I have some personal opinions about getting parents to register their kids to camp. I know that others do it differently, but this has worked for me for years. Here’s what I’m taking about.

Limited Capacity: If at all possible, I’m always going to put a limit on Camp. Usually this is because I have to pay a deposit in advance and I’d rather maximize that deposit instead of being idealistic and losing a lot of deposit money. I also prefer the limit because there’s something positive about something that is full or sold out. It communicate that it’s probably worth something. I love putting “limited space available” in my promotional materials or even telling parents, “you better register now before all the spaces are gone!” Now, it’s never fun to turn kids away but there are always a few who don’t make it to camp. When this happens, parents learn that we’re not a “last minute program” and they learn to register early which always makes things easier on the staff and volunteers who have to organize taking 50-100 kids to camp. On that last note, I love having registration closed and wrapped up a good month before camp. It gives my staff plenty of time to get everything together. When you have unlimited capacity and open registration up until the end, we’re always scrambling to take care of the 20-40 kids who signed up to go just days before camp. There’s nothing wrong with setting a capacity.

Deadlines: Everyone needs a deadline. Deadlines keep people accountable and keep things moving forward. It honors your staff as they’re the ones that are put out when deadlines are not in place or when they’re not respected and honored. It’s great to set deadlines way out in advance so that if someone does come in a day or two late, you can still show grace because you still have time on your side. Deadlines are great for promotion. I know that anytime I send a mass email out saying that the early bird deadline is on Friday or that registration officially closes at the end of the month, I’ll get a whole bunch of registrations. Deadlines elicit action. Use them!

Discounts: Like deadlines, discounts are great motivators. I usually try to determine the base price so that even if many parents take advantage of early registration discounts, I’m still able to cover my costs. Often times, I’ll offer a great early registration discount because I know that there will always be enough late registrations that the prices will average out to my base price. However, I almost always use discounts to keep registrations on pace. It’s my preference to sell out by a certain time, so I’ll use discounts hit goals that keep us on track of filling up by a specific time. I’ll typically offer an alumni discount that I’ll market to kids who cam the year before. It’s usually the previous year’s price, but the catch is that they have to register early… like in January, February or March. It’s interesting how many people don’t take advantage of the discount, but it does get the ball rolling early for us. I’ll then offer an early bird discount followed by standard or late registration. I try to make the price difference $25-$30 so it’s a great savings. I tend to see a substantial number of registrations within 3-5 days of a deadline to an expiring discount, so they’re great motivators.