Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your First Class Reunion

Hopefully, it's been only eight or nine years since you suited up to receive a blank High School diploma to be mailed later -- if you behaved yourself in late May and June.

If you're already a few months away from ten years, the following still applies, but often in an abbreviated, rarely unhurried fashion.

The Reunion Planning Committee: The group of classmates entrusted to periodically meet and make general plans and decisions on behalf of the class, not to include a large subset of the class, as progress attained is inversely proportional to the size of the group. An odd number of committee members is most conducive to resolving debates.

At least one, and as many as possible of the committee members should be local and available to meet on a regular basis, and provide progress updates to the class.

These minimum, not necessarily mutually exclusive roles should be established at the first committee meeting: Chair, Treasurer, and Public Relations.

The Chair is more than a figurehead, as most public announcements require that a contact person be specified, and venue contracts necessitate a responsible signature.

A Treasurer when activated, is responsible for receiving attendees' fees and making payments to service providers, as well as providing complete periodic financial reports. The Treasurer is expected to know Treasury Balance and Guest Count at all times. Assets = Liabilities + Capital is a most useful equation.

A class that schedules only pay-as-you-go events will likely not need a formal Treasurer. This more often occurs when an expected guest count cannot be easily determined, or when there remains too little time to collect fees and/or make deposits to secure venues.

If setting up a class bank account for the reunion, consider that there may be associated account maintenance fees and restrictions, and you will likely need to acquire and provide a federal Electronic Identification (EID) Number.

Many class Treasurers use their personal bank accounts for financial transactions for the reunion.

Decide if you will accept electronic payment of fees, and if so, set up a secure website to facilitate payments. If accepting checks by mail, determine the payee's name and address.

If collecting fees for the event, consider that planning committee members should be among the first to pay, to not only promote confidence in the venture, but also accumulate capital for deposits to secure venue and entertainment.

Will you allow family members, friends and acquaintances? If collecting money, the more the merrier, and more likely you are to surpass any minimum attendance requirements.

When all this information is known, prepare a reunion announcement flyer in PDF format to be published to the class community.

The person with the Public Relations role is responsible for providing announcement content to classmates, community events calendars, school and alumni websites, and social media.

Sub-committees may eventually be formed to recommend potential reunion dates, venues, entertainment, menu selection, and for event planning and decorations.

Meet as soon as possible for the first time with an agenda to establish roles, prospective dates and venues, assign tasks, and agree to the next meeting date before adjourning. Exchange contact information.

Popular reunion event ideas include a casual Meet and Greet event on either the Thursday or Friday before a weekend reunion, and a tour of Godby's campus accompanied by a luncheon family event. Godby's cafeteria is available at no charge for alumni events, and absolutely no alcohol is allowed on campus at any time. Alumni are responsible for all cleanup. I bring some large heavy-duty trash bags and a few rolls of paper towels. Food trucks have been secured for these events, but be aware that they often require a minimum purchase amount, and inclement weather can lessen attendance at daytime outdoor events.

Consider alternative dietary requirements of the guests. Vegetarian and gluten-free menu options are frequently requested.

First class reunions are most often held in the summer months, to accommodate public school schedules of families with small children.

A Few General Ideas

Actively look for "missing" classmates. Scan in the Senior photo pages from the Yearbook and the Commencement list as included in the program at Graduation, and use them to locate classmates.

Recognize and honor the deceased. At my class reunions, a representative recites the names of the departed and lights a memorial candle in their honor.

Wild, public, open-ended questions regarding reunion preferences will encourage discussion to meander and continue far past any time by which you intended to make a decision. People will respond to that thread long afterwards, having just read the question for the first time.

Consider having donated door prizes that will travel well awarded in hourly drawings to keep classmates in attendance throughout the evening. I personally keep a roll of double-raffle tickets for these occasions.

Name tags can be as simple as purchasing "Hello My Name is...." tags and providing self-serve markers, or the technically inclined have printed yearbook photos with names on pinnable name tags.

Promote early payment of fees by having the fees increase over time. Advertise an early-bird discount, or a small discount for couples or families, and be prepared to add a premium cost for those who decide to attend at the last minute. Some come to a public Meet and Greet event and decide that they'd like to attend the main event after all. You've likely had to have already supplied an accurate guest count to the caterers by that time, so in general, you want to discourage too many late payments. Fortunately, most professional caterers will also build a cushion into their provisioning planning.

Some early respondents suggest a Reunion Cruise. Great idea, let a travel agent handle all the planning and collection of money, and everyone sails away together! Lots leap at the prospect until they discover they have to fork over a $50 deposit several months in advance, and then will have to come up with more than $500 per person to attend.

There have been five highly successful Godby alumni reunion cruises, but they have always been open to all class years, and I have sailed on four of them. The Class of 1974 has invited all Godby graduates, family and friends to join them on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas in April 2019.

Enlist volunteers to serve as Designated Drivers. I attended a class reunion Meet and Greet event in 2012, and one of the graduates didn't make it home alive. The next evening's main event began very somberly.

Some area hotels will provide a reunion discount, but be wary of establishments that require a deposit or a hold on someone's credit card to do so en masse.

Proper planning will prevent budget deficits, but there may be a surplus beyond what is relegated to event costs. Some classes will provide each attendee with a complimentary drink ticket to reduce the surplus, while surpluses may not be known until some guests remit cash fees the evening of the main event. Some choose a responsible person to hold onto the money for another five to ten years. Others have donated surfeit funds to the Association of Godby Graduates Legacy Scholarship Fund towards future education of Godby graduates.

What the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) can Do for You

The Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) is an academic booster club founded by Godby graduates in 2003 to foster, recognize and reward academic excellence and lifetime achievement. Each year, we host an annual alumni Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Godby Media Center, Friday evening before the annual Springtime Tallahassee Parade, and all proceeds benefit the AGG Legacy Scholarship Fund. We have given away more than $80,000 so that Godby alumni can further their educations. We facilitate class reunions.

The AGG has a database of contact email addresses for each class as provided to us by alumni at one time or another, and can give them to reunion planners. As graduates who supplied those email addresses would have had to update us whenever their contact info changes, you can expect to experience some undeliverable emails.

We will publish your reunion event at our alumni website and Facebook group which has more than 2,000 members.

I am the contact for scheduling reunion tours of Godby campus, and special evening events at Hotel Duval Level 8 Lounge downtown, where we receive extended Happy Hour drink prices with no cover charge.

I am happy to attend reunion planning meetings as possible, serve as volunteer photographer for the reunion events, make digital photos publicly available for free, and to pay the same fees as the other attendees. All I ask is for a few minutes at the main reunion event to talk about our alumni organization.

Please refer any other related questions you may have to me.


Mitch Gans graduated from Godby High School, is one of the founding members of the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG), and has served to plan and attend thirty Godby High School class reunions.