One of the fastest-growing types of Yale College class activities for Classes of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are mini reunions. These classmate-organized events average two to four days and are held in a variety of locations around the country and around the world. Mini reunions offer a wonderful opportunity to broaden classmate involvement, strengthen ties, and frequently draw a different segment of the class than 5-year reunions or other class events such as dinners in New York City.
In the words of veteran organizer David Acton, former Secretary of the Class of 1955, “since the beginning, mini reunions have generated a feeling of cohesiveness and increased camaraderie among classmates. Attendance grows with each successive mini reunion. We have experienced increases from 25 to 30 percent from one event to the next. I once suggested that perhaps we should only hold one, not two mini reunions, between our five year reunions in New Haven. The suggestion was met with great protest.” Attendance at these Class of 1955 events has grown to the point where David no longer calls them “mini.” Their “reunion” in London attracted over 140 classmates and guests.
After polling some of our most experienced volunteers, the AYA has assembled the following list of “best practices.” These are considered by volunteers to be the key ingredients for a successful mini reunion.
First step – contact the AYA – we are here to help! In many cases we can:
The AYA can also provide the following administrative services:
For mini reunions held in New Haven, AYA staff can also assist with room and facility reservations, A/V rentals and faculty speaking requests, as well as coordinating any on-campus catering needs.
Choosing a location
When choosing a location, keep in mind the following:
Responsibilities of Local Organizer(s) and Class Officers
A strong local organizer can make the difference between a good event and a truly memorable one. Whether the Class chooses to form a committee, tap an individual, hire a local event planner, or do a combination of the above, the duties are the same:
In addition to guiding the decision making process of whether, where and when to hold a mini reunion and who is going to organize it, class officers have the oversight responsibility for the entire event. While this does not mean they need to be involved in detailed planning of the event, they do have overall responsibility for the following:
A class officer must fill out and sign the agreement form at the bottom of the guidelines
Hiring an Event Planner
Many classes choose to hire a local event planner to help with the logistical arrangements and execution of the event. This has proven to be a successful partnership in many cases. As you go through the selection process be sure you are clear on the total cost of services and what services are being provided and ask for references prior to entering into any agreements. All logistical aspects should be discussed and clarified including:
FINANCIAL POLICIES & PROCEDURES
Compliance with Federal and University guidelines for payments and reimbursements
Your Class has been granted tax exempt status by the Federal Government and complete record keeping is required by law. In addition, your class treasury is held here at the University and subject to University and AYA financial regulations. To comply with the requirements of both these entities the following documentation must be provide for all expenses including cash payments:
To pay a vendor directly (lead time two weeks from when AYA receives all information):
A written invoice or contractual agreement for actual charges must be provided and include the full company or individual’s name, address, telephone number and federal tax id number or, in the case of an individual, their social security number.
To reimburse a volunteer:
Receipts for all expenses need to be provided. This includes all payments regardless of method including cash. For cash gratuities exceeding $75, we have provided a gratuity payment form which must be completely filled out by the person receiving the gratuity. For payments made by personal check, you need to include a copy of the check with the receipt.
Acceptable forms of receipts include:
The following are not considered acceptable receipts:
If you have any questions as to whether or not a form of documentation is acceptable, please contact the AYA to discuss.
Contracts and agreements
All contracts should be obtained in writing and read carefully so that the class’ financial obligations and liabilities are fully understood. In addition, all contracts should be forwarded to the AYA prior to being finalized for review and to be included as part of the class’ financial records.
There are certain things that you should look for when negotiating contracts with vendors. These include, but are not limited to:
When negotiating for a block of hotel rooms, the ideal arrangement is what is referred to as a “wedding” or “conference” style booking. This means the hotel agrees to hold a specific number of rooms at an agreed upon rate until a specific date. Whatever rooms have not been booked by that date should be automatically released.
THIS TYPE OF ARRANGEMENT SHOULD NOT INCLUDE ANY ATTRITION PENALTIES OR ROOM NIGHT GUARANTEES THAT THE CLASS IS LIABLE FOR NOR SHOULD IT BE TIED TO A SUBSTANTIAL FOOD AND BEVERAGE MINIMUM. IF THE HOTEL REFUSES THIS TYPE OF ARRANGEMENT, USE A DIFFERENT HOTEL. ATTRITION PENALTIES CAN ADD UP QUICKLY AND COST THE CLASS TREASURY A GREAT DEAL.
Insurance Coverage and Risk Management
Class officers and appointed volunteers have limited coverage under Yale’s insurance. In order to comply with the insurance carrier’s requirements, all parties providing services must submit proof of insurance to Yale University Department of Risk Management. Copies of insurance can be faxed to the attention of Marjorie Lemmon at 203-432-7520. Risk Management is happy to provide details of coverage upon request.
Budgeting and Fee structure
Before setting a cost for the mini reunion, a realistic budget needs to be developed based on estimated costs and attendance. Be sure to include ALL expenses: transportation, tips, taxes, rental fees, printing costs, signs, guides, tour operators etc. If the Class chooses to offer payment by credit card, please be aware that credit card companies charge a 3% fee which will be deducted by AYA from income received. These charges should be considered when budgeting for an event. We also suggest you include a contingency amount if approximately 10-15% for unanticipated expenses, such as having to change a venue at the last minute or add an additional tour guide or bus because of higher turnout. The AYA is happy to work with you on developing a budget.
Once a budget is set, you can determine the fee structure. When estimating attendance for the purpose of setting fees, use a lower estimate. For example, if the save the date responses indicate 90 people are interested, you are better off setting the price based on final attendance of 75 rather than 100. This will cover a shortfall if attendance is less than expected. If the Class officers have decided to underwrite the cost of the mini reunion on a per person basis, remember that the higher the attendance, the higher the contribution from the Class will be.
Keep in mind that if you are holding your mini reunion in an area where a significant number of classmates live locally, there are likely to be a number of requests for partial pricing. Many times local classmates are not interested in daytime tours, but do want to join in the evening social activities.
Promotion of your event should begin 9 months to a year in advance in order to maximize attendance. One of the most commons reasons for lower than expected attendance is late notice to classmates. Keep in mind that the most popular times of the year to hold mini reunions (March, April, May, September, October) are also the most popular times for personal travel and family activities such as weddings and graduations so you need to give your classmates plenty of advance notice. Also, many classes choose to include widows in the invitation. If your class chooses to do so be sure the salutation in the letter makes this clear. For example instead of using “Dear Classmate” you might want to use “Dear Classmates and Friends of XXXX”
Save the Date
Classes typically send an initial “save the date” mailing so people can mark their calendars. This mailing often includes a preliminary schedule or description of planned events and a response form where classmates can indicate the likelihood of their being able to attend. This is extremely useful in obtaining a ballpark estimate for planning purposes. Please note that final attendance can vary significantly from save the date responses.
The goal of the registration mailing is to provide as much specific information as possible to your classmates in a clear, concise manner. Sending a complete registration mailing will not only dramatically reduce the number of phone calls you receive and, in many cases, it will eliminate the need for follow up mailings.
Although the typical registration mailing goes out approximately four to six months in advance of the event, the timing is often driven by the room release date for the hotel block reserved. Past experience has shown that attendees prefer to know the actual cost of the event when reserving their hotel room; we strongly recommend that the complete registration mailing go out prior to the hotel release date. Also this will enable classmates to take advantage of early bookings for airline reservations, not to mention block the time out in their busy schedules! The AYA is happy to provide sample mailings for inspiration.
The registration mailing should include the following information:
Follow up mailings
Some classes like to send a follow up mailing to participants prior to their arrival to share an attendance list or let participants know of changes or additions to the schedule. The AYA is happy to facilitate the distribution of additional mailings, but 5-7 days advance notice is needed.
More and more classes are choosing to use email both to promote their event and to communicate with participants. If you plan to promote your event to your entire class via email, the current broadcast email schedule requires 7 days advance receipt of email message. There are a number of technical steps that need to be taken to prepare an email in addition to data being downloaded from the alumni database.
Follow up emails to participants are easier to facilitate and only need a couple of days advance receipt.
While spending time with each other is the main reason your classmates will sign up for a mini reunion, don’t underestimate the importance of a strong program. When scoring Yale Colleges Reunions via the AYA’s post reunion survey, alumni often rate the educational portion of the weekend higher than meals and social events! Also, perception of value is important. While many of your classmates can afford the cost of a mini reunion, anecdotal feedback has indicated that they do look at the program with regards to cost.
The goal should be to offer a program with a variety of educational, cultural and social events while building in some free time for participants.
The responses from the save-the-date mailing will help guide your venue choices and aid in developing your program. While a specific tour or meal venue may work well for a group of 50, it may be unrealistic or even impossible for a group of 100. Keep venue sizes in mind when choosing them. Experience has shown that if the event site is limited it is better to change it than to limit the group. There is nothing worse than having to oturn classmates away because of a limited venue size.
It is no secret that Yale alumni are among the most interesting, talented and well-connected people in the world. Take advantage of this! Work with your classmates (local and otherwise) to offer opportunities not available to the average traveler. This can be a key draw for your event and take it from being just a good experience to a truly memorable one. Classmate talent and connections have taken many shapes and a complete list is simply impossible to produce, but here are some examples:
> Expense Receipt - Mini Reunions (PDF)