Reunion Research and Statistics

Dr. Joel Goldblatt, CSEP at Temple University has studied the impact of reunions on the places where they meet. This is important data that can help reunion organizers make their point when they negotiate hotel prices and other considerations and for others to realize that reunions are a significant player in the hospitality industry.

His research was presented at the 16th Annual National Family Reunion Conference (March 2007): Measuring ROE: The Value of your Family Reunion Event

2004/2005 Reunion expenditure survey

The list of reunion planners are Reunions magazine readers all of whom were selected at random.

Ten percent of survey respondents (+ or – 3.7%) have had family reunions for 50 years or more: When evaluating percentile ranks, those in the ninety first percentile have held 50 reunions. That means that, in terms of number of reunions held by the family, the top ten percent of respondents have had 50 reunions or more. In fact, seven and one half percent of respondents have held family reunions for 75 years or more. And one percent of respondents have held family reunions for over one hundred years.

Thirteen percent of all reunion respondents hold large reunions (i.e. over 150 people). Large reunions spend big, too. As expected, size of reunion and average expenditures are related. And, in fact, many large reunions get by with less: spending less than fifty dollars per person. However, large reunions also appear just as likely to have high expenditures (i.e. over $400 per person) as small reunions. So, a large reunion is just as likely to have high expenditures as a small reunion. The level of significance is .04.

Thirty eight percent of respondents hold family reunions every year. Interestingly, these reunion planners appear to be wiser, as well. Because they also spend less: Sixty one percent of those holding family reunions every year spend less than one hundred dollars per person. For everything!

An additional 31% of respondents hold reunions every other year. As a result, nearly 70% of respondents hold a family reunion at least every 24 months.

Minority respondents spend more on their reunions than white respondents. Black, Hispanic and Asian family reunions have higher expenses per person than white family reunions. This result is statistically significant at the .01 level.

As reunion planners get older, they spend less on reunions: Utilizing a variety of tests, average expenditures are significantly lower among older respondents. (Or if you want to spin it the other way, expenditures are significantly higher among younger respondents.)

Based on survey respondents, a “typical small reunion” costs $100/person. It is held every 1.5 years. And about 50 people attend. That means that the “typical small reunion” is worth $50,000 in consumer expenditures over a fifteen year period.

In addition, 50% of those who hold a reunion every year also have over 150 attendees. Every year. That means a “typical large reunion” is worth $15,000 per year in consumer expenditures (based on $100/person). Every year. That’s over $225,000 over a fifteen year period.

Finally, super reunions are a bonanza. Super reunions have over 1,000 attendees. Based on respondent data, we estimate that with an average expenditure of $100 per person, a super reunion of 1,000 people will generate $100,000 in consumer expenditures. We also estimate, based on survey data, that such a reunion will generate $1,500,000 in consumer expenditures over a fifteen year period.

©2005 Reunions magazine, Inc.

Measuring ROE: The Value of your Family Reunion Event

A survey was done after September 11, 2001 to determine what effect the event had on reunions. The outcome also says something about the importance of reunions and the tenacity of people planning them.

In the issue of Reunions magazine after September 11, 2001, it was a whole different world from what now seems like a pretty innocent time. I never doubted for one moment that reunions were going to be even more important as the world changes so quickly. Amidst the confusion, doubt and concern, reunions are vibrant and growing stronger.

We polled reunions planned for October and November and discovered they were going on with great resolve. We were inspired by a September 14th email to contact reunions. A reunion organizer received this from a niece who lives in Manhattan. “Please, please, please assure us that the reunion should and must take place. … cannot allow the terrorists to think for one minute that they have disrupted our lives. We stand tall. We love America. We want the reunion to happen. (I need the reunion to happen).”

The nine Guy sisters let nothing delay their long planned reunion in New York City just as planes began flying again. They took Mayor Guiliani seriously when he encouraged them to come and spend money. It was a reunion they’ll treasure forever because of the time they spent there together.

The USS Castor AKS-1 8th national reunion met as scheduled the first weekend in October in Las Vegas. About 150 members attended the TAC Missillers reunion in Orlando. No cancellations were noted for the USS Bausell DD845 reunion in San Diego. The Cagle/Knowles Family Reunion displayed the flag at their October reunion in Dubach, Louisiana.

A newsletter after the September reunion of the 2nd Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group WWII, now known as the American Beagle Squadron Alumni, described their memorial service which included candlelight and a very moving rendition of Taps. When the lights were turned back on, all the other diners in the restaurant had joined their tribute so the trumpeter played The Star Spangled Banner and everyone sang.

Registrations for the Navy Fighter Squadron VF-54 reunion in Tucson, Arizona, indicated their largest reunion ever held. Security considerations cancelled tours of an out of service military aircraft storage facility and the airport tower.

HS-7, a Naval Squadron in Vietnam aboard the USS Saratoga, had some undecided individuals but was on as scheduled in Rhode Island. There were no USS Monssen DD798 member cancellations though a tour and military base visit were cancelled by the Navy who did provide a Memorial Service Color Guard at ceremonies during their farewell banquet.

St Michaels High School Reunion chairperson, Janet White, said they’d “waited 27 years and can’t stop the future from happening! We are going on as planned in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey, right across the river from Ground Zero.” A few classmates from California declined to fly.

The only change to the USS Ozbourn Associations fifth reunion was to amend the memorial service for departed shipmates and add those killed September 11th. Association president, William D. Minter, Texarkana, Texas, wrote “I feel it very important that we let the events of September 11th effect our future activities as little as possible and I hope that we go home from this reunion with a plan for us as an organization or as individuals to make a significant contribution to our nation’s efforts to stamp out terrorism.”

The 19th Bombardment Associations reunion in Atlanta, Georgia, anticipated excellent attendance. “This is probably the safest time ever to travel by air with the heightened security.” declared Jerry Michael, association president. “What happened September 11th is truly tragic, but it cannot hurt us today and we should show these idiot fanatics they will not intimidate us.”

Security concerns cancelled a visit to Boulder Dam for USS Coral Sea CVA-43 Association 368 members registered for their Laughlin, Nevada, reunion. The USS Grand Canyon AD/AR28, USS Pocono AGC. ALL16 and USS Francis M. Robinson DE220 reunions went on but had naval base tours cancelled.

Cynthia Youngblood lives in Missouri and is a committee chair for Atlanta, Georgia’s Northside High School Reunion, Class of 1981. She wrote, “Many classmates expressed the desire to reconnect due to events of September 11th. Therefore, this reunion has a special purpose for many and deeper meaning to see each other again.” They videotaped and photographed for memories and for those who cannot attend.

Richard Walton Whitworth, who lives in California, had plane tickets to his family reunion in Texas, and was only concerned about being at the airport three hours early with no carryon luggage. Yvonne Heyliger, Largo, Florida, drove to her family reunion in Georgia but said they might have had to rethink it if anyone was flying. Richard Furman, Winter Park, Florida, reported that the 527th Army AG Personnel Services Company planned no changes.

Stan Pollard LCDR USN Ret of the submarine USS Chivo (SS-341) reunion, was particularly passionate. He wrote, “Our reunion spans 1944 to 1971, so we represent an older generation that faced WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Submariners are all volunteers, and we did not stay at home because there was danger. Instead we put out to sea to face these challenges and keep our country free. It’s no different now. If fact, I think recent acts of terrorism had much the opposite effect. There has been a huge exchange of e-mails and letters among our group encouraging patriotism and leadership. I think that the consensus is that it is our duty as veterans, and as the older generation who has already overcome great adversities and wars in the past, to demonstrate to the terrorists, to the world, and especially to our children, that America remains strong, confident in the future, and free. We fought hard for freedom and sacrificed much to preserve it. We are not about to surrender now.”

Laurie Neuroth, Laytonville, California, reunion committee member of the Roselle, New Jersey, Girls Catholic High School Class of 1971 shared a letter from reunion chairperson Debi Yovanovich. “In the wake of the tragic events… something like this might seem frivolous at first — but then when you think about the connection we had in school and the “family” atmosphere our class had, it seems even more important that we get together and renew that bond.” Another 30 year reunion right on schedule was Washington DC’s Burdick Vocational High School Class of 1971.

Several USS Holder Association members cancelled while others just “changed their mode of transportation from flying to riding the train or driving their cars.”

Carrie Bodensteiner, webmaster for the Dreisbach Family Reunion wrote, “I’m sure many realize that, more than ever, ties of family and community are the strength of this nation and a source of support for all Americans. Our nation can embrace diversity at the same time it can show unity in the face of opposition. Our Dreisbach family is large and diverse, extending from coast to coast (even one German cousin will attend). Many emails have been exchanged in light of recent events and we have found solace and new strength in each other.”

Scouting Force Association reunion chairperson Lt. Col. E. Richard Atkins, AAF/USAF Ret, wrote, “The reunion will be far more meaningful because we are all WWII vets who established our patriotic stance in 1941 and it has never left us.”

Eugene Carroll said the USS Lake Champlain Association expected their reunion to hold special significance this year. “We believe that the United States must remain united in its effort to allow people to have freedom.”

Sadly, this 25th was the last reunion of the 8th Gasco/9th Air Force because their numbers are dwindling too fast to continue. Hosts Bill and Mary Swanson wrote, “We’ve had a wonderful run at it over the years and have very fond memories to think back on as we wind down.”

Though the events of September 11th will continue to have far-ranging effects on our world, for reunion groups they seem to have underscored our common need to draw together and stand united.