What if you never again had to have that awkward conversation with a parent about overdue payments or worry about running that aging receivables report to see who needs a reminder email? What if late fees were so far in your rearview mirror, you couldn’t remember the last time you had to charge one?
With an automatic payments program, parents authorize you to schedule and process payments using saved, secure payment accounts, so you can guarantee that you get paid on time, every time. Here’s how to set up an autopay enrollment campaign that helps take the guesswork out of your bottom line.
Before you can enroll anyone in automatic payments and begin processing, you need formal authorization.
Your autopay enrollment form doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should contain the following:
- Name and address. This should match exactly the name on the account from which the payment will be debited, right down to the zip code.
- Signature line and date. Nothing is official until these two lines are completed! Without this, you are not authorized to process any transactions on behalf of this family.
- Payment account information. For ACH payments (otherwise known as direct debit or bank draft), you’ll need a bank account number and the bank’s routing number.
- Acknowledgement of terms and conditions. What exactly is being authorized? It needs to be explained and the terms disclosed. Sentences should begin with “I understand that…” so the permission they are giving is clearly defined.
This template shows a typical authorization form; however, you can adapt it to your needs:
Sample Authorization Form
The quickest way to kick off your autopay enrollment campaign is by a mass email. If you use a childcare management software, this is usually a standard feature that you can personalize and save as a template for future autopay enrollment efforts. If not, just keep it generic and be sure to Bcc everyone to keep contact information private.
In the body of your email, be sure to include the answers to basic questions parents may have before enrolling:
Being able to “set it and forget it” means one less thing for parents to remember, and they will never have to worry about late charges again. Also bank accounts change far less frequently and don’t expire the way credit cards do, which means less maintenance and hassle.
Reassure parents that their payment account information will be totally safe and secure. If your payment processor is PCI-compliant, say that (and if it isn’t, find a new one STAT)!
Disclose any per-transaction convenience fees or other charges. Many times, centers waive transaction or convenience fees for autopay if it means ensuring on-time, regular tuition payments.
Outline the billing and payment cycles or what transaction dates will be. For example, if payments for aftercare are due at the beginning of each month, state that transactions will be run on the first business day of each month.
Tell parents where to send the authorization form or who will accept them at your center.
If you’re offering perks or incentives for enrolling, set a deadline and communicate it in bold type to draw attention to it.
Don’t forget to include your form as an attachment, or if you are using an online form, insert the link for parents to click to access it!
Pro tip: Personalize your emails using merge fields so that parents feel like you are speaking directly to them to offer something that provides a service of value to them.
You’ve explained all the practical benefits of automatic payments, so how do you get parents excited and enrolling right away? Add a sweetener, and watch those authorization forms come rolling in. Try these low-cost perks and prizes at your center:
- Hold a tuition raffle by random drawing for one week of discounted (or free if you can afford it) care.
- Host a special lunch or ice cream party for the class with the highest participation.
- Hold a student raffle per class to take home a favorite toy or beloved class pet.
- Allow parents to choose the frequency and dates that they’ll pay tuition to coincide with their paydays. Since autopay will draw from their account either way, you are less likely to have to track them down.
- Waive any convenience fees for ACH payments. The cost of processing this type of payment is much lower than card payments, so the expense to your organization will be minimal.
Raffles are a great way to maintain anonymity. Since it is a random drawing with one winner, families will only know who won, not who didn’t, so no one will be embarrassed by opting out.
The beginning of the new school year is a great time to get parents enrolled in your autopay program. Encourage participation by making enrollment easy and accessible:
Use an online form to collect information
Use an online form to collect information and authorization.
Online forms are great for quick, effortless data collection, and parents can complete them from any desktop or mobile device at their convenience.
Set up an autopay “participation station”
Set up a tablet or desktop as a “participation station.”
Have a staff member on hand to assist them with this during dropoff or pickup. Parents can work with your staff to enter their payment account information directly into your system.
Keep a stack of autopay enrollment forms on hand
Keep a stack of autopay enrollment forms on hand.
Anytime a parent decides to enroll, you’ll be ready. If you’re relying on paper forms, store them in a locked, secure file after you’ve entered the account information.
After parents have enrolled, follow up with a thank you message that confirms and reiterates the most important information about your autopay program:
- Remind parents of the date of the first automatic payment, and let them know what to look for on their bank or credit card statements.
- Reiterate the payment posting schedule so parents can mark on their calendars exactly when they can expect to see transactions hit their accounts.
- Remind parents that they’ll need to complete a new authorization form if they choose to change the payment account from which their childcare tuition payments are being debited.
You might consider scanning the forms, then shredding the original paper forms for added security. Alternatively, you can destroy the portion of that contains the account data and retain only the signed authorization portion. Just note the last four digits of the payment account for your files.
Collecting childcare tuition payments doesn’t need to be an administrative headache when you have electronic payment processing and strong autopay enrollment. Start spending time on things you love, like planning your next music lesson or sitting in on story time, and get paid on time, every time.