Monday, December 14, 2015

Incentivizing Caregiver Engagement Programs

I wrote recently about the revamped caregiver engagement programs here at my library, called POP! Parents of Preschoolers. This redesigned program is aimed at parents of children of a particular age--that is, ages 2 to 5--and it also has the goal of getting a core group of parents attending and engaged at multiple programs in the series. Getting repeat attendance can be a bit of a tough cookie, as I'm sure you've seen in some of your programs. Thus, when we were in the early planning stages for POP!, I had a bunch of conversations with colleagues in the youth department and marketing team to figure out ways to incentivize repeat participation. Here's what we're doing.

1. We're hosting all of the programs on the same day of the week and in the same 6:30-7:30 p.m. time slot. This scheduling consistency is to help caregivers to know ahead of time when, approximately, the programs will be happening. We still specify the date of each program, but this bit of consistency means interested parents know to keep Tuesday nights flexible, if not totally open.

2. We're letting attendees at one program preregister for the next program. That is, at the end of our October program, we offered to sign up attending parents for the November program on the spot. This strategy cuts down on chances parents might forget to register due to the million little distractions that pop up in life with little ones. And it's a bonus--we're signing up these parents before general registration is open. We normally don't allow advance registration, but since our priority is repeat attendance, we're making the exception for this program.

3. We're offering a simultaneous storytime for kids whose parents are attending POP! Evening childcare can be a huge hurdle for families with young children, and we're trying to help jump it by offering an extended storytime program, led by a librarian, in the youth program room (which is adjacent to the space in which the parents have their program). Tiny ones--kids under age 2--can stay with their caregivers in the POP! program, but anyone else is invited to join in storytime. They've been great programs so far.

4. We've created a takeaway--part parent information, part game--that parents can build from program to program. The takeaway is a branded card case with a set of cards for each program. The cards have two sides. The parent side has a tip or fact relevant to the program topic; for example, one tip from the Reading to Succeed program encourages using "grown-up" words with a child.

The kids' side of the cards have colored shapes, each with a thick black outline, two of each. When we hand out the new set of cards at each program, we emphasize to the parents that the shapes can be used in age-appropriate games: kids can match shapes, they can match colors, they can make patterns, they can count, they can trace the shapes, etc.

The POP! deck is a mobile preschool game with umpteen uses, and if parents use them they are also getting the tips and facts reinforced as they see them again and again. Parents have indicated that they like the cards and are excited about getting more at additional programs, so the incentive seems to be working. The deck concept is appealing for lots of staff, too, and I've got a few colleagues who are interested in adapting it for their own programs both in the library and off-site.

So there you have it: what we're doing to incentivize caregivers participating in our POP! Parents of Preschoolers program series. How do you incentivize repeat attendance?

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