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Reunion Tips

General Tips:

•  Don't count on large attendance. Signing a contract with a hotel or venue assuming you'll get a hundred classmates to attend can lead to financial disaster. It's better to count on 50 or 60 and be pleasantly surprised. The group of organizers is enthusiastic and obviously wants to attend but you can't be sure about others.

•  Keep the cost low. Many folks will have to travel and pay for lodging and airfare. When added to the cost of new clothes, travel and accommodations, it can add up. There is a balance here. If the amount is too low, they might not think it's a "real event" that's worth their time. A good way to do this is to avoid the sit-down dinner. Buffets are cheaper in general if you think you have to serve a meal. Nice snacks and drinks are often just as good. Several Wakefield classes have had a night at a bar.

•  A group of dedicated classmates can accomplish the same thing as a reunion company. Direct contact from a classmate is more inviting than from a company. Sometimes a committee of classmates doing all the work is not possible. If you do go with a reunion company, be sure you know what service the reunion company will provide (how many mailings, what efforts to find lost classmates, making arrangements for the event, etc.)

•  Establish one or two points of contact. Too many people getting calls can lead to confusion.

•  A successful reunion takes a lot of personal outreach. Folks need to hear from you many times before you get their attention. Count on mailings, phone calls and emails - several of each. One of these alone won't work. The combination is needed. There is a marketing saying that it takes people seven times before they hear your message. Dividing up the class list and calling each person if you can, is a good idea. Many won't be interested but it can "push" others into being interested.

•  Music is hard to figure. No matter what you do, some people will say the music is too loud, they just want to visit. Others want to dance the night away to loud music. You can hardly win here. If possible provide a quiet area for those who want to visit.

•  If you try to plan a visit to the school on a weekend for a tour, you might have to pay a custodian to be on site. If the school is open there are fire regulations about doors being open etc. and a custodian has to do that. If the school is already open for activities, you might not have to pay.

•  Start early. It will take a long time to find folks and get them enthusiastic about the reunion.

•  Spread the word on the many web-based reunion sites. There are many more than classmates.com.

•  Arrival gifts are great (T-shirts, wine glasses, goodie bags) but it's also hard to know how many of these to order. Put it off as long as you can until you have an idea of attendance.

•  Generally speaking, it seems that folks don't buy a lot once they get to the event so don't count on the sale of T-shirts to balance your budget.

•  As classes get further from their graduation dates and classmates are spread around the world, many are going for joint-year reunions. You can share the work of planning the event and split some expenses. You'll still need a dedicated committee to focus on finding lost classmates from each class and encouraging folks to attend.

•  Stay away from venues like boats on the Potomac. People want to be able to arrive and leave at will. The thought of being "trapped on a boat" can turn some people off.

•  After the events of September 11, new banking rules make it almost impossible to open a bank account for a reunion. You'll probably need to use on-line registration and payment sites. Often, reunion committee members will all pitch in some "get started" money and then subtract that from their own registration. This "get started" money can be used for your first mailing and will tide you over until folks start registering.

•  The hotel industry is interesting to work with. There are some that just charge a room rental ($500) for a suitable space and others that set a minimum for revenue ($10,000). Obviously, the smaller commitment is best. Shop around.

•  Keep it simple.

•  Focus on the people and connecting to them.

•  Spend more time on the class directory and add lots of interesting history to it. That's the best take away because it is great fun to read after the event.

Reunion Checklist:

A. Get organized.

  1. Form a committee, select a chair and treasurer.
  2. Solicit volunteers. Be sure that the committee has local residents.
  3. Establish regular reunion committee meetings.
  4. Determine mailing address, contact phone(s) and email(s) for the reunion.
  5. Contact "information@wakefieldalumni.org" and get the data for your class from the Foundation. And, as you find classmates, send your updates to the Foundation. We’ll make updates as we do our annual mailing so you’re list will stay somewhat fresh between reunions. Also contact previous reunion organizers to get records.
  6. Create a webpage or have a page created at wakefieldalumni.org.

B. Decide on the details.

  1. Decide on the format of event(s).
  2. Select a date.
  3. Select event location(s).
  4. Arrange for lodgings for attendees.
  5. Select menu and caterer if needed.
  6. Select photographer, entertainment and other services as needed.

C. Determine cost.

  1. Create a budget.
  2. Decide if you want a band or DJ.
  3. Do you want to pay a photographer?
  4. What kind of "give-aways" do you want?
  5. How many mailings will you do?
  6. Will you do a printed directory?
  7. Determine the cost per person.

D. Work the database provided by the Foundation

  1. Work the database to determine who's lost and what data is missing.
  2. Start with e-mails to confirm information
  3. Do a "hold the date mailing" to see what addresses are bad.
  4. Check for classmates registered on public alumni sites (such as Classmates.com).
  5. Organize a phone-a-thon.
  6. Check online national phone books such as www.switchboard.com, www.anywho.com and www.whitepages.com.
  7. Try entering names of individuals in search engines such as www.google.com and www.yahoo.com.
  8. Also use such sites as http://www.ussearch.com/consumer/index.jsp and http://www.people-finders.ws/.
  9. Check Social Security Death Index for deceased classmates at Ancestry.com Social Security page.

E. Publicize your event

  1. Send a notice to local newspapers and radio stations
  2. Send notices via email and US mail - several different times
  3. Update your web space often.
  4. Call classmates.
  5. Consider forming a Facebook group

F. Think of ways to make the event fun

  1. A slide show of old photos.
  2. Name tags with old photos on them.
  3. Contests with prizes - i.e., most grandchildren.

If you're planning a reunion or have questions about a reunion, be sure to contact us. We can provide your class list, let you know what other classes are doing and even make arrangements for you to borrow the totem pole and student newspapers from your year.
Contact us at information@wakefieldalumni.org.

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