I know getting students signed up for anything is a chore, but is there anything you can do about it?
Start with why
Why does this event exist? Why did it make it on to your calendar? It’s much easier to get students signed up if you know, and they know, why an event exists. It it there to reach their friends? Is it there to build community? If you don’t know why it’s there, your students will not know either and will most likely pass on it.
Is it worthy of your students?
Is the event worthy of your kids attention, money and time? If the answer is, “Yes, for the majority”, then carry on. If you have to announce it four weeks in a row to get one sign up, the message is clear, this is not an event your students asked for and you are begging them to participate in something you created. Pulling off the event becomes about ego and not fulfilling a purpose.
If you are planning an event that only speaks to 1/3 of your audience, that’s ok as long as you are not expecting everyone to show up. Unworthy events are ones that have a low return on investment. Just because I think it’s a good idea does not make the event worthy to do. I have had plenty of good ideas that went bust when I should have read the room better.
What makes an event student worthy? This leads me to the next point.
Was it their idea, did they help plan it?
A student event worthy of your students is an event they have had their hand in planning. If they do not have their hand in the design and execution of the event, it’s just you being a car salesman. “Come to this event! It’s only $4999 off the lot”.
Find time to plan a session where students can offer their input into last year’s calendar of what worked and what did not. Ask their input on future events and work together on the why and promotion of the event.
If students believe in the event, let them put the their name on it. Let students make the announcement, the graphics, etc. The more they are the face of the event, the greater the chance other students sign up.
Did you ask them to so sign up?
I am not asking if you did a mass appeal, I am asking if individually asked students if they signed up. Why does this matter?
When I go to a grocery store and the clerk asks me “do you want to round that up for charity? ” I say yes.
When I go to the book store and I am asked if I want to purchase a book for a child at Christmas, I say yes.
Why, because they asked me. It’s possible that you are counting on pleas from the front, social media etc, when you need to go on a one on campaign and make the ask. A lot of youth workers don’t want to do this because they don’t want to deal with the rejection. If they event fails, it was a mass no instead of an individual no.
What if you made it your mission to ask every kid, “Hey, would you like to sign up for X? I’d love for you to come.” I don’t know you group but I dare you to compare the plea of coming from the front to individual asks and see which one wins.
Cut down the friction
Sometimes the friction to signing up is just too much. Think about all the things you do not sign up for because the process is just too much. Are you using a paper sign up list? Are you asking students to text you? Are you using a web based sign up process?
In any case, make the dates and cutoff times clear and choose the easiest way for your students to sign up.
Reward Early Sign Ups
You can tell kids for six months that camp is coming but no one signs up until the week before. We’ve all been there. Let me offer an idea I’ve experimented with. Consider offering incentives to parents for signing up sooner rather than later. Let say you are offering $50 discount if you sign up six months before camp. Each month until summer camp that discount goes down by $10.
Equally, every week after the due date passes, their is a late fee. No one likes late fees, but your camp will happily charge you late fees if you are late with your payment. I’m not saying you should be egregious the amount, but no parent wants to spend an extra $20 they do not have to spend, especially if it’s a late fee. Communicating up front with parents is key and your reasoning for the late fee must thought out, not to mention your Pastor having your back. Proceed with caution.
Create sign up options
There are several ways to do sign up. You can do the traditional “sign up tonight” method as a part of your announcements, but if you choose this method, I would focus on only one event you want them to sign up for versus multiple events. Students have short memories.
If you have a larger group, you could have a sign up night at the beginning of a semester, like a college that offers clubs to sign up for freshmen, with all the events you are having for the next quarter. Have some colorful signage and someone stationed at each table to discuss that event.
If you have a smaller group you could have a planning night where you plan each of the events for the semester and you stress that their involvement, not just the planning, will be what makes the event a success.
Be willing to cancel the event
Why? First, if you’re going to lose a lot of money by doing it, it just make financial sense. If your budget can eat a small cost to allow a few people to go then do it. Canceling events suck but what it communicates to kids, and parents, is that the word deadline is a real thing.
Why is cancelling an event a sign up strategy? Because, maybe there were some kids who wanted to go but did not communicate that with either their money or signing up. They now know you’re willing to cancel an event in the future. They’ll know, if they want something to happen, they’ll have to throw their support behind it.
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