The college reunions I’ve help plan and now attend since graduating usually turn out to be either a fantastic success or a fantastic failure. It’s hard enough to get alumni to plan around their busy schedules, but without adequate planning and budgeting, you can end up overspending for an event that might not benefit your chapter much at all. Here are some tips for putting together a successful alumni reunion for your fraternity.
1.) Set a Date, Communicate Early: While reunions can have any number of agendas or themes, one common goal you should always strive for is having as many alumni in attendance as possible. The best thing you can do for your chapter is get a date set in stone early and communicate this date out to your alumni. We’re talking at least 3-4 months out, preferably longer if you plan to hold it in a busy travel season. Your alumni will need time to plan around work, make travel plans, and coordinate with friends and family. The days of only having 3 days of class and being available to party every night of the week are likely long gone for a large portion of your alumni. Setting a date early also gives your chapter time to plan instead of throwing something together last-minute.
2.) Manage Your Costs: While many of the details for your reunion will be dictated by chapter-specific traditions and makeup, you should always try to keep a lean budget so you can make attendance as cheap as possible for your alumni base. In my experience, we’ve cut costs by holding the reunion at our house rather than renting an offsite venue, having someone come onsite to cook rather than hiring a catering company, and having our pledges wait and bartend rather than hiring a crew. By keeping your costs down, more alumni will consider coming back since they don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to do so. Even further, they’re more likely to make an out-of-pocket donation (tip: use WePay to raise money at your college reunion!) directly to the chapter on top of the ticket price since they have more money in their pockets to begin with. These reunions should be about reconnecting with old friends and the current chapter, not serving as an expensive vacation filled with glitz and glam.
3.) Be Dynamic with Communication: It’s all too easy to blast out initial invitations and wait on your heels for alumni to RSVP. You’ll likely get a small group of ‘die-hards’ to commit this way, but you’ll also probably miss out on all those alumni who are on the fence about it. I recommend sending out monthly updates, whether it be via email, phone, or snail mail, where you update everyone on who is attending from each pledge class and what’s currently going on in the chapter. This way your alumni can actually see which old friends are considering attending and have a better idea of what exactly the reunion will encompass. Another successful tactic we used was having all our current officers reach out personally to former officers. We had our president call presidents, VPs call previous VPs, treasurer call treasurers, etc. Aside from being a great ‘personal touch’ that our alumni appreciated, from a pragmatic point of view, these previous officers were likely more connected and engaged with the chapter during their collegiate careers, meaning they might be more inclined to come back and reinvest in the chapter they once poured so much into. Reach out to alumni often and strategically.
Ultimately, the success of your reunion will be dictated by what you put into it. If you throw something together last minute with a half-hearted attempt to invite alumni only out of formality, you’ll probably end up with lackluster attendance and a red mark on your budget. Make your reunion something special for both your alumni and current members with strategic planning alongside repeated, personal invitations.