The following discussion is taken from (the late) Reunions magazine forum. Now the same discussion can be added to our facebook page where others who are facing the same reunion-planning dilemmas and discussing the same challenges. The following is an example of a fascinating exchange about money: who spends how much on what.
Who hasn’t asked Camie’s question (taken from the Forum): “Okay where does the cash come from to start out? Like for printing forms and letters, stamps, ordering shirts, memory books, food, etc. Example: 50 families coming x $20 per family = $1,000. Okay, with that grand, there are t-shirts for EACH person (about $10-20 each), memory book printing (current address of each family and bio), cost of food (besides the potluck on the last day), miscellaneous costs. Lodging, they can pick up on their own. Did I forget anything? I’m SURE I did! But that’s the idea. Basically, that $20 doesn’t go far! HELP!”
Then Amber joins and says “Gosh! What I could do with $1,000! We don’t get that much. I’ve spent a lot of my own money this year making the reunion extra special.
It sounds like you guys are planning on going out of town for several days for a reunion? Have you already heard from the 50 families that they will pay $20 up front? If you have, can you clue me in on how you got them to willingly hand over the money?”
PrinzII in Chicago writes that the total cost of his 2005 family reunion was $15,000.
“We did a bit of fund-raising for the reunion. We had bowling events that raised $500-$600. The members paid monthly dues ($20/month), which actually helped defray the cost of fees. Also, we had one fundraiser that netted us well over $4,000.”
Then, Amber says, “Gosh, I feel small! What are you guys doing at your family reunions to spend so much money?”
PrinzII generously responds with fascinating details.
Spirit of Chicago - $4,000 + taxes and gratuities
Bus to shuttle people to Navy Pier - $600
Wyndham Chicago - $10,000+ (Food, Banquet Hall Rental, and taxes [Chicago had raised their sales tax to 9.75% on 7/1, plus we had a lot of gratuities to pay]
Office Max - $600 (souvenir book printing; I did the layout in Quark Xpress)
T-Shirts - $1200
Logo Design for shirts - $50
Tote bags - $500
Umbrellas - $500
Total attendance roughly 300
Amber answers, “That sounds AWESOME! I wanna go to a family reunion like that!!”
PrinzII continues: “In addition, we put things that reminded you of Chicago in bags. The main thing we put in there was different packages of gum from Wrigley, since they are based here. We added coloring books for the kids and maps of the city for visitors to go sightseeing.
“One thing you really need to budget for,” he continued, “is taxes. For example, when we got our total bill from the Wyndham, a staggering 40% of the bill came from taxes and gratuities.”
Linda L, in Fox Lake, Illinois, joins the conversation. “I am struggling with this now. I’ve mailed/emailed everyone a deposit form asking for $20 per person up front. I’ve received one response (I’m not including the 3 committee members who put up $100 each to open the checking account and pay the deposit for the hall and caterer). A first reunion is tough. It may end up being a reunion on a small scale, then you can build it up in future years. Fundraising is the key. I put together a ‘Fundraising 101’ idea sheet (see below).
“I saw a church in my neighborhood having a car wash and thought that would be a great way to get reunion funds going. If a family member is a business owner or your church or school won’t mind you using their parking lot, just get a bunch of family members together to sponsor a car wash. Note: how to organize a car wash can be found at www.reunionsmag.com, click on paying for the reunion.
“Do anything to get the per-person cost down. This is a concern for the older folks on a fixed income. I’ve had one member volunteer to ‘sponsor’ another’s expenses.”
PrinzII: “I forgot to mention that those members who were over 80 didn’t have to pay for the reunion.”
Then Linda makes a suggestion to Amber. “You also have to think about your membership. Are they the kind who would prefer just to get together for a Sunday picnic or are there some as adventurous as you? You have to go with the majority; there is no way you can ‘force’ people to pay for something they can’t afford.”
Jo from Missouri joins the discussion. “We were going to charge a set fee per person at our first reunion but people objected so we just took up a collection. A couple of us added to it to have enough for expenses. We have had auctions of donated items (mostly family-related or made by family members) the last couple of years, which worked well and were fun. We raised more than our expenses so have money to start out with now. We are going to try a silent auction at the next reunion. Our reunion is low cost for 3 days, with food assignments for meals. The auction is for a meeting room, mailings, paper goods, etc.”
Then, ibcnet in Maryland joins in to discuss fundraising ideas. “I can understand your frustrations. From the foregoing you’ll notice that many chose a fun and exciting way to get family to reach into the pockets. Silent auctions work well. However, it would be good to put something together that most family members will value highly. Here are some other ideas from simple to extravagant.
“Have a great family rummage sale. Family members and neighbors have things that other family members want. Look over the items donated and put aside items that would do well in an auction. Sell the rest. Location is important. Hold your sale at a heavy traffic spot in the neighborhood.
“A donation of an important family heirloom accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and a booklet recounting how the heirloom was acquired, its meaning and value, and who in each generation had the privilege of owning it, etc. Acquire two or three items for your silent auction.
“Create a family reunion book that includes family history timeline, family crest, family legends, along with hand-drawn or painted portraits, a photo of a quilt or other family-made craft, interview with the eldest member, photo of earliest ancestor’s memorial, photo of oldest heirloom with background story regarding its history and authenticity, photos of past memorabilia. Have an artist paint a portrait of a notable ancestor. Sell the item at a silent auction.
“Design a family reunion website with photos of all family members. Send out snail mail and email inviting the family members to view their photos and add comments about the family and reunion events. On the front page provide a link that will allow them to make a dues payment online.”
PrinzII adds another fundraising idea. “If you do a souvenir book, charge businesses for ads.”
If you want to learn more go to http://forums.reunionsmag.com and share your ideas, ask questions and collect suggestions for your reunion. To join this discussion, click on “general discussion and tips,” then on “money.”