A parent wants to enroll. You have empty spots. The days and times work for both of you. So what’s the problem? Well here’s the catch, they want to enroll just not right now. This family won’t actually have a need for childcare until sometime in the future. So what should you do? Should you hold child care spots?
Holding Child Care Spots
Last updated: 11/10/2016
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Should you hold spots?
The short answer is NO. Especially if you have a current spots open. This is just my opinion but in actuality holding child care spots is really allowing spots to remain open and unoccupied when there is the potential for them to be filled. The fact of the matter is holding child care spots for any significant amount of time is equivalent to losing money. Considering the fact that many providers have only limited enrollment opportunities, we really just can’t afford to have spots stay vacant any longer than necessary.
I have to say that I have been through this in the past, but I learned and now WOULD NEVER hold a spot without a fee. Years ago I had an existing client who was pregnant with her second child. She tried to get around the holding fee by holding me off with “we don’t know what we are going to do yet”. She said this over and over. Finally I realized she was just trying to get closer and closer to the date she needed the spot so she would not have to pay the fee. Now like I said I’ve been down this road before, so I actually had the foresight to interview and accept another child for the spot. It wasn’t until my client actually delivered her baby that she started to inquire again about the spot. “Unfortunately” the spot was no longer available.
I know that sounds mean, right? But really IT’S BUSINESS.
The fact of the matter is that each enrollment spot at my child care needs to generate income whenever possible. Coupled with state regulations that limit enrollment, I really can’t afford to hold spots. Therefore I need to do everything in my power to insure that those spots are occupied. If my existing client ultimately had not needed the spot I would have potentially turned down legitimate clients only to end up with an empty spot. That’s leaving money on the table and that makes no sense.
That being said, are there ever any times when it’s OK to hold a spot?
Well maybe. There might just be once or twice a year where you might be able to hold a spot. If you can anticipate a spot opening you could reserve it ahead of time.
Then something unexpected happened.
Give the Client What They Want
I had a parent so determined to enroll her expected child she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (her words, not mine). This mom said she was willing to pay the regular tuition rate from that time forward just so she could insure that when she needed it the enrollment spot was going to be available.
WHAT! REALLY? Yes, really!
That got me to thinking; if she did that maybe there where other families who would do the same. I started posting ads specifically targeting expectant parents. In the ad I called out a specific date range for when their baby was due and asked them wouldn’t it be nice to lock down a preferred spot now so that they didn’t have to be concerned where their child would be in care after they were born.
Now I did think paying full tuition was gouging a bit so for the next interested family I cut that rate in half, which felt fair. They were in too. Over time, I decided to try to develop a program specifically for these families who wanted to pre-enroll in my program.
I wound up coming up with my Pre-Enrollment Program or PEP for short. The program runs a little differently than I did with those first few clients. I’m really not holding child care spots anymore. Instead I anticipate when some of the older children’s spots will become available months in advance and advertise to pre-enroll or reserve those spots.
This works out really well for me because not only am I not sacrificing any current tuition by holding a vacant spot, but I also insure that those few infant spots I have are just about always filled – ahead of time.
This is not to say that I haven’t had some issues and made some tweaks over time. There have been families who even though they submitted their pre-enrollment fee and paperwork they waited until right before they were to attend and backed out. Which is why I raised the rate of the fee. Unfortunately, I have found that the fee needs to be an amount that is significant enough that someone would not want to lose it.
To Have and To Hold?
So I guess I am right back where I began here. I really don’t think you should hold spots. You could potentially be losing money if another family walks into your child care tomorrow and wants to enroll immediately.
If you do decide you want to hold a spot for a family, my advice is to be sure to get a fee for your efforts. Requiring some sort of (non-refundable) fee to hold a spot longer than 15, 30, 90 days (whatever works for you). And like I said, in my opinion, that fee should be significant enough that someone would not just want to lose the $. I currently require the equivalent to a weeks tuition for each month I pre-enroll the spot for.