How to Incorporate Parent Fees into Your After-School Program Business Plan


An after-school business plan helps support the long-term sustainability of a program. As programs grow and evolve, it makes sense to revisit funding strategy, particularly the funding sources that are needed to sustain a program as various grants end.

Your current business plan probably already includes grants, partnerships, and fundraising activities. Now you want to incorporate parent fees into the plan, but you’re not sure how to make the transition to a parent-pay program. Many after-school programs are financially dependent on program fees that are collected from the parents of enrolled students. While parent fees are an effective way to increase funding for after-school programs, many program administrators making the transition to a parent-pay system find the process challenging.

Below, we’ll walk through some common practices for incorporating parent fees into after-school business plan.

Add Parent Fees to the Funding Mix

Including a parent-pay component is a great way to diversify funding sources and support your program in keeping the lights on after grant funding runs out. In addition to grants, fundraising activities, community partners, and donations, you can add parent fees to your after-school business plan to help ensure program sustainability. One option is to consider having a mix of paid-students as well as students whose program fees are covered by grant funding. Many after-school programs offer free or reduced program fees for low-income students. By taking this type of tiered approach, you can use parent fees to sustain your program long term and spend the limited grant and other funds to supplement low-income participant attendance.

Determine Parent Costs

The next step to incorporating parent fees into your after-school business plan is to do market research. The cost to parents should reflect the current market in your area for after-school programs. What are other after-school programs in the area charging? Learn how much parents in your community are willing and able to pay to avoid losing any students due to cost. Another consideration is low-income programs. Consider the options available to those programs such as donation-based or parent pay on a sliding scale.

The best way to calculate parent fees is to identify:

  1. Total operating costs
  2. Funding from other sources
  3. The number of students in your after-school program

With this information, you can do a simple calculation to see exactly how much you need parents to pay to sustain the program. An online calculator like this one can provide a great starting point to help administrators better navigate the process of determining costs.

Plan a Gradual Transition

Plan to transition to a parent-pay program by introducing a program fee that gradually increases over a few years. By taking a gradual approach, you can ease parents in over time so that it’s not as alarming for them to incur this new expense. Proactive communication is also valuable for making a gradual transition, as you can let parents know well in advance that you’ll be introducing a program fee to better support the needs of the after-school program.

Offer Digital Payment Options

A digital payment system, especially one that is available in both a mobile and web-based format, can provide a convenient way for parents to pay fees. This increases the likelihood of collecting on-time payments and offers a way to send payment reminders to parents when fees aren’t received. Along with being in line with market trends and parent preferences, digital payment options make the process of paying and receiving fees easier for everyone involved. Program managers don’t have to worry about handling cash, bounced checks, or manually tracking payments, while parents don’t have to worry about making payments in person at pick-up time.

A Closing Thought

Incorporating parent fees into your program might seem like a daunting task; however, with the right approach, you can include parent fees in your after-school business plan and ensure your program is both sustainable and successful for the long-term.

About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.