A class reunion is really just a big party, and as you know, parties and party planning cost money. If you've estimated your total class reunion expenses, you know that you'll need quite a bit of money—probably several thousand dollars—for a fairly casual event with about 100 attendees.
Probably the most popular class reunion fund-raiser is the sale of admission tickets, but it's not the only way to raise money for your event. In fact, if you want to keep ticket prices low to encourage participation, you might have to conduct additional fund-raisers.
But first things first: Before the first ticket is ever sold, you're going to need money to pay for early expenses such as a reunion-planning reference book or paper and stamps to create the first promotional mailing. So where do you get that money?
You can either use your own money and get reimbursed later, ask allreunion planning committee members to pay for their tickets in advance, hold a bake sale or other fund-raiser, or you can seek donations.
Donations in Exchange for Advertising
If your class includes a Bill Gates or anWinfrey, hit them up for money. Remind them they wouldn't be where they are today if it wasn't for good, ol' Wherever High School. You can always promise free advertising in reunion promotional materials, program or memory book in exchange for their donations.
The same goes for businesses in the town where your high school is located. Stop by the Peach Pit and see if you can secure donations, no matter how small, in exchange for a little free advertising. It doesn't have to be print advertising. You can offer to thank businesses for their donations and otherwise sing their praises duringreunion awards ceremony. Or, you can name the reunion dance or an award after them. Get creative, but get that cash.
Another place to check for free money is with your alma mater. Did your class have any car washes way back when? Is there any money left over from those candy or bake sales? The answer might be no, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Call your high school and inquire.
To Ticket or Not to Ticket
Before you begin promoting your class reunion, you'll need to decide whether or not you will charge for admission and, if so, how much money you will charge. Keep ticket prices as low as possible. Some people, for whatever reason, are reluctant to attend their class reunions. You don't want money to be one more reason for them not to attend.
If you must charge for your main class reunion event, such as a dinner and dance, you might consider hosting one or two more informal events at no charge so that more classmates can participate.
You could have a happy hour the night before the main event to which classmates are invited to attend for free. Everyone can meet at a bar or restaurant and pay their own ways.
Another idea is a daytime "brown bag" picnic to which classmates could bring and show off their kids. You could hold this in a public park so there would be no expense forreunion committee.
Tips on Ticketing
You'll need as much of the ticket proceeds in your hands as possible prior to the date ofreunion, because most of the bills will need to be paid in advance. That means you'll need to figure out a way to get your classmates to prepay.
One way to do this is by offering a "lower" price for payments received before a certain deadline than the price you will charge at the door. The "lower" price is really just the ticket price you've determined you need to break even; the at-the-door price is inflated just enough to serve as a motivator to pay early.
If possible, offer full refunds up to a certain date. Many people are afraid to commit to attending an event months in advance. But if you offer them their money back if they cannot attend, they're more likely to go ahead and pay. Once they pay, they're less likely to back out at the last minute unless it truly is an emergency. And if you make the refund deadline a day or two before your head count is due to your caterer, you won't be stuck paying for uneaten meals.
Another ticket option you could offer is a lower priced dance-only ticket. Basically, allow classmates to join the party after the meal, which often represents a large chunk of the ticket price. You'll need someone working the door throughout the event to facilitate this, however, so plan accordingly if you use this option.
Profit From Souvenirs
One way to raise money and provide classmates with class reunion keepsakes is to sell souvenirs personalized with the date of your reunion and your reunion logo (are any classmates graphic designers?). Purchase personalized Koozies, magnets, pencils and cups from companies such as PromoDirect and then resell them at a higher price to make money for your class reunion.
The trick is to make sure you will profit with this fund-raiser and not dig yourself deeper into debt. One way to end up in the black is to have classmates prepay for souvenirs when they purchase their tickets. Or, poll your classmates beforereunion to learn which item they would most like to buy. That way, you don't get stuck with 300 "Class of 1996 10-Year Reunion" buttons. (No one needs that much flair.)
An inexpensive souvenir that you can make using your own printer is a class reunion magnet. Simply purchase a packet of magnetized paper for your inkjet printer from an office supply store, create your design and print your magnets. Presto! You've got an instant and inexpensive souvenir that you can sell for at least $1 each. Money is money, after all.
The ultimate keepsake souvenir from a class reunion is a memory book, which is a professionally printed booklet that contains both candid and posed photos from the reunion as well as information about classmates' lives since graduation, including a directory of contact information.
You can hire a company that will do everything from sending a professional photographer to your class reunion to printing the memory book for you. (Just"reunion memory books" and you'll find several.) Or, if a classmate or a friend works in the publishing field, you can create your own.
You can earn money to pay class reunion bills by selling the memory books for a little more than they cost to produce. Don't forget to include in the price of your memory book the cost of postage and envelopes to send out the completed books. You can make a little extra money from your memory book by selling business-card advertisements, which you'll print in the book, to classmates or businesses.
Keep in mind that since memory books have to be produced afterreunion, you'll need to ask for orders and payments in advance, preferably before the day of the reunion.
Other Class Reunion Fund-Raisers
People are always forgetting their cameras, and most people want photos of themselves with old friends from their class reunion. Help the forgetful and make money for the reunion at the same time by selling disposable cameras at the reunion for a little more than you paid for them.
Another idea for a fund-raiser is to hold a silent auction duringreunion. Auction off donated items or items you've purchased that you know will sell, such as copies of your senior yearbook. Many people don't have the money or the inclination to buy copies of their yearbooks while they are in high school, but they regret it later. Do them a favor and raise some reunion money by auctioning off one or two old yearbooks that you've purchased from your high school. If the yearbook sponsor's closet is overflowing, chances are good that she'll be willing to make you a great deal.
What do you do once the money starts to roll in for your class reunion?
Open a bank account.
As soon as you have any class reunion money in your hands, you should consider opening a bank account. While it's possible to use your personal checking account for class reunion deposits and expenditures, it is better to open a separate account for at least a couple of reasons.
One, you don't want your classmates to question where their hard-earned money is going. If you have an account in the name of your class reunion, classmates can make out their checks to "XHS Class of 2001 Reunion" rather than to "Priscilla President."
And two, it will be much easier for you to keep the money straight. If you deposit it into your own account, you will have to be extremely diligent about record keeping. And while you should keep good records even if the money is in a separate account, if it is, you can simply take one look at the account balance to know how much money your class reunion has to spend.
Find a Free Checking Account
You don't want to spend precious class reunion money on monthly bank account fees, so shop around for a free bank account that offers free checks. They are out there.
You'll need to put your name on the account, but you can also include a DBA (doing business as). Your DBA should be the name of your class reunion; this will be the entity to which classmates will make their payments.
It's also a good idea to add a couple of other reunion committee members' names to the account. You don't have to make it so that you need two or more signatures to write checks on the account, unless that is how your committee wants it done; just be sure that someone else has access to the money if something happens to you. Provide those people with all the information they would need to access the account if you get hit by a bus.
Keep Records of Expenditures
When you are in charge of handling other people's money, it is important that you keep excellent records. No one will probably ever question your handling ofreunion money, but it's always better to have a record of each receipt and expenditure just in case.
Figure out a system that works for you, and then stick with it. It's a good idea to use a spreadsheet to log all class reunion expenditures. Your spreadsheet might include the following columns: date of purchase, description of item or service, purpose of item or service, cost, and the name of the person who paid for the item or service if it wasn't paid for with a reunion bank account check (for reimbursement purposes). For example: 02/12/2007, one ream blue paper, for promotional mailing, $4.95, Holly Historian.
Even if you are logging expenditures in a spreadsheet, it's still a good idea to keep paper receipts. You could keep them organized in an accordion file organized by type of expense (food, decorations, etc.) or tape them to sheets of paper in a three-ring binder.
Make sure you get receipts for services as well as for items purchased. If you aren't offered a receipt, ask for one. If other committee members will do some of the purchasing, make sure they provide you with receipts if they want to be reimbursed with class reunion money.
Keep Records of Payments
You should be just as diligent with records of payments as you are with expenditures. You might want a separate spreadsheet for this. It could include the following columns: last (maiden) name of person making the payment, that person's married name (if applicable), that person's first name, the name of any guests for whom this person has purchased a ticket (for name tag purposes), number of tickets this person purchased, and total amount paid. If you have asked classmates to prepay for souvenirs or other items, you can add columns to track those, too.
As with expenditures, it's also smart to keep a paper trail of incoming class reunion money. If you send out a reservation form, you can use that.
It's tradition that the senior class officers bear the responsibility of planning class reunions when the time comes. For me, that time came a few years ago.
Whilepresident would normally spearhead reunion planning efforts, ours was living in Michigan. reunion needed to be held in Texas, where we graduated, so it would have been extremely difficult for him to handle reunion planning.
That’s where I came in. I had been the senior class vice president, I still lived in Texas, and I didn’t have children yet. Full-time job aside, I had the spare time and the willingness to take on the planning of our class reunion.
Let me just pause here to warn you that class reunion planning is not for the meek. It’s not for the weary. It’s time-consuming, and it’s aggravating at times. It took more than a year of researching how to plan a class reunion, locating classmates, convincing some stubborn classmates to attend and making preparations to pull off the event.
But it was worth it. You feel 16 again when you rediscover classmates you haven’t spoken to in years. And when the big event finally comes, it’s extremely satisfying to know that you helped bring everyone together again to relive some great memories and make new ones.
I consider our class reunion a success. About 70 classmates (plus their significant others) out of a class of 200 attended. That’s about 35 percent. From what I’ve read, a class reunion is successful if 40 percent of classmates attend. But I’m not sure how you can truly gauge the success of this kind of event by the numbers. What’s most important is that the people who participate have a fun and memorable time. We achieved that.
In this article and in a series of others in which I hope to go into more detail about various aspects of class reunion planning, I’d like to share the knowledge and experience I gained while planning my class reunion. Let’s get started with the first steps you should take to plan your class reunion.
While you must have a leader to coordinatereunion planning efforts and keep everything organized, one person simply can’t do everything. I was fortunate that I had kept in touch with a few terrific classmates who were eager to pitch in.
My initial goal was to get a classmate to volunteer for each aspect ofreunion planning: classmate finding, decorations, promotions, door prizes, fund raising, music/entertainment, catering, etc.
Don't make this the last view you see of your classmates. Plan a class reunion! Credit: Daniel KwokCopyright: Daniel Kwok
You didn’t think there was that much to a class reunion, did you? Yes, it’s similar to planning a wedding, except it’s harder. This is because, unless you want to pay for it all yourself, you have to ask your classmates to pay to attend. So you definitely need some help.
Don’t worry if you can’t get one person assigned to each of these areas. I ended up handling several of them myself, and I didn’t faint from exhaustion. But don’t try to do it all, either. Sometimes that can be easier than having to rely on others, but unless you want to end up resenting this class reunion, get at least two or three other people you can count on to coordinate areas that might not be your specialty.
Matching jobs with people’s talents or interests is always a good idea. People will work much harder doing something they enjoy, especially when they aren’t getting paid for it. And when they’re happy with their jobs, you’re less likely to see those jobs fall back into your lap.
Now, can you think of some reliable classmates who might fit the bill? Great. Send them e-mails, post comments on theirpages or give them old-fashioned phone calls and ask them to join reunion planning committee. Then ask them to do some brainstorming about the kind of class reunion they would like to host and to conduct a little research on the costs associated with their assigned areas, and find out when they can meet.
Hold a Planning Meeting
Getting class reunion planning committee members together in one place at one time might seem impossible, but it’s important to try to do so at least this once. You can get by with e-mails and phone calls during the rest ofreunion planning, but I strongly recommend that this first meeting be face to face. You want everyone focused on the topic at hand, and you want to make some big decisions. If you try to do that via e-mail, you’ll never get anything accomplished.
What will you discuss at this meeting? Take a look at the following agenda. It was the one I used to conduct our planning meeting. Perhaps you can use it as a model for your own class reunion planning meeting agenda.
Proposed Meeting Agenda
I. Events, Locations, Times
A. Decide on the number and kinds of events we want to have.
1. Discuss possibility of icebreaker event, picnic, sporting event, etc.
2. Discuss reunion dinner/dance.
B. Decide on locations of events.
1. Discuss cost, availability, features of each proposed location.
2. I learned in high school that you need a 2 when you have a 1, so here it is.
C. Decide on dates and times of all events, if possible.
II. Event Specifics
A. For each event, discuss everyone’s ideas and what point people have found out about the following:
1. To theme or not to theme the event (“Under the Sea,” etc.)
2. Food andoptions
3. Decoration ideas (including memorabilia display)
4. Entertainment ideas (music plus any kind of program we might want to have)
5. Door prizes, souvenirs, other activities
III. Preliminary Budget
A. Discuss starting a bank account: where, when, under what organization name, etc.?
B. Choose someone to be in charge of keeping a record of those who have paid for their tickets, depositing the money, writing checks from the account for expenses, etc.
C. Make list of expected expenses, including:
1. Location rental(s)
a. Dance floor
c. Other related costs
2. Food and alcohol
a. Cost of actual meals/drinks
b. Serving staff
c. Utensils, plates, napkins, glassware
d. Tax and tips
3. Tables, chairs, linens, etc.
a. Band or DJ
b. Audiovisual equipment, if not provided by facility
a. Paper supplies
c. Other decorations?
a. Memory book
b. Cups, pencils, shirts, etc.
9. Door prizes
10. Web site
11. Other stuff we think of at the meeting
D. Discuss ticket sales
1. Set ticket price, if possible, based on above expense information.
2. Decide on amount to collect from committee members and collect for preliminary expenses, including deposits on facilities, entertainment, first mailout.
3. Discuss ticket sales options.
a. Sell for each individual event or one for all events?
b. Reduced ticket price for paying before a certain deadline?
c. Accept partial ticket payments?
4. Discuss other ideas for fund raising, if needed.
IV. Make initial reunion promotion plan.
A. Discuss logo, if it’s ready. (We had a classmate who is a graphic designer create one.)
B. Discuss Web site, suggestions for content, etc.
C. Discuss proposed mailing schedule.
D. Discuss content of first mailing.
V. Set next meeting date.
VI. Cruise Sonic. (or whatever you did in high school for fun)
Following your class reunion planning meeting, in which you should try to come to an agreement on at least the location and date of your class reunion, you should begin gathering contact information for your classmates.for more in-depth articles on various aspects of class reunion planning, including how to begin searching for classmates.
The whole point of a class reunion is to reunite, and you can’t do that without your classmates. To ensure you find as many people as possible beforereunion, start locating classmates early, perhaps even a year prior to the event. This will also help spread the word that a class reunion is being planned.
Create a Master List
Before you begin searching for your classmates, you need to make a list of everyone you’re trying to locate. Create a master list of classmates’ names using the yearbook from your senior year. Another good reference, if you still have a copy, is yourprogram, which should contain a list of everyone who graduated with you. If you can’t locate either a yearbook or a program, contact your high school to see if the registrar or school secretary can provide you with a list of your classmates.
Start a spreadsheet so that you can keep all the information you find on people in one place. You can also use it later as a database for class reunion promotional mailings. Your spreadsheet might include each classmate’s: last name, maiden name, first name, postal address, phone number and e-mail address. It’s also a good idea to have a notes section for each classmate in which you can enter leads or tips you need to follow up on.
Once you enter all your classmates’ names in your spreadsheet, fill in the contact information for the people with whom you’ve stayed in contact. In this age of e-mail, it’s easier to stay in touch with old friends, so start by contacting any classmates in your e-mail address book to ask them for their current contact information.
Surf and Search
Another great place to start locating classmates is Classmates.com, a Web site where you can search for your high school and graduation year to find a listing of classmates who’ve posted online profiles. When you’re planning a class reunion, it’s definitely worth the money to become a gold member of Classmates.com. With a free membership, you can only view classmates’ profiles; a gold membership allows you to send them e-mails. You can also become a “reunion contact” on Classmates.com and post information about your upcoming class reunion. The boards are also a great place to get the word out about your class reunion and to ask about “missing” classmates.
MySpace.com is, of course, another great option for locating classmates these days. You can search for a listing of people who’ve listed your high school as their alma mater, or you can search for an individual classmate by name.
Use your yearbook to create a master list of classmates you need to find. Credit: Kristin SmithCopyright: Kristin Smith
You might even want to create a MySpace.com page yourself so that you can post class reunion information on it.
Other people-finding Web sites such as reunion.com, switchboard.com and whitepages.com are also good places to find contact information for classmates.
Do it the Old-Fashioned Way
Don’t forget your low-tech options people finding. Check the phone book for the town in which your high school is located. You just might find missing classmates listed there. If not, see if you can find the names of their parents or other relatives who might be able to lead you to the people you are looking for.
Your high school might be able to provide you with a list of classmates’ last known (probably their parents’) addresses. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
When you do locate classmates, ask them for the contact information of other classmates they’ve stayed in touch with. If they don’t have actual contact information, they might have other tips that could lead you to the people you’re searching for (who they married, last city they were living in, etc.).
Ask Other Classmates
If you still have classmates who are “missing” by the time you are ready to send out your first promotional e-mail or mailing about your class reunion, include a list of those classmates in the e-mail or mailing. Ask the classmates you’ve located for leads or tips on finding the missing people. If you create a class reunion Web site, post the list of missing classmates there, too. Let found classmates know that you need their help in locating the missing people.
Locating classmates is an ongoing project during class reunion planning. Don’t expect to finish the task before you begin other aspects of class reunion planning. While your biggest push in locating classmates should be made before your first promotional e-mail or mailing, you should continue the effort until the day of your class reunion so that as many people as possible can be included.
To create a budget for your class reunion, you’ll need to first make a list of potential expenses that will be necessary to hold your event as well as a list of possible sources of revenue that will cover those expenses.
Start with your “dream” list of expenses. What would you and your committee ideally like your class reunion to be like? Are you picturing a sophisticated affair with linen tablecloths and a catered dinner or a casual get-together with beer and pretzels?
To find out if your dream class reunion is achievable, you’ll have to do some research. Hop on the Web or on the phone and start getting price quotes. Make a list of possible expenses.
All the little details have price tags, and they will add up quickly, so be sure to spend some time carefully considering all your possible expenses. It’s better to overestimate expenses than to end up in the red, because you or the members of the committee will have to pay the bills.
The following section, which includes questions you should ask and points to consider when estimating class reunion expenses, should help you begin to create your budget worksheet.
Questions to Ask When Estimating Expenses for Your Class Reunion
Location—Are you renting a meeting hall, hotel meeting room or suite, etc.? How much is the rental fee? Does the site require you to hire security or secure any kind of insurance? If so, how much will it cost?
Food—Will you provide no food, just snacks, a buffet or plated meals? Do you want to buy and serve the food yourself or hire a caterer? Is there any additional food that you’ll need to purchase that is not included by the caterer? What is the cost for each of these options?
Drinks—Are non-alcoholic drinks such as iced tea or sodas included in the caterer’s price? Do you plan on making alcoholic beverages available? If so, willreunion foot the bill, or will you need to hire a company to operate a cash bar? (Before you make these decisions, be sure to find out your site’s rules regarding the serving/sale of alcoholic beverages.)
Tableware—Will the caterer provide plates, napkins, cups, forks and the like? Will you need these items?
Promotions—Will you be doing traditional mailings to promotereunion? If so, you’ll need paper, envelopes and address labels as well as stamps.
When planning a class reunion, you'll need to learn how to stretch every dollar.
Decorations—Think about whether you will need to rent or buy tablecloths and table skirts or other linens. How much will that cost? What else will you use for decorations? Some traditional items include balloons (if you plan to use balloons, also budget for bottled helium, weights and clips for the balloons); a personalized welcome banner, table centerpieces, materials to create a display of memorabilia from your high school years (fabric for a backdrop, photo corners, push pins, etc.); materials to create memorials of deceased classmates (frames, mats, photo paper, etc.). How much will these items cost?
Entertainment—Will you hire a live band, DJ or bust out your old boom box? Will you need to allot money to pay for games at any events involving children? Are you planning on giving prizes or trophies to the classmates who are least changed, most changed, most famous, etc.? What will you give as prizes, and how much will the prizes cost?
Miscellaneous—Do you need to purchase a reference book on class reunion planning? Do you want to purchase a gold membership to Classmates.com to help with locating classmates? Will you need extension cords or other equipment? Will you be asking underclassmen, friends or family to “work” the event? If so, you might want to budget for thank-you gifts for them. What about name tags and paper on which to print a class reunion program of events? Are there any other items or services you want or need to hold your class reunion? What will those things cost?
Evaluate Your Potential Expenses
After you’ve made a list of possible expenses, add them up. That total is how much money you will need to raise to break even on your class reunion. Does the amount seem reasonable? Divide it by the number of classmates you expect to attend. Would one of your classmates be willing to pay that amount if you charged that much for a ticket?
If not, or if you don’t want to charge admission to your class reunion, you’ll either need to alter your plans and cut back on expenses or get creative and figure out some other ways to raise funds to pay for those expenses.