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