Are you constantly chasing down parents to collect bills? Do you have endless piles of paperwork? After school billing can be time consuming, challenging, and harmful to a programs budget. There are many aspects and methods to consider when deciding what the best practices are for your after school program. Thankfully, by implementing a well thought out after school program billing processes, your program can run smoother and more efficiently.
The billing process is very much tied to the after school offerings you have. For public programs, which are funded by the state, it is not required. But, if you run a private program for families – then the attendance tracking and billing is integral to the bottom line of your program.
Most programs try to do what is best for families. However, in doing so they compromise on administrative overhead and create unnecessary burden for themselves. Since your focus is to have a high quality after school program which your students love, the work for attendance tracking and billing needs to be thought through.
Method of After School Billing
One of the hardest and most important decisions to make is the method in which you bill families. As each after school program varies, so will the billing method. Not one single method is right for all programs. These are a few of the most common methods used for after school billing, each with its own pros and cons. It is important to evaluate what the needs of your program are, and then decide which billing method will be the most effective for your program.
The hourly method looks at the daily usage of participants, and charges families based on how long a participant attends the program each day. Usage is calculated based on the check-in and checkout time of the students in the program.
Billing hourly is great for a program that wishes to give parents flexibility on when their child attends the program. However, calculating the amount to be billed can be much more time consuming with this method. Kinderlime combines into one system a timeclock app, and billing and online payment software. This streamlines calculating and billing parents, making the hourly method much more manageable.
Many programs also use a flat rate fee that can be charged monthly or quarterly. This method makes the billing process more straightforward, and eliminates the possibility of parents arguing over the amount of time a child attends the program. If a parent needs to take a month off from the program, this can easily be done with Kinderlime’s billing software. Kinderlime will keep track of a family’s account history so you can easily add a previous participant back into your program.
However, some parents who simply need the program once a week may not want to pay a flat rate fee. If parents decided not to have their children attend the program due to this payment method, it will not only cause lower attendance, but also could result in children staying at home alone instead of attending the program.
This method has parents predict at the beginning of the year their usage of the program, and bills them at a set hourly rate. Programs can decide if they would like to bill parents monthly, quarterly, or in addition to their school tuition. Parents who do not predict their usage, or will only need the program on an occasional basis, can attend the program with a higher hourly rate.
This tiered rate approach is very beneficial when it comes to budgeting for a program as well as safety. By having parents predict when their child will be attending, administrators can be sure to have the proper amount of staff, and plan spending accordingly. Although this method may be slightly more confusing to explain to parents in the beginning, taking that extra step will prove worthwhile in the end.
A lot of programs want to make it easy on families by offering discounts for siblings, or subsequent hours after the first hour. Some other programs will bill based on quarter of an hour. While these practices are well intentioned, they pose a lot of burden on the administrators and business offices of schools. Calculating discounts is a big headache and takes a lot of time. Simplicity in charges is key – it’s easy to understand for parents and easy for you to calculate.
In order to deter consistent families from taking advantage of your staff, it’s important to charge late fees. Staff should never waiver these fees, as parents need to take this seriously. Kinderlime’s very accurate time tracking is here to help. There is no contention as you can show parents their electronic pick up records. Make late fees very simple by having a flat rate fee based on every 5 minutes they are late.
How to Bill Families
Set Clear Expectations
One of the largest challenges for after school program billing is ensuring that parents are paying on time, and are following all rules set in place. It is key to set clear expectations for parents on how your programs billing process works, and any other important program related information.
It can become time consuming going through program paperwork with parents, but the time you take to discuss your program with parents will often become helpful down the road. Instead of simply handing parents paperwork to turn in, have your program set up an orientation or parent meetings at the beginning of the school year. Making a designated time to discuss the program and go over paperwork will allow parents to address any questions or concerns, and allow after school programs to clarify how the program is set up.
Make the Billing Process Simple and Easy
In general we have seen that hourly billing at the end of the month works best for most programs. As recommended earlier, don’t have discounts based on additional hours or siblings. When billing families, make the process as simple and easy as possible. This will not only help ensure that parents are paying in a timely manner, but also help make the billing process easier for your staff. Here are a few ways to simplify the billing process for families:
- Electronic Invoices: E-mailing electronic invoices to parents makes it easy for them to access how much they owe. One of the many features of Kinderlime’s billing software is e-mailing invoices to parents, which also keeps track of any outstanding balances. The easier it is for parents to access their invoice, the easier it is for them to pay.
- Multiple Payment Options: Continually collecting parent bills through check or cash is tedious for both parents and staff. Kinderlime offers secure online payment features that gives parents the flexibility to use the payment option of their choice, whether that’s credit card, bank account, check or cash.
Unfortunately, after school billing can require a large use of paper. The continual use of paper is bad for the environment, costly, and often time consuming. Moving to an after school billing process that is electronic helps save money, makes the process easier for parents and staff, creates more satisfied parents, and helps with the retention of participants.
Kinderlime’s software not only allows parents to pay online, but creates paper free sign in and out sheets, easily records parent signatures, and can even send out paper free monthly newsletters created on the Kinderlime app. Kinderlime helps after school programs everywhere become more environmentally friendly, as well as reduces the billing process by over 40 hours a month.
If you are interested in maintaining the best practices for after school billing, please head over to the Kinderlime website, and request a demo or Sign Up.