This provocative question is from Sandy, Butler High School Class of 1997 reunion, Augusta, Georgia. I have just begun to organize the reunion and it occurred to me that more people might respond than I expect, leaving the possibility that we might have surplus money when we finish. Any ideas for “leftover” money collected for this high school reunion?
Responses are from members of the National Association of Reunion Managers (NARM).
Everyone agreed with Debby Pattin & Carol Riley, owners of Reunions Unlimited, Olympia, Washington, and Denise Silva, President of Great Reunions, Garden Grove, California, who say if you’re lucky enough to have a surplus, you can save the money as seed money for the next reunion or donate it to your school.
Kirsten Richardson, Reunions With Class, Inc., Bellevue, Washington, cautions that surpluses “can be a hassle to track, report interest to the IRS and manage the account if it is small (banks like to charge fees for small accounts).”
Joe Smith of Back to the Future Reunions, Pleasanton, California, suggests having the account set up legally with a CPA to prevent trouble on a number of fronts, including the possibility that something happens to the person in charge of the account. After the account is set up and the reunion is a memory, “wait three to four months to be sure all the bills have been paid and no one is requesting a refund for any reason. Once you are sure the money left is really ‘extra’ money, then start thinking about what to do.”
If you use the money for start-up funds for the next reunion, there are some pitfalls. Who controls the money? Is it in a bank account and who has access? Is the person who has control of the money going to want to plan the next reunion? As shocking as it may seem, some reunion chairmen have moved away and taken the funds with them. If a great deal of money is involved, safety precautions should be explored.
Linda Wright and Jim O’Gorman, Keep In Touch Reunions LLC, St. Charles, Missouri, exclaimed: “WOW! What a great problem to have! You could give the money to your high school as a ‘thank you’ gift from your class. Pinpoint it for a special use, say for technology or library. We give committees an option of adding a dollar or two to their ticket price for just this purpose.
The money can be used to buy door prizes. By a day or two before the reunion you should know if you will have extra funds. Door prizes can be given at the dinner dance or be used to help boost attendance for a Sunday event which is usually less well-attended. Or give the money itself as a door prize and call it a ticket refund.
Nancy Shirey at A+ Reunion in Ellicott City, Maryland, suggests offering a cordials bar after dinner or door prizes. Create a calendar with pictures of events from reunion weekend, offers Frances Farlow, Reunions For U, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or participate in an adopt-a-family for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Put the money toward what Darla Methey, Reunions By Design, El Cajon, California, calls memorabilia enhancements. “Sometimes committees rent mannequins to display prom dresses or outfits of the era (from wigs to shoes). Or consider these ideas that don’t require a lot of lead time — reimburse committee members’ tickets, award a prize to the first person to RSVP or pay for faculty tickets.
In preparation for our ten-year reunion, we discovered we had never spent the high school funds our class president placed in a savings account,” Michelle Webber, Administrative Assistant for NARM in Canby, Oregon wrote. “We had over $1500 to spend for our first reunion. We used half to reduce the per-person ticket cost for alumni from $60 to $40. I believe this helped increase reunion attendance.”
Jonathan Miller, Reunited, Inc., Weston, Florida, added some new ideas. Project your estimated windfall and purchase a keepsake item to give out at the reunion or as a post-reunion thank-you for attending. Create a fund to subsidize tickets for classmates who feel they can’t otherwise afford to attend the reunion. Create a scholarship fund to recognize a current/upcoming graduate of your school or support a worthy program at your school or in your school community. Or you can upgrade your catering menu or offer a complimentary cocktail.