BELOW ARE TWO ARTICLES ON PLANNING A CLASS REUNION. Each gives a little different perspective and great things to think about when planning your class reunion. The most important thing is to communicate with your class mates and planning committee.
The following is meant to serve as a guide in planning your reunion. No two reunions are alike but every reunion requires upfront planning to be successful. Please let us know if we can assist you with your planning and school tour. Our staff is experienced at assisting you locate your classmates.
How do we form a reunion committee?
Every reunion begins with the formation of a reunion committee. Start by forming a core local team of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure a successful reunion. Appoint a reunion chair who will arrange and drive meeting agendas. Appoint a treasurer to oversee finances. Beyond these two key individuals, solicit classmate volunteers who can actively participate and be assigned to work on various reunion tasks. Don’t underestimate the work involved. Share the work amongst as many who are willing to offer their help. There are many details and arrangements that have to be taken care of. Successful reunions are the result of successful committees. Committees that are active and well organized will be positioned for success. Organizing a successful reunion can be a truly enriching and rewarding experience where old friendships are reestablished and new friendships formed.
When do we start?
Your reunion committee should plan to meet once a month either in person or via conference call. You may even consider augmenting some of your meetings by using an online chat room or message boards. This can be a convenient inexpensive way of discussing some of the finer details of the reunion and may make it easy for non-local classmates to participate and contribute.
What work items does the reunion committee need to consider?
Consider dividing the work activities of your reunion committee into subcommittees or work groups. Here is a listing of some of the tasks you will need to consider:
- date selection
- determine event venue and format
- event program (speakers, tributes, etc)
- event location / lodging selection
Create a classmate contact listing with postal addresses, email addresses, phone numbers o search for missing classmates
- web site development / maintenance
- registration & name tags
- reunion / memories booklet o novelties
- prizes / awards
- marketing & communications o mailers, emailings
- newspaper and internet advertising
- deceased classmates tribute
- additional reunion activities
- school tours, pre & post reunion even
- class gift to your school
What are some of the upfront expenses we might incur?
Here is a listing of some expenses you might incur along the way. One thing to consider to avoid these expenses is to use a professional reunion planning service. Many of these services will handle all your upfront costs for you.
* Printing (reunion booklets, name tags)
* Gifts / novelties
* Web site development & hosting
* Liability insurance
* Reunion facilities deposit
* Entertainment deposit
* Deposits for additional activities (tours, etc)
Timeline for success
While it’s a good idea to begin planning your event as soon as you know you are going to have one, here is a timetable to consider for planning your event.
Twenty-four months before
Form a committee
Recruit and appoint subcommittee members Survey classmates for ideas and venue preferences Determine event format
- picnic, dinner-dance, etc
- informal, formal
- single day event, multi-day event
Brainstorm additional activities (school tours, etc) Set date(s)
Scout candidate reunion facilities and hotels Develop budget
Start developing mailing list
Eighteen months before
Select and reserve reunion facility and hotels
Arrange for and hire entertainment, caterer, photographer, etc.
Twelve months before
Determine cost per ticket Send initial mailer announcing date and location of reunion Publicize reunion information
– public web sites
Arrange for additional leisure activities (sightseeing tours, etc.) Pay deposits
Six months before
Mail reunion registration materials
Confirm all reservations, caterer, entertainment, etc. Select menu
Meet with hotel and reunion venue staff
Four months before
Make payment arrangements with all suppliers for group functions – meals, tours, photographer, DJ, etc.
One month before
Finalize any last minute details
When should we have our reunion?
Certainly Friday or Saturday are the most desirable dates to consider for your reunion. The most popular times of the year to have a class reunion are early summer through late fall. Thanksgiving weekend is also a fairly popular time as many classmates may be in your home area visiting family for the holiday. There are several factors you should consider when selecting a date. Certainly the weather is more accommodating during these periods especially in areas of the country where the winters are cold. If your classmates are in the child rearing stages of life the summer months might be a more ideal time while children are out of school on summer vacation, especially for those classmates traveling from out of town. Of course fall is also a wonderful time of year as it evokes memories of homecoming and football games. You may want to consider coordinating your event around your high school’s homecoming as it offers an opportunity for classmates to participate in additional activities on your reunion weekend.
Should we have a single day or multi-day event?
Some classes just have a one evening reunion event while other classes host multi-day reunions. Those classmates who have attended reunions repeatedly echo the same words after the reunion is over….’the evening went by too fast’…’there just wasn’t enough time to talk with everyone I wanted to’. How do you pack 5, 10, 20, 30 years of each others lives inside of 5 hours? The answer is you can’t. Hosting a multi-day reunion however gives your classmates additional time to relax and get reacquainted. This is also a far more attractive venue for those traveling from afar to attend the reunion. It may involve a little more work to host a multi-day reunion but offers many advantages to your classmates. Following are some suggestions for the weekend should you choose to hold a multi-day reunion.
Many classes kick off their reunion activities with an informal Friday night get together that are referred to as ‘Mixers’, ‘Warm Ups’ or ‘Icebreakers’. As these names imply this event is intended to loosen classmates up in an informal, neutral and relaxed atmosphere prior to the grand event. Typically these are held at a local restaurant or bar. Usually light Hors d’houevres are served and classmates pay for their own cocktails at these gatherings. Keep this event simple. Don’t put a lot of undo stress on yourselves as you need to direct most of your energies toward planning the big event. If such an event is not offered, consider getting together informally on your own with some classmates you were close with in high school. It gives you extra time with those you were closest with.
While the night is typically reserved for the big event, consider adding some daytime events. One of the most popular events you might want to consider arranging is a tour of your old high school. After 10, 20, 30… years this can be a wonderful rejuvenating experience to once again walk the hallowed halls of your youth. If your event happens to coincide with your school’s homecoming or a school football game, encourage classmate participation and try to organize special seating arrangements so your class can all sit together. Some classes also organize activities like a morning golf outing, local site seeing tour or a group shopping trip.
*No matter what pre-reunion events you plan, don’t underestimate their value in terms of making classmates more comfortable attending the reunion event. They all serve as relaxers or anxiety reducers so to speak that can help make the big event a smashing success.
If your class isn’t already burned out from Friday and Saturday festivities you might want to consider a wind down event such as a Sunday picnic. This is a chance for any last minute catching up and to say your good byes in a less hectic atmosphere. For younger classes, make it a family event with spouses and children invited.
What kinds of activities should we provide at the reunion?
If you are planning a more formal evening event, certainly the night will contain a sit down dinner and likely music entertainment. You can add some formality to the evening with an official opening welcome and a few brief speeches and awards before dinner. Perhaps a tribute to classmates who have passed away. One thing you need to remember is that people are coming to the reunion to catch up with old friends. You need to allocate the majority of the evening to free socializing. You might also want to consider setting up a continuously running slide show of old class photos in one corner of the room….this is always a great attraction. Consider setting up a nostalgia table for classmates to view memorabilia and artifacts from your class past….this is a great way to jog faded memories and spark discussions amongst classmates. Ask each of your classmates to bring one piece of personal memorabilia for the nostalgia display. If you want to encourage dancing make sure your music provider plays music form your era.
Staffing the event
Unfortunately the reunion committee’s job isn’t over after all the plans and arrangements are complete. On the day of the reunion there is still the work of registering guests as they enter. You’ve worked hard and you too deserve to enjoy the reunion. Some facilities may provide this service for you or you might want to consider asking friends or family members to handle this for you. You might even be able to make arrangements with volunteers from the class year ahead of you or behind you to provide this service in turn for providing this service at their reunion. Given the likelihood that they may know people in your graduating class it could be an attractive opportunity for them as well to help out.
Hints and Tips for South High School Classes Planning Reunions
Second Article on Planning a Reunion
Lead time: How much lead time do we need to plan our reunion?
- It is good to start your plans the Fall of the year prior to your reunion, but start by the first of the year (January).
- The primary reason to start at least 8 or 9 months before your event is because finding your classmates is the most difficult part of the process and takes time and work.
- Some venues you might want to use often get “booked” six or eight months in advance, e.g., the Boat House at Washington Park is often reserved a year in advance.
- Sending out monthly reminders about the reunion to your classmates typically increases attendance. Classmates who have to fly into Denver need several months’ notice if they want to get discount airline tickets.
Committee: How many people should we have on our reunion committee?
- 4-6 at a minimum. 12 – 15 maximum.
- It’s good to have a variety of opinions, suggestions, and perspectives.
- Typically, some committee members drop out.
- It is important to have committee members proof-read all documents, invitations, and announcements before you send those documents to your classmates. Proof-reading saves “oops” messages you must send.
Committee: How often does our committee need to meet?
- Some committees meet about once a month, others meet every 6-8 weeks.
- If all you are planning is a picnic at Washington Park or at South, then there aren’t many details to decide so you may only need to meet a couple times.
- If you are planning to have multiple events, then a monthly meeting might be necessary.
- Your meetings can be held in the Alumni offices at South. Some committees have monthly pot-luck dinners hosted by committee members in their homes.
Communication among committee members: What is the most effective way for committee members to share electronic documents such as fliers, invitations, meeting notes?
- The easiest way to avoid problems with different versions of software is to use GoogleDocs or some other cloud-based product, e.g., DropBox.
- Another solution is to work with PDFs but the ability to edit and comment on a PDF is an add-on from Adobe and it is not free.
- If you decide to use MSOffice products (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Excel), compare the different versions your committee members are using. Older versions often cannot open files created in newer versions. However, newer versions can usually open files created with older versions.
- Share the following software information with everyone on the committee.
- MSOffice version, i.e., 7, 10, 13 or 365
- Windows or MAC operating system and version numbers
- Version numbers of other software your committee wants to use
- It may be helpful to put a header or footer on all your reunion documents that contain software version numbers, the date, and the initials of the author, e.g., MSO 10_Windows 7_170323_JS (170323 means 2017, March 23. JS is the initials for Jane Smith).
Finding classmates: How do we find our classmates?
- Social media, e.g. Facebook
- Previous reunion spreadsheets or other documents
- Accurint system from SHAFI. Accurint uses public records, e.g. telephone records, etc.
- Voting records
- Peoplelooker.com (3 months for about $20)
- We recommend using ClassReports.com to announce plans and have your classmates enter and maintain their contact information
- Some classes have found calling people is the most effective way to get current email and/or postal addresses and to get them interested in attending. Typically, this takes a lot of time but it is also fun to reconnect.
Reunion website: Do we need to create a website for our reunion?
- SHAFI recommends you use ClassReports.com. Many reunions use this and it is free. Most people find it easy to use.
- Classmates can enter and edit their own demographic information, including a biography, their personal and/or professional website, Facebook profile, and links to a photo site.
- Someone from your class will need to be designated as the “Administrator.” This person can add current photos of classmates and run many different types of reports, e.g., all email addresses or all those classmates for whom there is no contact information. The Administrator can also print mailing labels.
- Class Reports is basically a template based system so the Administrator does not need to have programming skills.
- SHAFI has an extensive database of all South high graduates. Updates to SHAFI’s system occur from the newsletter subscriptions and from information reunion committees share with us.
- You can set up your own website if you have someone who has the expertise and time to develop it and maintain it.
SHAFI help: How can the South alumni association (South High Alumni and Friends, Inc.) help us?
- Accurint system for locating alumni. Two or three of your committee members can be set up to use Accurint. There is a small charge for each transaction, but that can be offset by asking your classmates to join SHAFI ($15.00 per year).
- Tours of the clock tower and alumni museum during reunion events at South.
- Information about the required insurance and permits needed from DPS to use South.
- A database of all South HS alumni since 1926; includes lost and deceased.
- Outdoor canopies (4) for reunion events.
- South alumni banners and signs.
- Assistance with mailing letters or postcards.
- Connections with the school’s PTSA organization, who staffs the South High store. The store sells merchandise with the South logo.
- Information regarding the use of projectors/screens/audio-visual materials at South. There are student AV assistants you can “hire” for your reunion.
- Complete sets of all South HS yearbooks since 1923 for viewing.
- Help contacting teachers you may want to invite.
Reunion times and dates: When should we hold our reunion?
- If you want a tour of the South tower and the alumni museum, as well as any other parts of the building, you have to pay for janitorial services. If the school is open, those services cost less than if the school is not in session.
- The school calendar, on the South High website, indicates when the school is closed for the summer, when the teachers return to prepare for the fall semester, and when students start classes in the fall.
- Most classes hold their reunions in August.
- Check the calendar for holidays you may want to avoid or schedule around, e.g., you may want to schedule your reunion the weekend of Labor Day.
Reunion events: What kinds of events have other classes found to be successful?
- What is your definition of a “successful” reunion? It’s worth a thoughtful discussion.
- An important issue is what do the members of your class want to pay to get together and renew friendships?
- Inexpensive events include picnics at Washington Park or breakfast or afternoon munchies at South.
- The cost for a catered breakfast at South is typically about $12- $18 per person.
- A cocktail ‘mixer’ at a hotel will probably run $30-45 per person, depending on the selection of munchies/hors oeuvres.
- A sit-down dinner at a hotel or club, will usually cost at least $75 per person.
- Some of your classmates may only be able to afford a $12 breakfast.
- The age of your classmates is another important consideration.
- If many of your classmates have children, they may like a picnic so they can bring their kids.
- If most of your classmates are retired, many of them may only attend daytime events because they don’t want to drive at night.
- Many classes have two events: One priced about $10 or $20 per person and another priced between $35 and $75 per person. Having two (or three) events also helps those who have scheduling conflicts, e.g. someone can only attend the Saturday event because she is working during the Friday event.
- Provide ample time for people to talk to as many classmates as possible. If you think 3 hours is enough, plan for 4.
- Be sure to provide handicap access at all your events. South provides handicapped parking in the North parking lot where a ramp is available to enter the building. SHAFI has a ramp to get from old ‘senior hall’ to the courtyard.
Hotels and other venues: What are some basic guidelines for working with hotels and other venues such as clubs?
- Hotels and clubs require “guaranteed numbers” in advance. They will typically prepare enough food for about 3% to 5% more than your guaranteed number.
- There often is a room charge plus a per person food charge.
- Have a cash bar. Not an Open Bar.
- Most have a cancellation fee, which increases the closer you get to the event.
- Consider dietary needs of your classmates, e.g., some may be vegetarians or vegans, some may be on a reduced salt diet.
- You may reserve a block of rooms at a hotel for your out-of-town attendees and if you hold one of your reunion events at the hotel it might reduce or offset a room charge for your event.
Fees for events: What are the typical expenses for a reunion?
- Most hotels and clubs require an up-front deposit, which can run $500-$1000.
- Hotels and clubs typically require “guaranteed numbers” in advance. They want an initial range when you pay your deposit, with a final guaranteed number about two weeks prior to your event.
- Some venues, including South, require insurance.
- A photographer/videographer
- Paper mailing and invitations. To cover these costs, most reunion committees charge a $5 or $10 administrative fee. Typically, adding the administrative fee to the event fee is usually the most effective strategy. If you list the administrative fee separately, some may not pay it.
- If your committee does not have any money to start with, one solution is to ask committee members to advance a sum up-front to get the ball rolling and get reimbursed later. Another solution is to ask classmates for a small loan or donation. Occasionally, SHAFI can assist with a loan to be paid back after your reunion.
Staffing reunion events: How many people do we need to staff an event?
- Any or all of the following event “staff” might be spouses or friends of your committee members or they might be South classmates from a different class. Of course, they can also be committee members.
- At least two people at the registration desk.
- One or two people to register those who have RSVP’d. Consider asking friends from a younger South class (1-3 years after your graduating class) to staff your registration table. Typically, committee members want to talk to their classmates and that slows down the process at the registration table. You can reciprocate and staff the registration table at your friend’s reunion.
- One or two people to register those who did not RSVP, i.e., expect to have last-minute, walk-up, on-site registrations.
- Will you require on-site registrations to pay in cash or will you accept checks or credit cards?
- Have An On-Site Registration sign at the table, with the prices listed for each event
- The On-Site Registration table or area needs to have
- Registration forms, which typically will ask for contact information.
- Name tags
- Flat tip markers for creating the name tags
- Some type of duplicate receipt you can give to the classmate and retain information for your records about the amount of money you receive and from whom you receive it.
- Create a short “job aid” or “tips guide” for those who staff your registration table, i.e., Where do they store the money they receive from the walk-ups? Where do people go after they register?
- A photographer. One of your classmates may volunteer but then he or she or they don’t have as much time to talk with their classmates. Find a photograph from another class or hire one.
- A roving “greeter.” This person’s responsibility is to wander through the reunion events looking for people sitting alone and engage them in conversation. Perhaps they are a spouse of a classmate or perhaps they are looking for a classmate they have yet to locate. The greeter should make these people feel welcome and glad they attended the event.
Music or other entertainment: Should we provide music at any of our events?
- The primary reason classmates come to a reunion is to re-connect with long-time friends, i.e., they want to talk to old friends!
- A live band or disc jockey might be entertaining, but it is difficult to talk while music is playing. If your venue is large enough (and has separate rooms/areas for different events), then a band in one area will not disturb folks wanting to talk in another area. South is a good example of a spread-out location.
- Bulk mail costs about $.07/invitation. Current first class stamp is $.55
- There is a 300 unit minimum.
- SHAFI has a bulk mail permit and the USPS trays you have to use to order the invitations numerically by zip code.
- SHAFI will take the trays to the USPS and then invoice the reunion committee.
- The company who prints the SHAFI newsletter can print the bulk postage stamp on the envelopes and print anyone’s postal address for the return address.
SHAFI uses Daly Printing for its Alumni Newsletter. They can set up your bulk mailing process. The contact isGary Peterson. The phone number is 303-778-6933. E-mail print@TheDalyPress.com
- SHAFI has the Accurint license. The invoice for the use of Accurint is sent to SHAFI and they in turn send it to someone on your reunion committee.
- The cost to use Accurint is $.25 for an initial look up. For a secondary look up (on the same person), the cost is another $.30
- Other reunions report the average cost/person in Accurint is about $.35. So, for example, if your committee conducts 200 searches (at $.35 each) that would cost $70.
- To offset that cost, SHAFI has a deal. For every classmate who joins SHAFI for the first time, the class receives a $12 credit. SHAFI membership is $12 and for that members get 3 newsletters/year, which are really interesting. SHAFI also uses their budget to help South teachers and students. So to offset the $70 invoice from Accurint, you need six classmates to join SHAFI as new members (6 x $12 = $72).
- Some reunion committees include the SHAFI membership as an option on their reunion registration form. Others, display some of the SHAFI newsletters at their events along with membership forms and return envelopes.
- We suggest that each reunion committee have a treasurer who can monitor expenses and revenue.
- Typical expenses include:
- Room or park rental fees
- Labor, e.g., bar tender
- Postage and printing fees for paper invitations
- Paper items such as napkins, plates
- Registration software such as RegOnline
- Typical revenue sources are:
- Including some profit in the fees you charge for each event
SHAFI also has sheet music for Concert Choir members from reunion classes to use and perform during their reunions?