4 Ways to Engage Parents in Your Afterschool Program

Hosting an afterschool program for students is a great way to keep kids engaged while parents are busy with work. This not only allows students to develop skills and participate in activities that are unavailable in their school curriculum but also provides a safe place for them to hang out without their parent or guardian worrying.

Depending on your organization, you’ll have a unique range of activities taking place at various facilities and locations throughout town. However, it can be a hassle planning these activities while also engaging and retaining your program attendees, especially if you aren’t organized from the get-go.

Whether your afterschool program hosts a competitive robotics program, a developmental soccer skills workshop, or an educational art class, it’s recommended to invest in capable recreation management software. This way, not only can you offer online program registration and organize your activities and its facilities, but you can more effectively communicate with parents using accurate data based on efficient processes.

Read on and consider the following ways you can take action and engage parents in your afterschool program:

  1. Offer online registration and payment
  2. Send targeted messages
  3. Prioritize children’s safety
  4. Host an event for parents

Though it’s important to brainstorm unique and creative ways to make your programming attractive to kids, you have to also meet the needs of the parents. This means making the registration process as easy as possible for busy parents while also ensuring that your program is reliable and safe.

1. Offer online registration and payment

Your registration is one of the initial faces of your program that parents see, so it’s important to make a good impression. Set up online registration with your recreation management software so the parents in your community can avoid the hassle of unnecessary phone calls or long lines.

Consider these top features to meet parents’ needs and get registration up and running:

  • Online catalog. Easily let parents navigate a list of the classes and activities that your afterschool program offers. They can learn more about each option and then register all at once. This is also a great way to organize the activities you offer and schedule out the locations.

  • Waitlist management system. It’s awesome when your program is so popular that you have to turn guests away, but it can also be complicated keeping track of who is next on the list. Make sure you can organize and manage attendees automatically with a waitlist management feature within your recreation management software.

    • Discount options. Offer alternate pricing including sibling discounts, early registration discounts, discounts for community residents, and more.
  • Integrated payment processor. Make sure your software’s payment tool is PCI-compliant! Financial information is incredibly sensitive, so assure registrants that their payment information is secure by not redirecting them to any unfamiliar third-party payment processors. Look for software with a fully integrated payment processing solution.

Prioritize ease of use alongside a secure platform. This boosts your reputation as a reliable organization with a great afterschool program.

2. Send targeted messages

As you begin the relationship with your attendee’s parents, it’s important to develop an effective marketing strategy that focuses on communication that is personal and targeted. However, that’s easier said than done especially if you deal with multiple programs and activities with their own unique schedule and guidelines.

Take a look at your software and make sure you can easily send targeted emails and/or texts in order to focus your marketing and communications efforts. These days, people’s inboxes are flooded with daily emails from various companies and stores, most of them not even read. Avoid adding to the unread pile by ensuring that your communications are specific and catered to the recipient.

How can you effectively send targeted messages? Read on to learn how the right software’s messaging tools can be an asset in various scenarios:

  • Consistently update and keep parents informed with emails/texts containing your latest program news and announcements. Segment your recipients based on the program the child is signed up for so parents get messages only pertaining to them.

  • If there’s a time-sensitive and urgent change, react quickly by sending out alerts immediately. This way, if there’s an emergency closing, you can let parents know with a fast text so there’s no room for error.

  • As the program commences, certain dates in the future will hold more meaning, whether it’s the monthly payment due or an event for parents. Easily send communications on a specific day and time with scheduled messages.

Communicating with parents is a natural part of using your recreation management software, so it’s imperative that your software is reliable and effective. According to the CommunityPass guide on recreation management software, investing in tools like this will revolutionize your perspective on managing your program and recreation activities, so ensure you find one that truly fits your needs.

3. Prioritize children’s safety

As you work to increase program convenience and ease of use for parents, you also have to prioritize their children’s safety. Parents are often busy and rely on afterschool programs while they are working and they want to know that their children will be safe.

While hosting an afterschool program is a rewarding experience, dealing with youth also comes with extra precautions. For instance, it is especially important that you are aware of where each program attendee is and what activity they’re participating in. It’s already difficult to keep track of one kid, and a whole program’s worth can be even trickier.

A secure way to effectively protect your program attendees and monitor their whereabouts is to implement a safe check-in and check-out system. Don’t just depend on marking off attendance on a sheet of paper and let information accidentally fall through the cracks.

With a check-in and check-out app, supervisors and other staff can digitally take attendance. Additionally, they can view each child’s attendance history, their medical alerts, and a list of emergency contacts.

To supplement this system, some management software will offer a database of authorized signatures and photos for an even safer check-out system. Ask parents to provide a list of people who are allowed to pick up their child with photos so that you can ensure the child is leaving with someone approved.

Keeping child safety in mind is important with these types of programs. If you want to increase your knowledge on this topic, CircuiTree’s article on youth protection in higher education can provide insight.

4. Host an event for parents

If you want to further engage the parents of your afterschool program, invite them to an event planned just for them. Often, programs will have a party or another type of event at the end of the session so that parents can come together. It’s a fun celebration and a way for parents to take a break from their busy lives.

Additionally, you can easily convert your event to a fundraiser as well. You can get some extra funding for your afterschool program while also engaging parents in something meaningful. Begin brainstorming with this list of unique fundraising ideas.

A great idea is to host an auction for the parents. All you need is bid sheets and to ask volunteers to submit auction items, ranging from physical gifts to experiences like a vacation or a fun movie night. This keeps parents engaged throughout the entire event because they don’t want to miss out.

Your recreation management software should be able to facilitate registrations for one-off events like this. Remember to send out targeted communications to these parents that explains the event and includes a link to register.

Parents will appreciate the effort you’re putting in, but you don’t have to go all out and expend a ton of resources for your event. Base your budget on the size of your projected audience and your existing tools. No matter what, the event will provide great value to the parents.


You should constantly be working hard to engage parents, especially since they’re the ones who register your program attendees. Meet parents in the middle by offering them the tools to easily sign up, while also prioritizing their children’s safety. Capable recreation management software can act as a foundation for a successful afterschool program.


Special thanks to Joseph Oriente for sharing his expert advice. Joe is the President and Founder of Capturepoint, creator of CommunityPass software. Joe established Capturepoint in 1999 and launched CommunityPass in 2003, which was initially created to provide online registration and payment for a local town sports council that was overwhelmed with an increasing number of paper registrations. Since then Joe has been responsible for expanding CommunityPass nationally to become one of America’s most well respected and complete online management solutions with registration, membership and facilities software serving the recreation and school markets.