the arts; it’s getting people to come back,” writes Bergauer. 

    The issue isn’t getting new audiences to come to the arts; it’s getting people to come back.

    That matters because those first-time audiences are the entry point from which all other relationships develop. Concert attendees may become donors who then sign up their kids for music camp and so on. So what’s keeping them from coming back? The user experience. 

    In focus groups for the California Symphony, Bergauer found that participants’ frustrations included not being able to understand the organization’s website, which was written for insiders familiar with music terminology. 

    In fact, many arts organizations make this mistake and end up confusing their customers with unfamiliar jargon or terminology. If your art class enrollments are low, perhaps course listings for classes in “dramaturgy” or “handbuilding” need to be rewritten as “playwriting” and “pottery.” 

    Action step: Consider asking a few people outside of your organization to read over your website and share feedback from a newcomer’s perspective. Is it clear and welcoming? Is it easy to understand or confusing? 

    Bergauer calls these the three Fs of the new customer experience: having a newcomer focus on the website, being newcomer friendly in the venue, and creating newcomer-facing marketing. 

    Engage Customers With Multiple Offerings

    If someone buys a ticket to a performance, offering them an annual subscription is not the only opportunity—and in fact, it may turn them off. Many arts orgs are guilty of upselling too much, too soon, according to Bergauer. A first-time concert attendee is likely not going to respond to a request for a donation or to purchase a gala table. 

    A better strategy is to get patrons to repeat the behaviors we want through what’s called “behavioral segmentation.” Starbucks did it right with their “treat receipt” program that gave customers a discount off beverage purchases later the same day—encouraging them to repeat a behavior they’ve already done: buying coffee.

    For an arts education program, this may look like sending personalized emails to students who’ve taken, say, your Intro to Beadwork class, letting them know about an upcoming Beaded Jewelry Class they may be interested in. (By the way, CourseStorm has an automatic email marketing feature that does just that. Customers attribute 14% of enrollments to these emails alone.) 

    A smart strategy is to get people to repeat behaviors. For example, if someone has taken a pottery class, send them an email suggesting other classes they might enjoy. 

    Bergauer advises arts orgs to also get customers involved with a second type of content, like a pre-show talk, an artist meet-and-greet, or a special exhibit opening. An organization she worked for ran a report and found that 75% of their donors were consuming multiple content types. 

    This is true for many arts organizations. They may have performances, membership, gallery exhibits, classes, and more. As Bergauer illustrated with the above example, it’s important to have software that integrates customer data from all these areas so you can run reports to get a true picture of participant behavior and target your offerings accordingly. 

    Action step: Your second type of content can be as simple as packaging your classes as products that people can purchase to give as gifts. Here’s how to do it. 

    Strive for Relevance 

    Studying top brands like Apple and Peloton, Bergauer found that relevance is the most reliable indicator of a brand’s long-term success. So what is relevance, and what does it mean for arts and culture organizations?

    The first criterion for relevance is meeting the needs of your customers. In the case of arts education programs, that requires asking for and responding to student feedback. Only 4% of dissatisfied customers will tell you they’re unhappy, so proactively requesting input is a good idea. 

    Staying relevant requires proactively gathering feedback from your customers and knowing what matters to them. 

    Another way to stay relevant is by staying on top of trends and knowing what matters to your audience. Current marketing trends show that consumers care about supporting local businesses, sustainability, and quality of life. Highlight those aspects of your program, whether that’s a partnership with a local business, an art class using upcycled materials, or enhancing connection among older people in your community through creative aging programs.  

    “The benefits of relevance are generally obvious: customers give us free marketing with their posts online, this positive organic endorsement results in five times more sales than direct advertising, buzz about the organization swells, our patron base grows, donations increase,” writes Bergauer. 

    Action step: Collect valuable student feedback by writing better course evaluation questions and downloading our customizable template. 

    Resources to Run Your Arts Ed Program Like a Business

    Run It Like a Business is packed with practical tips and strategies arts nonprofits can start implementing immediately, along with real-world case studies of successful organizations. 

    For more data-backed info specifically for arts education programs, check out CourseStorm’s new State of the Arts Report. We dug into 10+ years of our customer data to find out what profitable programs are doing to enroll and retain more students. Download your free copy here.

  2. CourseStorm’s New State of the Arts Report Will Help Arts Education Programs “SOAR” in 2024

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    Arts and culture play an important role in our lives. Millions of people in the United States participate in the arts each year, both by attending performances or exhibits and by creating art themselves. Arts education has a measurable positive impact on children both academically and socially. And arts organizations provide economic value for communities, among other benefits.

    The pandemic hugely impacted arts organizations, forcing many to close. Of those that survived and thrived, many were CourseStorm customers. We dug into our data to find out why.

    The pandemic had a huge impact on arts organizations. Many of them were forced to close, such as community theatres whose revenue was based on live performances. Many arts organizations that survived and even grew were those offering education programs, camps, and classes. And many of them were CourseStorm customers.

    We dug into our data from more than 1 million class registrations from hundreds of arts programs to uncover patterns and strategies to help other education programs flourish. We’re sharing this exclusive data from CourseStorm along with insights from other trusted industry sources in our new State of the Arts Report, which we’re calling “SOAR.”

    What’s in the State of the Arts Report (SOAR)?

    Our goal in publishing this report is not only to showcase what’s working for CourseStorm customers, but to share insights and strategies that can help any arts education program thrive.

    Our new report, SOAR, not only shares what’s working for our customers, but also offers insights and strategies that can help any arts education program thrive.

    SOAR offers data-backed answers to questions like: 

    • What are the best days to offer arts classes?
    • Which are more popular, daytime or evening classes?
    • What type of arts program remained popular and even grew during the pandemic?
    • How far in advance do people register for kids’ classes during the school year vs. the summer?
    • Where should arts programs focus most of their digital marketing efforts?
    • What percentage of students are returning vs. new, and how do you keep them coming back?
    • How do you reduce class cancelations?

    SOAR also includes valuable insights about the economic and academic benefits of arts education to the greater community.

    Where Does the Data Come From?

    CourseStorm has more than a decade’s worth of data from 1 million+ class registrations. This includes more than 250 customers in the arts, including Garrison Art Center, Miami Theatre Center, and Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra. 

    CourseStorm has more than a decade’s worth of exclusive data from 1M+ class registrations, including hundreds of customers in the arts.

    In addition to sharing exclusive findings from our customer database, SOAR includes the newest data from industry sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, the Brookings Institution, and more.  

    The robust report contains timely information and actionable strategies to guide arts organizations during this pivotal time in arts education. Whether you’re still struggling to bounce back from the pandemic or have more enrollments than you can manage, SOAR can help you navigate your challenges and thrive going forward. 

    Who Is SOAR for?

    This report is for anyone offering noncredit, open-enrollment enrichment classes in the visual or performing arts, or any programs offering similar classes outside of the arts that want to learn from their peers. It’s especially geared toward nonprofit arts and culture organizations that want to make data-informed decisions about:

    • How to save time and be more efficient
    • How to make their programs more cost-effective and profitable 
    • Where and when to promote their classes 
    • How to better serve their students 
    • How to reach more people and grow enrollments 

    We hope the data in this report helps you make your classes even better and more valuable to your community. If you need support to ease your administrative burden and grow enrollments, CourseStorm is here to help.

    Download the report today and SOAR in 2024!

  3. Staff Training Made Simple: How to Use CourseStorm to Empower Your Instructors

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    Instructors are the lifeblood of your education program. These are the people who have the most direct connection with the learners who take your classes. Many of CourseStorm’s customers have told us that some of their instructors have cult-like followings of students who will take any class they teach. So training your instructors and teaching artists on the tools you use to run your organization makes sense. Here are some benefits of showing your teaching staff how to use CourseStorm. 

    Simple Access to Class Data

    Most teaching artists are creatives, not techies. That’s not to say they can’t use technology, but most artistic types would rather practice their art or dream up new projects for their students than figure out a complicated software platform.

    “Not only is CourseStorm easy for me to use, but it’s also really easy for me to train a teaching artist to use.” – A theatre customer

    Another thing we hear frequently from our customers is that learning CourseStorm’s class registration software takes so little time compared to others.

    Elana Kepner, education director at Marin Shakespeare Company said, “I’ve worked for other arts organizations, so I can speak from the perspective of various kinds of registration. I really appreciate that not only is CourseStorm easy for me to use, but it’s also really easy for me to teach a teaching artist to use without taking a huge chunk out of our training time so that they can access information as they need it.”

    In fact, CourseStorm training for instructors basically consists of setting them up with a staff login and giving them access to their class data. That’s it. Once instructors are logged in, they can:

    • View the class(es) they are scheduled to teach 
    • View class rosters of enrolled students
    • Print or export rosters into Excel
    • View individual student info
    • Email students 
    • View class waiting list, if any
    • View cancelled registrations, if any

    Here’s a short video that shows what your instructors see when they login to CourseStorm:

    CourseStorm | FYI: What Your Instructors See

    Don’t worry about instructors “messing up” anything in the system or on your course website. They can only access the information above. They can’t add, edit, or delete any data. They also can’t perform any financial transactions. 

    Empower Instructors By Training Them on How to Use CourseStorm

    One of the key benefits of CourseStorm is that it saves programs time. Nonprofits are notorious for having to do more with less, and our class registration software eases the administrative burden for office staff, volunteers, instructors, and teaching artists. Registrations are completed online, rather than over the phone or by email.

    Data integrates seamlessly with your donor management system, rather than requiring time-consuming and tedious data entry. 

    CourseStorm’s benefits extend to teaching artists as well. When they can access their class rosters and student data directly, it cuts out the middleman and empowers instructors to manage their class themselves. They can email their class to send them a supply list or remind them of an upcoming schedule change, for example. 

    Two of CourseStorm’s newest features are designed to make things even easier for instructors: mobile instructor admin and attendance tracking.

    CourseStorm is always adding new features, and two of our newest ones are designed to make things even easier for instructors. Our new mobile instructor admin area gives teaching artists the ability to access everything they need on the go, since we know not many of them are sitting behind a desk all day. This new version will replace our existing instructor admin area for all customers with access to that feature and is available in our Pro plan for new customers.

    Our new attendance tracking feature lets instructors take attendance and view attendance history right from their phones or tablets.

    Many community education instructors and teaching artists teach classes for several different organizations. If those programs use CourseStorm, it’s even easier since instructors can use the same login to access all of their classes that are offered through CourseStorm. 

    What CourseStorm Training Is Available? 

    If you’re curious about what CourseStorm can do but want to see for yourself, we encourage you to sign up for a free trial. This allows you to create a demo site on your own, with helpful guidance that walks you through the steps of how to build and use a CourseStorm site for your class registrations. 

    If you do decide to become a customer, we offer weekly live onboarding or on-demand videos, depending on your plan, that show you how to use CourseStorm right away. “Our software is very intuitive. It’s easy for someone to set up a site in an evening or a weekend,” said Hayli, CourseStorm’s customer onboarding lead. 

    If you are a teaching artist or work with them, read and share these other helpful articles: Educating Arts Educators: 6 Ideas for Professional Development and 5 Ways Art Teachers Can Balance Teaching and Creating Art. Be sure to subscribe to our blog below so you don’t miss a thing!

  4. CourseStorm Wrapped: Top Posts of 2023

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    You’ve heard of Spotify Wrapped, where listeners get a recap of their favorite music of the past year? Well, consider this CourseStorm Wrapped — a look at our top 5 most-read blog posts of the year. 

    Arts nonprofits and other organizations turn to us for help in growing and managing their education programs. These were our top 5 blog posts of the year.

    We serve organizations offering visual and performing arts classes, summer camps and afterschool enrichment programs, workforce training and community education. Many of our customers are arts nonprofits. They look to CourseStorm for assistance in growing and managing their programs. Our top posts give insights into some of the challenges and opportunities for these organizations, and how we can help. 

    How to Cancel a Class Without Upsetting Students

    This blog post is consistently at the top of the list. Why? Sometimes you have to cancel a class. Maybe the instructor is sick or the weather isn’t cooperating. Sometimes enrollment for the class is low and you can’t justify the time and cost of running it. Whatever the reason, you want to cancel the class without upsetting students who have already enrolled and causing them to seek out classes elsewhere. 

    We help you minimize the impact of class cancellations with tips and even an email template. 

    It’s important to know that sometimes the cause of a class cancellation is a poor-fit registration system. If you’re taking registrations manually, people could be slipping through the cracks. Or the problem may be a repetitive and time-consuming registration process for parents signing up multiple kids, or not offering payment plans for high-cost classes. CourseStorm automates and streamlines all of these things, eliminating many unnecessary reasons to cancel a class. 

    How to Write a Course Description: Examples & Templates

    We get it. Not everyone is a writer. And describing a course in an enticing way in just a few sentences is harder than it seems. So it’s not surprising that this “how to” article is so popular. We give you a list of best practices and examples of course descriptions that convert searchers into signups. Plus we share a course description template you can use to punch up your own course offerings. 

    CourseStorm has facilitated over 1 million connections to education for our customers, so we know what gets students to click “Register now!” Subscribe to our blog so you can get helpful tips and templates like this delivered right to your inbox. 

    5 Email Templates to Help You Engage Students

    Similar to writing course descriptions, crafting an email that gets people to take action is harder than it seems. So it’s no surprise that many of the visitors to our blog are looking for this info. Whether you’re sending a class recommendation to an existing student, a reminder to a new registrant, or another type of email, these templates will help you do it faster and easier.

    Sending the right email at the right time can encourage students to act, strengthen the relationship, and help you gather valuable feedback. Want to have these emails and more at your fingertips for when you need them? Download our email templates package and start saving time while connecting with students. 

    A popular feature of CourseStorm is the ability to send automated marketing emails that generate additional revenue for your education program without any extra work.

    6 Benefits of Enrichment Classes for All Ages

    In addition to our “how to” articles, readers liked this post about the positive benefits of non-credit educational offerings for both kids and adults. We know that people who prioritize lifelong learning seek out enrichment classes for personal growth, to build new skills, or connect with others in their community. 

    Of course, knowing the benefits of enrichment classes is one thing. Spreading the word about them is another. Help learners and community members see the value of your program by sharing these benefits in your marketing and course promotion. Not only could it help you sell more classes, it can also show your commitment to the community. 

    12 Arts and Culture Magazines Worth Recommending to Students

    Rounding out our top 5 most popular posts of 2023 was this one, featuring a dozen picks for print and digital publications dedicated to arts and culture. With their beautiful photography and curated content, these magazines provide a tangible way to explore cultural trends and learn about art. 

    Teaching artists can use them as the starting point for a lesson plan or discussion or simply read them for pleasure to discover up-and-coming artists, learn about exhibitions and events, and explore new perspectives.

    Coming Soon: A New Report for Arts Organizations

    The past several years have greatly impacted the arts and culture world. Anyone offering classes in the arts was forced to rethink their strategy. Many of those who succeeded were CourseStorm customers. In the New Year, we will be publishing an exclusive report to help arts education programs make data-informed decisions about how to save time, when to schedule classes, and how to grow their revenue.

    Subscribe to our blog to be the first to find out when our new report is available in 2024!

  5. Why You Should Promote Experiences as Gifts and How to Do It for Christmas Shoppers

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    With the holiday gift-giving season approaching fast, arts organizations are looking for ways to promote their classes to Christmas shoppers and those celebrating other winter holidays. The good news is that many people are already on board with the idea of giving experiences as gifts. What holds them back is often the logistics. It’s easy to stick a video game under the tree, but how do you package violin lessons? 

    Help holiday shoppers give the gift of an experience like classes or tickets to a performance by highlighting all the reasons these make great gifts.

    Arts organizations can help holiday shoppers give the gift of an experience like classes or tickets to a performance by highlighting all the reasons these make great gifts.

    If you want Christmas shoppers and other gift-givers to consider purchasing classes for friends and family, you first need to highlight all the reasons your classes make great gifts. Then you have to support the gift-giving experience by helping them package their gift in a way that feels meaningful. We’ll address this one step at a time. 

    Reasons to Give Experiences as Gifts Rather Than Stuff

    Consumer Reports found that, among all age groups, people derive more happiness from experiences than from material goods. The desire for quality time with friends and family has increased more than ever since the pandemic. Even so, Christmas shoppers may not think of your classes or performances as possible gifts unless you explicitly make the connection for them. 

    Giving experiences as gifts gives the recipient skills or memories that last a lifetime. It’s also more eco-friendly and a great last-minute gift option!

    Here are some ways you can frame your marketing messages to reach Christmas shoppers and other gift-givers: 

    A gift for a lifetime. As children grow up, they may fall out of love with this year’s trending toy, but they’ll always have the skills they learned in pottery class. Creating something with your own hands is exciting no matter what your age. Young children can get a kick out of making art to hang on the family fridge, while teens may be excited to learn how to knit a scarf themselves. Creative aging programs are built upon the idea that older people want to continue to build skills as they age, as well.

    Give the gift of connection. Our world is suffering from a loneliness epidemic. A new poll found that nearly 1 in 4 adults feel lonely, with the rates highest among young adults ages 19 to 29. Participating in art classes and activities helps provide a sense of community and connectedness. This is especially important for certain populations like veterans

    It’s more eco-friendly. A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of U.S. consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. If you know your community is environmentally conscious, play up that angle in your class marketing efforts. An educational experience beats unwanted material goods ending up in the trash. 

    Experiential gifts are a smart last-minute option. Let’s face it: the holidays are a busy time of year. It can be tough to shop, wrap, and ship gifts in time. If you have rolling admissions for your classes, open seats at an upcoming performance, or other opportunities available that would make good gifts, let your customers and community know. Then all they have to do on the actual holiday is give the recipient a card or email notifying them of their gift.  

    Experience Gifts for Couples: Classes They’ll Love

    Offering couples classes is a great way to attract customers who want to give experiences as gifts. Cooking classes, ballroom dancing, and jewelry making are all good gift experiences for couples, but those are just the beginning. Mixology classes, a terrarium workshop, or anything else couples can do together make great gifts. 

    From cooking classes to jewelry making to mixology, offering couples classes is a great way to attract customers who want to give the gift of quality time and connection.

    CourseStorm’s head of marketing, Nic, and her husband attended a restorative foraging class in their community. Guided by a sustainability expert from a local university, they walked around outdoors and identified lots of native and non-native plants and learned about how to process acorns for acorn flour. “It was fascinating to learn about foraging through this lens and to try something new,” she said. 

    Pro tip: Offering couples classes is also a great way to boost your website’s SEO and help people find your classes online. “Couples classes near me” is a very popular search term, so if you offer couples classes, be sure to state this clearly on your website, in your online course catalog and course descriptions, and on your social media platforms. 

    For more specifics, read our article on how to promote couples classes for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays throughout the year.

    Christmas Shoppers Want Something to Wrap

    Even Christmas shoppers who are already convinced that giving experiences as gifts is a good idea may hesitate because they want the recipient to have something to unwrap. Many people find joy in watching someone unwrap a gift. This is especially true for people giving gifts to kids. Help shoppers overcome this obstacle by offering something tangible to go with the experiential gift. 

    • Branded merch – If you already have branded merchandise, offer a magnet, mug, tote bag or tee-shirt to anyone purchasing classes as gifts during the holiday season.

    • Gift shop merchandising – If your organization has a gift shop, set up a small section with inexpensive gifts relevant to different classes. This could include pencils and a sketchbook for an art class, an adult and child apron set for a cooking class, or Shakespear magnets and stickers for a theater class.

    • Printed certificates – Printed certificates can be placed in an envelope or even wrapped in a box with some tissue paper. Print some fillable certificates on high-quality paper and give them away with gift orders. 

    Many people find joy in unwrapping and watching others unwrap a gift. Help holiday shoppers by offering something tangible to go along with the experience they’re gifting.

    Even if your organization doesn’t offer these things, with a bit of imagination, you can help your customers come up with a tangible item to gift alongside the experience. Here are just a few ideas: 

    • Paintbrushes, pencils, or pastels along with a sketchbook for someone you’re gifting a session of art classes

    • Funny Shakespeare magnets or stickers for a teen you’ve signed up for theater camp

    • An adult and child apron set to go along with a grandparent-and-grandchild cooking class

    • A basket of colorful yarn for someone enrolled in a knitting or crochet class

    • A monogrammed journal for a person you’re giving a writing class or poetry workshop

    • Safety glasses or work gloves to go along with a wood or metalworking workshop at a makerspace

    For more creative and unique ideas to go with your experiential gifts, check out UnCommon Goods and MoMA Design Store. Visitors can search by interest, price range, recipient, and even eco-friendly products.

    Making it easy for people to give your classes as gifts, such as by offering group registrations and promo codes, is a smart marketing strategy all year round.

    Making it easy for people to give your classes as gifts is a smart marketing strategy all year round. Consider offering discounts or promo codes to encourage gift-giving, and allow group registrations to simplify the process for students who want to give and take a class with a loved one. CourseStorm has all of these features and more.  

  6. Run a Summer Arts Camp? Now’s the Time to Set Yourself Up for Success Next Year

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    Many of the most popular summer camps for kids are those run by children’s theaters, arts organizations, and community colleges. Whether it’s a theater camp, art classes for kids, or other summer art programs, day camps in the arts tend to be highly in demand for kids and parents alike.  

    Why are we talking about summer camps now, when many kids have just gone back to school? Because now is the time to review your summer arts camp registration process, while it’s fresh in your mind. Did it go smoothly or was your staff overwhelmed? Did you have lots of returning students, or were people frustrated that they couldn’t get a spot? 

    Now’s the time to set yourself up for success—for your program and your customers— before summer camp registration season rolls around again.

    How you handle summer camp registration can have a big impact on your staff, your customers, and whether or not you fill your camps with satisfied, returning customers year after year. Now’s the time to set yourself up for success next year. Summer camp registration season will be here again before you know it! 

    The Challenges of Seasonal Programs Like Summer Arts Camps

    Some arts organizations run programs all year round. These could be weekly classes, afterschool enrichment programs, or other types of educational offerings. You may take registrations for these programs on a rolling basis. Or you might add an additional session of a popular class—say, a Saturday watercolor class as well as a weeknight class. 

    Summer camps require a different registration process than other classes. Parents may be signing up multiple children months in advance and competing for limited spots. There also tends to be more paperwork involved.

    Summer camps, on the other hand, require a different registration process. Parents are generally signing up their child or several children many months in advance. And time is of the essence, since registrants can be competing for limited spots. 

    After all, an arts camp may have only so many pottery wheels or 3D printers. Some of the best summer camps for teens are performing arts camps. (In fact, many famous actors got their start that way.) But a theater camp may cap registrations at a certain number to ensure that every participant gets a spot on the stage, if they’re putting on a production. 

    And because they are for children and teens, all-day summer camps tend to have more involved paperwork than an hour-long class—like medical forms, emergency contacts, supply lists, etc. All of these factors mean that it’s critical to have a registration system that meets all your needs, both on the administrative side and the customer side. 

    What’s in It for Me? Registration Benefits for Both Programs and Customers

    From our years of serving customers who offer theater camps, art classes for kids, and other summer art programs, we know that most organizations run their programs as close to cost as possible. They don’t want to pay a monthly fee for expensive software they may only use a few months a year. And they want features that actually help them and the customers they’re serving.

    Whether you use CourseStorm, another summer camp registration software, or a different tool, here is a breakdown of three key ways you can leverage registration for your summer arts camp to benefit both your organization and your customers. 

    How Your Summer Art Camp Registration Can Benefit Customers and Your Program

    Offering Early Registration as a Membership Incentive  

    Many community theaters and arts organizations offer memberships to the public. In exchange for an annual membership fee, members get certain benefits, such as discounts and early access to purchase tickets or register for classes. 

    This can be a major selling point for parents who want to send their children to popular summer camps and programs in your community. If you have an in-demand summer arts program that fills up every year, let people know that by becoming a member they’ll be able to jump the line and register early. If you offer members a discounted tuition rate, that’s important to mention in your advertising and outreach, too. 

    Perks for customers: Early access to summer camp registration; discounted tuition

    Perks for programs: New memberships and full summer camp programs 

    Promoting Online Registration as a Differentiator 

    If you consider online registration a convenience, not a perk that can attract new customers, you may want to rethink that from the customer perspective. 

    Laramie County Community College (LCCC) in Wyoming runs several week-long summer youth programs on campus, on everything from arts and crafts to sports and fitness. The summer camps are so popular that most are completely full within the first 6 hours of the day registration opens. “Some classes fill within the first 5 minutes,” said program manager Christie Goertel. 

    Because LCCC uses CourseStorm to take online registrations, returning parents have a major advantage. They have already created an account with all of their child’s info included from last time, and they may have even saved their credit card in the system. 

    “Theoretically, if there’s a returning parent and they know what camps they want and they’ve done it before, they may be done in less than 4 minutes,” said Goertel. Don’t underestimate the motivation of a parent crossing “summer camp registration” off their to-do list in March!  

    Perks for customers: Ease and speed of summer camp registration

    Perks for programs: Eases administrative burden; may make phone banks, long lines, and extra staff to handle registration unnecessary 

    Making Waitlists Work the Way They Should  

    Again, you may be thinking of camp waiting lists as a necessary administrative detail or even a deterrent to customers. After all, why would a parent add their name to a waiting list when these lists are often black holes? We can all think of a time we gave our name to someone over the phone while waiting for a coveted appointment slot or other opening, only to never hear from them again. 

    This is where an automated waiting list can make all the difference. With CourseStorm, for example, customers trying to register for a class or camp session that’s already full will be prompted to add their name to the waitlist. 

    Then, if a spot opens up, CourseStorm users can choose to send people on the waitlist an automatic email that expires after a certain amount of time. The person on the waiting list can either click to register immediately, or decline the invite, which passes to the next person on the list. 

    Either way, it’s a great way to show customers that you haven’t forgotten about them. And it gives them hope that maybe they will get a desired spot in a popular camp or class. 

    Perks for customers: Better experience that can encourage more registrations

    Perks for programs: Eases administrative burden by automating the entire waitlist process

    Help People Find Your Summer Arts Camp Online

    For more specific tips on optimizing your summer camp listings on your website along with info on policies and payments, see our related post, Is Your Summer Camp Registration System Ready for Next Season?

  7. Is Your Registration System Costing You Students?

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    We get it: you’re busy. Maybe your organization is understaffed. And keeping costs low is always important. Given CourseStorm’s many years of experience in the education business, we understand the stressors that many community and arts education programs face. 

    We also know that if you don’t have a functional, streamlined registration system, it can actually cost you money and time. An inconvenient registration process can also negatively affect the student experience, and cost you repeat customers and referrals. 

    Every day, we hear from customers what’s working for them and what’s not when it comes to course registrations. Here are some real-life examples.

    Every day, we hear from our customers what’s working for them and what’s not when it comes to taking registrations for their courses. Here are 5 ways that your existing registration system may not be serving you, and what you can do about it. 

    5 Registration System Mistakes You May Be Making

    These real-life examples from our customers show a few of the ways an inefficient registration process can cause problems for your educational program’s staff as well as for people who are trying to register for your classes. 

    1. You are taking registrations manually. 

    If you’ve always had people sign up in person or over the phone, you may not see any reason to change what seems to be working just fine. However, the manual method can actually cost you students—or a whole class. 

    “We would cancel classes sometimes because we thought they were undersold and they really weren’t.” – Kit Burke-Smith, Garrison Art Center

    Before CourseStorm, Garrison Art Center in New York would manually update Google Sheets to keep track of registrations. “We used to sometimes oversell a class or miss a registration that came in over the phone or in person. And so we would cancel classes sometimes because we thought they were undersold and they really weren’t,” said Kit Burke-Smith, education director. Now, signups that come in via their CourseStorm registration website are automatically tracked in the software and class rosters are updated in real-time. 

    2. The administrative burden of your registration process is too high. 

    If you run a large seasonal program like a summer camp, you may have a lot of people trying to register at once. That’s the case for Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, which runs several very popular summer youth programs on campus. Each spring, up to 500 students register for classes that sometimes sell out in minutes.

    One customer streamlined a lengthy process that required training volunteers to run a phone bank to take registrations. Now, anyone can register online by themselves.

    Program manager Christie Goertel used to spend weeks preparing for registration day, including training staff volunteers. “I had 5 people in the office doing in-person registrations and a phone bank with 10 people answering phones.” She learned the hard way that only 49 callers can be placed on hold or it will crash the phone system for the entire campus. 

    Since switching to online registration with CourseStorm, “I don’t have to do any of that anymore,” she said. “It’s taken a huge weight off my office.” The online registration platform allows people to register whenever they want, even at the same time, without staff having to facilitate it. 

    3. Your registration system doesn’t integrate with your other systems. 

    Several of our customers in the arts use donor management platform Little Green Light. So they may have someone’s contact information if they, say, attended an event or made a charitable donation. But anyone who registered for a class had to be tracked in a different system. 

    CourseStorm combines all of that information. Our integration with Little Green Light means that data flows smoothly between the two platforms. That eliminates the need for tedious data entry and automates confirmation emails sent to each contact. 

    4. You use an online registration platform, but it’s made for events. 

    Not every arts education program is still using a manual registration process. Some programs do use an online registration tool. However, if you’re using event registration software like Evite, Cvent, or RegFox, for example, you’re missing out on the benefits of software specifically designed for course registration. 

    Registrants’ information is not saved, and you usually can’t email students directly (unless you pay additional fees). There’s a downside for the students as well if you use software for events vs. course registration. They can’t access course-specific information, contact instructors directly, or get on a waitlist. Course registration software like CourseStorm has all of these features and more. 

    5. You take online payments, but the platform is made for retail. 

    Similarly, some programs already allow students to pay for classes online. But many times this process is set up as a retail transaction. This means that someone registering for a class has to enter a shipping address (irrelevant) and can’t easily change their payment method or choose a payment plan (inconvenient).

    Again, course registration software improves the process not only for the student but also for your organization. For instance, CourseStorm’s universal transfers feature makes it easy to transfer a student’s payment to a different class, and refunds, waiting lists and payment plans are built into the software as well. 

    Download our new case study and find out how Garrison Art Center grew enrollments by more than 100%

    What If Our Students Don’t Know How to Use an Online Registration System? 

    Finally, let’s debunk a fear you might have about switching to an online registration system. For example, organizations that teach classes for older learners sometimes assume that online registration is not for them. Some even have firsthand examples of customers who have said they can’t or don’t want to navigate an online registration system. 

    To address the first concern, older people today are more tech-savvy than ever. Pew Research Center found that seniors’ use of technology has increased significantly over the past decade. Of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64, 96% of use the internet, as do 75% of those 65 and older. The pandemic also proved that seniors will adopt technology when it benefits them. Video calls, online learning, and telehealth became part of everyday life for people of all ages. 

    Older people are more tech-savvy than ever. But if some students are resistant to registering online, you can do it for them and still get the benefits of the technology.

    But what if you have people who are not computer-savvy enough to register for your classes online, like some of our customers do? Burke-Smith has a workaround for these students: “I do it for them.” 

    By entering the registration info into CourseStorm—whether the student is providing it in person or over the phone—an organization still gets all the benefits of the software on their end. Instructors have access to their class lists, registration numbers can be monitored in real time, they can send marketing emails, and more. 

    To find out more about how CourseStorm helped Garrison Art Center grow their classes and enrollments by more than 100%, download our case study.

  8. Creative Aging: Why Arts Educators Need to Engage Older Learners Now

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    You’re never too old to learn something new, and it’s never too late to embrace your creativity. That’s the idea behind creative aging: art programs for older adults that enhance their quality of life through music, visual arts, and other activities. 

    If you’re an arts organization, library, community center, or anyone offering educational programs to the community and you are not serving older adult learners, you’re missing a huge opportunity. 

    By 2030, older adults (aged 55+) will be the dominant age demographic in the United States. By 2034, older adults will outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history, according to Census Bureau projections. 

    Heather Ikemire, executive director of Lifetime Arts

    “If you want to meet the needs of your community, if you want to engage new audiences and attract new funding, it makes a lot of sense to be thinking about how to provide quality arts learning experiences for older people,” said Heather Ikemire, executive director of the nonprofit arts service organization Lifetime Arts

    But first, there are a few things you should know about reaching an audience of older learners. 

    What Is Creative Aging?

    In case you haven’t heard it before, the term “creative aging” describes the use of arts and cultural activities to improve the quality of life for older people, Ikemire explained. The field encompasses many different approaches and is practiced all over the world. Lifetime Arts recently hosted the 2023 International Creative Aging Summit, which had 400 participants from 26 countries. 

    “While the approaches to the work vary, in its broadest sense it’s recognizing the power of creative expression—engaging older people in activities centered on creative and social engagement, and the power that has in terms of supporting quality of life, the process of aging well, and also transforming cultural mindsets around what it means to age,” said Ikemire. 

    Creative aging programming can happen in multiple disciplines (music, film, visual art), in multiple spaces (libraries, museums, senior centers), and remotely or in person.

    Creative aging programming can happen in multiple disciplines, including music, film, theater, and visual arts, and in multiple spaces, such as libraries, museums, veterans homes, and more. Classes for older adults can happen remotely as well as in person, and can be free, paid, or subsidized programs. 

    Key Characteristics of Older Adult Learners 

    Older people are living longer and seeking meaningful ways to connect and continue to learn skills. But a watercolor class for adults aged 55+ should not be identical to a class for school-aged students. There are several factors that differentiate older learners from their younger counterparts:

    Adult learners are autonomous and self-directed. “They vote with their feet,” as Ikemire put it. Educational programming has to speak to them and their interests or they’ll go find something else. The best way to offer programs they want? Ask them! “It’s incredibly important to listen to the older adults in your community,” Ikemire advises arts organizations. 

    Older people are goal-oriented. They’re not just looking for a hobby or something to fill the time. They want to learn and develop skills. The creative aging model used by Lifetime Arts focuses on professionally led instructional arts programming designed to build artistic skills over time. Participants have an opportunity to practice something and then keep applying it so they can see their skills improve.

    They are seeking connection. There’s a reason creative arts programming typically takes place over a period of many weeks rather than one-time drop-in sessions. “There is evidence that shows that building social connection over time can actually lead to significant physical and mental health benefits for older people,” said Ikemire. Art classes for the elderly help to reduce social isolation and loneliness, among other advantages.

    In a recent survey, 42% of U.S. adults aged 55+ said they were seeking more social connection in their lives.

    A recent report on aging surveyed more than 28,000 U.S. adults aged 55+ and found that 42% said they were seeking more social connection in their lives. That percentage increased with age.

    They may have barriers to participation. These may include physical limitations, such as hearing or vision impairments or an inability to stand for long periods. Transportation could be an issue, or time of day if they don’t drive at night. Or, there might be another popular class in the community that meets at the same time as yours. 

    Seniors are not necessarily tech-averse. If you’re offering an online class, or even online registration for an in-person class, you might assume that rules out older learners. That’s not necessarily the case. While some seniors may be unfamiliar with technology, many are more tech-savvy than ever, thanks to the pandemic. That said, there are some best practices for working with seniors that we cover in our post, 6 Tips for Teaching Tech to Older Learners

    Opportunities for New Revenue Streams

    Offering arts programs for seniors not only benefits older learners in a community, but also can boost the bottom lines of the education programs. “It can be a really wonderful earned revenue stream for some organizations,” said Ikemire.

    Many arts centers, museums, and theaters are empty during the day. This is especially true for an arts organization that has primarily been serving younger people with weekend classes and afterschool programs. Welcoming older learners into your space during daytime hours is a good way to bring in new audiences. 

    “When you see creative arts programming in action, it’s joyful. It’s incredibly powerful.” – Ikemire

    Ultimately, these programs thrive when there’s institutional buy-in. A big part of making that happen is seeing these programs in action. Invite your staff, your board members, or other stakeholders to see creative arts programming in action. 

    “When you see it, it’s joyful. You get it right away. It’s incredibly powerful,” said Ikemire. “And there are incredible opportunities to grow audiences, to increase your budget, to find the funders for your work, and also to spark intergenerational connections between young people and older people.”

    Examples of Successful Creative Aging Programs

    When done right, arts programming for seniors can boost revenue and student loyalty. Here are a couple examples of successful programs for older learners.

    Two people painting at Rumriver Art Center in Anoka, MN, which has thriving creative aging programs

    Rumriver Art Center, Anoka, MN. Photo credit: Larry Weinberg

    Rumriver Art Center

    Previously only providing youth classes, Rumriver Art Center in Minnesota decided to expand their program offerings to include arts education opportunities for adults 55+. These programs attracted so much interest that they had to add more classes and staff. 

    Over the course of two years, the center’s creative aging programming budget increased from zero to over 25% of their annual budget. Many of the students later became teachers, volunteers, and even employees after attending classes.

    Forever Learning Institute

    Another example of a thriving education program dedicated solely to older adults is the Forever Learning Institute (FLI) in South Bend, Indiana. For 45 years, FLI has engaged older learners through a robust catalog of enrichment classes covering all sorts of topics including dance, technology, literature, and foreign languages. The classes are taught by an all-volunteer faculty. 

    FLI is home to the Silvertones, a musical glee club for ages 50+, that performs at various community locations throughout the year, as well as the Solid Silver Dancers, who learn and perform dances from the 40s, 50s, 60s, disco, Broadway, and more. The course description for that class describes it as “a dance workout that is easy on the knees and made especially for us seniors. But still fun and sassy!” 

    It’s worth noting that courses that incorporate movement are especially important for older learners. Numerous medical studies have shown that the more physically active you are as you age, the healthier you’ll be for longer.

    Creative Aging Resources for Arts Organizations

    There are numerous resources for organizations interested in learning about and implementing creative aging programming, many of them free. The best place to start is Lifetime Arts’ website, The Creative Aging Resource. The site includes articles, case studies, presentations, and research on a wide range of topics related to arts education for older populations. 

    Lifetime Arts also offers Creative Aging Foundations On Demand, a free, self-paced online course designed for institutions and individuals seeking to run arts programming for older adults. The course includes instructional videos, practical program design principles, and information on developing partnerships with other community organizations serving older adults.

    “Creativity is a human right for all of us throughout our lifespans.” – Ikemire

    “This is a time for us as mission-driven organizations to think about how we can provide programming that can really enable all people, including older adults, to age well, to age in community, and to still contribute,” said Ikemire. “Creativity is a human right for all of us throughout our lifespans.”

    CourseStorm counts a number of community education and arts organizations among our customers. Our mission is to streamline access to education to empower personal growth. Learn more about us and get in touch today to see how we can help your organization.

  9. The Benefits of After-School Enrichment Programs

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    Students are heading back to school. And that means parents are looking for activities to keep their children busy and engaged after the dismissal bell rings. That may be aftercare or afterschool enrichment programs at school or other enrichment activities in the community. 

    A national survey of 2,000+ K-8 parents and guardians by the nonprofit organization Learning Heroes found that 65% have children enrolled in after-school activities. The most common reason was “to expose children to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives beyond their everyday home and school lives.” Data also show that demand for afterschool enrichment programs has skyrocketed

    This article can help organizations offering afterschool enrichment programs to understand what parents and students are looking for in after school enrichment activities, showcase the benefits of your program, and attract and enroll more students. 

    What Are Enrichment Programs?

    After-school enrichment programs typically focus on fun, games, play, movement, and other activities students may not get to participate in during the school day. 

    Afterschool enrichment programs typically offer a variety of activities, letting students explore and discover new interests.

    Afterschool enrichment programs often provide a range of activities, letting students explore different options and discover new interests. “Furthermore, because after-school programs are sometimes more diverse than school classrooms, with students of different ages and backgrounds, children can build empathy, communication and teamwork skills,” noted US News & World Report

    Group of kids making collages

    In fact, building those “soft skills” that are so important in the workplace and in life is one of the key benefits of enrichment programs for all ages. 

    There are after-school enrichment programs specifically focused on subjects like coding or the arts, such as TRYPS Children’s Theater in Missouri, which offers an arts-based alternative to other afterschool programs for grades K-5. Students participate in “mini plays” and theater games as well as art projects and field trips. 

    Most after-school enrichment programs are geared toward elementary-age students. However, there are opportunities for middle school and high school students as well. Activities for these ages tend to take the form of afterschool clubs like chess, robotics, or coding. Some community makerspaces may offer enrichment classes or workshops. For older teens, afterschool workforce development programs are an option. And of course, sports and music are always popular after-school activities. 

    The Top Afterschool Enrichment Classes for Kids

    The Learning Heroes report found that 49% of after-school activities are arts, sports, or interest-based programs, and 18% are academic. As for the most popular after-school enrichment activities, US News puts these at the top of the list: 

    Art. “Art is fundamental to education as a cross-brain experience that involves mind, body, and heart,” said Karen Pittman, co-founder of the nonprofit Forum for Youth Investment. Read more about the positive impact of the arts on health, as well as how to market art classes for kids to the parents who will register them.

    Foreign languages. Research shows that language learning is linked to higher academic achievement and can help develop students’ reading abilities. Learning a second language has other benefits, as well. Bilingual children have been shown to demonstrate empathy better than their peers who only speak one language.  

    Martial arts. In addition to providing physical activity, the martial arts—such as karate, taekwondo, and judo—also teach respect, honor, and discipline. Children who participate in martial arts have shown increased social skills and confidence along with less aggressiveness. Martial arts classes are also a good option for children interested in athletics but not team sports. 

    Music. Music is another cross-brain experience, noted Pittman. Many countries incorporate it into early childhood education, but older children may not have the opportunity to engage in music at school. Research has shown that when K-12 students have a chance to participate in musical activities such as playing an instrument or singing in a chorus, they are more likely to stay in school and to perform better in English, math, science, and second languages.

    Top Afterschool Programs: Art, Foreign Languages, Martial Arts, Music

    Why Are After-School Programs Important?

    Naturally, parents want their children to be safe and supervised after school. There are many benefits to after school programs beyond providing childcare to kids until their parents are done with work, however. In fact, afterschool programs have been shown to improve participants’ performance at school, reduce crime and juvenile delinquency, and provide a significant return on investment through increasing students’ earning potential. 

    Afterschool programs have been shown to improve school performance, reduce crime, and increase students’ future earning potential.

    Data from the Afterschool Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all children have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs, found the following benefits of afterschool programs:

    • Access to caring adults and mentors
    • Help children develop social skills and life skills
    • Help develop confidence and responsible decision-making
    • Reduce the likelihood of children engaging in risky behaviors
    • Provide opportunities for physical activity

    These findings are more important than ever, given that loneliness and youth mental health issues skyrocketed during the pandemic.

    Afterschool Alliance: afterschool programs support young people's overall health and development

    Source: AfterschoolAlliance.org

    What Do Parents Look for in Afterschool Enrichment Programs?

    To market after-school programs in your community, you first need to understand what’s important to parents and caregivers who will be looking for, evaluating, and ultimately registering their children for afterschool activities.

    Transportation may be an issue for many parents if an enrichment program is not at their child’s school, so if your program does or does not include transportation, be sure to note that in your marketing materials and program descriptions. 

    It’s also a good idea to note whether a snack is included, and if students are given time to complete homework. For some parents, having a place where students can work on assignments and get help if needed is a huge benefit that avoids evening homework battles. 

    Some community organizations like the Y offer before and after school enrichment programs that start as early as 7 a.m. and are available to students 5 days a week or only 2 or 3 days a week. Perhaps with flexible scheduling, your program could fill a need for parents that other programs don’t.

    Demand has skyrocketed: for every child in an afterschool program, three are waiting to get in.

    Unmet demand for after-school enrichment programs has skyrocketed. For every child in an afterschool program, three are waiting to get in, according to the Afterschool Alliance. With the right marketing and a simple, parent-friendly registration tool, your afterschool program can be the solution families are looking for. 

    CourseStorm serves many customers offering after-school activities and enrichment classes. Features like group registration and emailed waiting list invites make for a simple and seamless experience for both families and your program staff. Get in touch with us today for a demo!

  10. CourseStormers Gather for In-Person Connection and Some Friendly Competition

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    CourseStorm is growing. We are hiring new team members, scaling up our internship program, serving new customers, and every day we are connecting more learners to life-changing educational opportunities. 

    We took some time recently as a company to celebrate our growth and reenergize ourselves to continue to work toward our ambitious goal of making 3 million connections to education by 2025. We are well on our way!  

    One Thursday in July, CourseStormers gathered from all over our home state of Maine as well as from Maryland and Arizona. For many of us, it was the first time meeting our colleagues in person. For others, it was a happy reunion. For all of us, it was a chance to connect, learn more about each other, and have some fun in beautiful Belfast, Maine. 

    Photos from CourseStorm's 2023 in-person employee get-together in Maine

    Celebrating personal and professional growth

    Kicking things off, CEO and co-founder Brain Rahill gave a heartfelt speech about how far CourseStorm has come. He reflected on the early days as a scrappy startup, when he and co-founder Matt James slept on the floor while attending a conference. Looking around the room, he marveled at the now 20+ employees and interns who are dedicated to fulfilling CourseStorm’s mission to streamline access to education and spur personal growth for as many people as possible. 

    “While we may think we’re in the education technology business, we are actually in the personal growth business.” – CEO Brian Rahill

    Brian called out employees by name and gave shoutouts to recently promoted members of the leadership team, acknowledging everyone for their commitment to personal growth and willingness to do hard things. He read off examples of recent course registrations CourseStorm has facilitated: Python programming, childbirth preparation, nursing assistant certification, improv, intro to Spanish. 

    “While we may think we’re in the education technology business, we are actually in the personal growth business. Every registration represents a step along a student’s personal growth journey that we have facilitated,” noted Brian. And everyone at the company is here because we wholeheartedly believe in the power of education to change lives. 

    Launching our next chapter

    Next up on the agenda, we did what we at CourseStorm do best: try new things, fail, learn from our mistakes, and have fun in the process. On this day, that took the form of … bottle rockets! 

    Taking a STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics — approach to the project, we started by decorating empty 2-liter bottles with paint, tape, jewels, and more. Some people got really into embellishing their rockets, while others focused on aeronautics. 

    Then we headed outside to a nearby park to launch our bottle rockets. CourseStormers love a little friendly competition, so predictions were made for whose rockets would go the highest and farthest. The jury’s still out on the winner, but Matt’s undecorated “control” rocket and Brian’s extra-long rainbow-hued rocket were both in the running.

    Photos of the bottle rocket launch from CourseStorm's 2023 in-person employee get-together in Maine

    Competing for the best company culture

    After lunch, it was time for the CourseStorm Olympics. The planning committee put a lot of work into coming up with numerous games to challenge everyone physically and mentally. From balloon races to cup stacking to archery and more, each team showed off their speed, agility, and/or sense of humor as they competed for first place. Winners were gifted trophies and tents. (In addition to being fun and competitive, we CourseStormers are an outdoorsy bunch!)

    We are grateful to work at a place committed to fostering a positive, inclusive company culture for its employees.

    We finished the day worn out, but with warm feelings about our wonderful company and colleagues, grateful that we work at a place as committed to fostering a positive, inclusive company culture for its employees as CourseStorm. 

    We’re happy to share the secrets of our success! Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and check out some of the ways we build connection and camaraderie as a mostly remote team in our blog post, Fun Icebreakers for Adults to Use in Classes, Meetings, and More