Ideas for staying in constant communication with families, and for requesting payment during COVID, even if they aren't attending.

With the extension of "Stay Home Stay Healthy" orders, it’s likely that your families will be keeping their children home for another month. Providers across the country are struggling.

Even with child care subsidy payments being paid based on enrollment, you’re more than likely losing revenue from families unenrolling or requesting to take breaks. For your families, they are struggling too. Some of your families may have lost their jobs, with unemployment barely paying the bills. Some may be highly susceptible to catching COVID-19. And some are confused as to why they should pay if they are keeping their children home.

During these times, it’s important to stay in constant contact with your families, and find ways to stay cash-flow positive. We’ve compiled some suggestions based on what we’ve heard other providers in our community doing.

Remember: People will remember how you treated them during a crisis. Go into these next few months with continued empathy and proactive outreach.

PAYMENT REQUESTS

There are many options when asking for support from your families. After all, if no one pays, they may not have a center to come back to when we "return to normal." Asking for continued payment from providers is a valid request. However, below are some alternative options if your families are struggling to pay.

Offering tuition discounts

Looking at your operating expenses, including your current staff situation. Are you spending 30% less than you were pre-COVID? 50% less? If so, you could share this information with your families and offer to provide a 30% discount on their tuition, or a flat rate discount per age group. Tell them why you are spending less, and what areas of the business you’re still paying expenses on, like some payroll or rent/mortgage payments.

Requesting Donations

If you’ve decided to charge nothing, or a discounted rate to families, ask parents to consider contributing a donation to help keep your center operating. If you’re a non-profit, asking for donations is a normal process. If you’re a for-profit, ask your families to consider paying the full tuition as they’re contributing "donation," or a different percentage of their tuition, to keep your center running.

Offering future tuition credits

Another way to "justify" full payment requests is to apply future discounts to their tuition once their children come back to the center. Perhaps you could provide a 10% discount for 6 months once the family returns as a way to show gratitude.

Offer virtual learning opportunities

For families who continue to pay (at a discount or not) but choose to keep their children at home, you could consider offering virtual or remote care/learning opportunities. This is also a way to keep the family engaged and allow friends to see each other from afar. Try offering reading sessions or daily morning circle over Zoom. Talk about their schedule. Have children watch you do a fun science experiment. Many families will be grateful that you are giving them some time to themselves or to get work done.

COMMUNICATION

It’s important to stay in constant communication with your families. In a panic, people’s mindsets tend to turn to the worst possible scenario – don’t let your families believe for a second that you’re doing anything but trying to survive and make sure your center is there to support them when this is over.

Be Transparent

It doesn’t hurt to share as much information as possible with your families. Families will want to know you’re doing everything you can to stay open, and not taking advantage of them. Here is some information you could consider sharing:

  • Notices from DCYF or DOH: What are they suggesting you do at your center?
  • Precautions you’re taking: Does your staff have full access to PPE? Have you done a deep cleaning of the center?
  • Has any of your staff chosen to leave? Did you have to furlough anyone?
  • What do your expenses look like now?
  • How many children are joining your center every day or week?

Send Daily/Weekly Updates

Talk to your families about what’s happening with your center. Here’s what you could include in these daily/weekly updates:

  • Share updates of the above information (in "Be Transparent").
  • Send photos of the classroom and any changes you’ve made while they’ve been gone.
  • Request photos of them doing fun things with their kids at home. Make sure you ask for written approval to share with other families and staff at your center.

Send Surveys

Get a sense of what families are going through, and when they’re coming back. You can use this data to gauge when to reopen, when to bring certain staff back, etc. Then consider sharing some of this information with your families, especially if you can keep the data anonymous. Sending a weekly survey is a great way to capture this information. Consider using free tools like Typeform or SurveyMonkey so that you can capture anonymous data. Here are some potential questions to ask:

  • How are you feeling this week? (A scale of 1-5 or a multiple choice including, “safe”, “anxious”, “terrified”, “finding peace with the situation”, etc)
  • Have you or your family been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed COVID-19? (Yes or No)Are you considering coming back in the next two weeks?
  • Have you or your partner lost your job due to COVID-19?
  • Do you feel comfortable bringing your child back to the center in the next month?
  • Do you feel that you can continue paying tuition through the rest of the year?

And if need a hand filling your open seats, LegUp can help. Track your seats, share your real-time availability with families seeking care, grow your waitlist, and receive deposits quickly using LegUp’s free Enrollment & Waitlist Management tools! Schedule a demo here in less than 1 minute. Or send us an email at team@legup.care.