Managing your childcare center’s enrollment forecasting blog header

Managing your childcare center’s enrollment forecasting

If you are a childcare director, chances are you have your degree in the field of education or human services and not business. This means that you are great with children and families and maybe not as great with budgets, KPIs, and enrollment projection. It is very easy to get intimidated as a director when it comes to knowing how to manage enrollment. You may be able to write killer lesson plans but the idea of knowing what your FTEs are and knowing how many enrollments you need in order to turn a profit scares you. Well, guess what? You are not alone! Thankfully there are ways to learn the ropes and programs to organize your enrollment! 

1. Find an app or software that works best for you.

Finding an app to keep track of enrolled families, potential families, and waiting list families is a game-changer. There are great software options that not only track this information for you but also alert you to when a spot becomes available, generate reports to show who is next on the waitlist, and some even text or email the families directly from the app! HiMama has a really easy-to-read dashboard for directors to see all that are active and enrolled as well as an overview of all the classrooms to see how much space there is. In addition to that, HiMama does a great job of generating enrollment and attendance reports! 

2. Keep a large dry erase calendar in your office for managing tours.

When a potential family inquires about setting up a tour, it’s important to keep track of who, when, and what class that tour will be for. Having a large dry erase calendar somewhere visible in your office is so helpful! When an email or call comes in, I can easily look up at the calendar and see when there is open availability for a tour. It is also important to block off any dates that are not available for a tour so that you don’t mistakenly double book yourself. You can also keep a specific tour calendar right in HiMama!

3. Don’t do this alone!

Even if you are the most organized human on the planet, you still need a second set of eyes to help you. It is nearly impossible to remember or notice everything needed for upcoming open spots, waitlists, tours, etc. Having a designated staff assist with this is crucial.

Something I learned a long time ago when I became a leader was that if I am the smartest person in the room, then I’m in the wrong room

It is always a good idea to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Who on your team is great with organizing? With numbers? With the dreaded “S-word?” (Spreadsheet that is!) Whoever that is, give them the honorary title of enrollment master! 

At my center, there are two of us who work on this pipeline process. Once we figure out how many openings we have, we then figure out how much money we will bring in the next month, and we then meet with our finance person. They are the smartest person we know and can make the most beautiful spreadsheet in their sleep (which makes me so jealous!). They are not afraid to ask hard questions, and always stay objective. Meeting with them monthly allows us to see what kind of financial shape we are in and what age group to target for enrollments. 

4. Always look months ahead to know what children will be moving up and how many spots will open.

Every few months, I order great takeout food, close the office door, and meet with “my person.” You know, the one we talked about before. They are smarter than me and think outside of the box. We tell everyone that we cannot be disturbed for the next hour (or more if you can!), and we see what our enrollment is like for the next half of the year. I go class by class using the HiMama dashboard, and I generate reports with birthdates so I can see who will need to move up when. Then together with my assistant, we go through and see how many spots we will have and where we will start waiting lists. Once this is all worked out, we write it on the big dry erase board with what classes have openings, and we input the data into the software. 

This used to be the most dreaded part of my job, but now it is secretly one of my favorites (mainly because of the yummy takeout food!). It helps me to be organized and know months ahead what our projected enrollment will be. It helps us all feel more prepared and secure.

5. Understand your pipeline.

Once you find your person, get that dry erase calendar, and find that software, it’s time to understand your pipeline. Usually, the sales funnel consists of stages such as awareness, inquiry, touring, registration, and finally enrollment. It is crucial that every stage of this funnel be intentional, user-friendly, and possible to track.

Where are your parents finding out about your center? Is it through Facebook groups, Google ads, word of mouth, or online reviews? It is important that every single inquiry be labeled with how they found your center. When you know how to create awareness, you’ll know how to target your marketing efforts.

Once parents find you, how do they schedule a tour? How do you follow up with them? What is your percentage of registrations that come from a tour? Why are they enrolling and why not? Once enrolled, how do you keep them enrolled? All of these questions are heavy and necessary. Conducting surveys and keeping track of this information with each tour is the best way to do this. After every tour, I send a quick “thank you” along with a VERY quick survey (literally 2 minutes). Does everyone take the time to do the easy survey? No, but enough do that help me with my research. I also let each family know during the tour that they will receive this so that they are aware.

Wherever you are in your enrollment forecasting, just know that there are many ways to make this easy so that you don’t feel ill-prepared. Most of us directors have never taken a business class in our lives, yet we are expected to know all of the business answers. Be encouraged to know that you are not alone, and there are great ways to organize your center so that you are not only enrolling new children but retaining current ones. You can do this!

Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 18 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 8, 9, 12 and 13 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.