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. Securing that cash is where class reunion fund-raisers come in.
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 all the class reunion 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 an Oprah Winfrey, 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 the class 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 during the class reunion 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 for the class reunion committee.
Tips on Ticketing
You’ll need as much of the ticket proceeds in your hands as possible prior to the date of the class reunion, 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 before the class reunion 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 Google “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 after the class reunion, 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 during the class reunion. 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. Click here for tips on opening a class reunion bank account, keeping good financial records and more. See also:
Class Reunion Planning: Reunion Committee
Class Reunion Planning: Locating Classmates
Class Reunion Planning: Estimating Expenses