Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Software for Your Afterschool Program

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Software for Your Afterschool Program

By Sara Perry
Published On Jun 08, 2022

Choosing the right software for your afterschool program is not an easy task.

Which features are important? How do you get the most bang for your buck?

With so many options available and features to assess, pinning down the perfect solution can be overwhelming.

If you’re ready to jumpstart your program with software but you don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place.

Let’s walk through the steps – from researching to making a final decision – so you can find the right management software for your afterschool program.

Step 1: Outline Your Outcomes

Before you start looking at providers and features, you need to understand what you want out of your software. What outcomes do you want to achieve? Having clarity on your goals will guide you through the decision process.

Try making a list of your program’s biggest stressors and pain points. Which aspects of your program slow down your staff, frustrate parents, or cause roadblocks? Some examples include:

  • A slow check-in/out process
  • Inefficient communication with parents
  • Inconvenient storage for important health and safety information

Once you have a list of your pain points, flip them around to find the outcomes you want to achieve using software.

Let’s say you’re communicating inefficiently with parents. Flip that around, and your goal would be to communicate efficiently with parents. Do this with each of your pain points, and highlight which outcomes are the most important to you.

This process helps you view software options through the lens of your goals rather than flashy features. When you focus on features first, it can be difficult to see how they translate into the outcomes you want.

Taking an outcomes-first approach will help you wade through the bells and whistles to find which software truly aligns with your goals.

Keep this list handy so you can reference it later in the process.

Step 2: List Your Options

This step is all about research. Before you can come close to making a decision, you need to understand what your options are.

You can start by asking for recommendations from your friends and colleagues. People in your network may have already been through this process, and they may have helpful tips.

There’s a wealth of information online, and you can navigate it with the help of your outcomes list.

Try incorporating some of your outcomes into your search to find relevant results.

Don’t worry about narrowing down your options yet – that will come later. The most important part of this step is to get a clear list of all the options you have available.

Step 3: Narrow It Down

Once you have a complete list of options, you can create a shortlist.

Try narrowing down the list to your top 2-5 options. When choosing your top picks, consider:

  • What the reviews say
  • How they fit in your budget
  • How well the features serve your outcomes

This step is where you’ll dive deeper into the software features. Pay particular attention to how each choice handles the following:

  • Data reporting
  • Communication tools
  • Document security and compliance
  • Registration & check-in/out processes
  • Customer support and software maintenance

The long list of features may seem intimidating, but your outcomes list can guide you through it. Use your outcomes list to find which options will help you achieve your goals.

Step 4: Get a Demo

Research can only get you so far. Once you have a shortlist of your top choices, it’s time to see them in action.

Reach out to each of the software providers on your shortlist to find the best fit. You can get a demo to see how functional the features are, and you can speak with a sales representative to talk through your options.

When you’re testing the software, it’s important to consider how your stakeholders will receive it, as they’re the ones that will be using it the most.

Which option would support your staff? How would your choice be received by parents?

Step 5: Make a Decision

This is the big moment – which choice is best for you?

The software you choose should have features that serve your outcomes and your stakeholders. Which option will help you reach those goals while providing a smooth experience for your staff and parents?

It’s also important to consider the human element when making your choice. You don’t just want a software provider, you want a partner. Which option makes you feel heard and supported?

Look for a provider that wants to see you succeed and treats you like a partner – not just a customer.

Software can be a great tool for growing your afterschool program. There are a lot of choices out there, but choosing the right one doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you keep your outcomes in mind and look for a true partner, you can find the perfect software for your afterschool program.

Looking for a software partner that puts your program first? Schedule a customized demo to see InCare in action!

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