If money weren’t an object, we would see our reunion buddies every month. We’d go to some exotic location, catch up, hang out for a week or so….
Back in the real world, however, money is very much an object. Nearly everyone has finite disposable income, and all reunions have budgetary limitations. Even if you sell tickets to your reunion or ask for donations from attendees, you may not get the money you need. Or suppose you need some startup funds to rent a hall, organize some catering, and hire a band. How are you going to pay for it?
We scoured the Internet and our own experiences and came up with a list of 18 ways to fund a reunion — and only one of them is a bake sale.
Pre-Reunion Fundraising Activities
Let’s start with what you can do well before the reunion. Many of the following activities are fun nights out for your group — with a little twist. The twist is the markup.
Suppose that you have a group of 50 people. You’re going to have a special concert and dinner event for them. It costs you $50 per person for the hall rental, the food, and the entertainment. If you charge $75 per person, your reunion fund gets a $1,250 infusion of cash. (You’d obviously make it clear that the proceeds go to the reunion fund.)
People love this kind of event; not only is it festive, it’s a chance to be with their friends and feel like they’re doing something charitable and good at the same time.
- Have a Theater or Concert Night. Include transportation, meals and tickets.
- Host a Fashion Show. Book a venue and have a meal (or dessert, or appetizers) and drinks. You can focus on current fashion trends or have a retro fashion event that’s appropriate to your reunion theme. (Hint: This would also work for a car show, with the requisite change of venue.)
- Have a Dinner-Dance. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
- Have a Casino Night. Rent a hall and equipment, get some volunteer dealers, and have a buffet dinner. Make sure everyone knows the profits are going to the reunion fund.
- Organize a Group Tour. Include transportation to and from, meals, and entry fees.
- Schedule Event Runs, Walks and Rides. Decide your route, publicize your event, collect some pledges, and line up participants.
- Have a Scavenger Hunt. Sell tickets or charge a per-person or per-vehicle entry fee. Then have hunters safely complete tasks (i.e. take a picture of a certain local landmark) for a chance at a prize.
- Pre-Registered Ticket Sales. Encourage attendees to pre-buy their tickets, offering an early-bird discount. This will help you with those startup needs we discussed earlier.
- Have Sales. Throw a group garage sale. Set up a car wash. Do a neighborhood weed-a-thon. Be creative and use some elbow grease to generate funds for your group.
- Ask for Donations. You can set up a campaign via various online sites like GoFundMe. Or use your reunion website. It doesn’t have to be pushy — just a simple announcement that you’re accepting donations if they’d care to give.
Now, let’s move on to a more personalized way to make some cash for your reunion: group-participation events.
While the above suggestions could easily attract the public at large, the ideas below have a more personal touch and may mean more to your attendees. At the very least, they depend heavily on group participation!
11. Bake Sales
Everybody loves a bake sale, but you don’t have to limit yourself to the simple sale of homemade baked goods. Make it an event: offer coffee and other drinks; have music and a seating area; maybe even have a baking demonstration or two. Encourage people to linger. (Of course, check your local regulations for health and tax requirements before you start recruiting bakers.)
12. Memory Books
Memory books are special to groups and families. They can be used to capture the flavor of past reunions or to hold precious stories and photos about the group’s shared history. Finding material is straightforward: ask guests to share stories and photos relating to the family or group. You can then have these arranged and formatted for publication. Self-publishing services post their guidelines on their websites; if you can’t do the formatting yourself, it’s relatively inexpensive to hire someone to do it. And be sure to proofread before you submit anything to the publisher!
When planning your memory book, be sure to get your orders beforehand. On-demand printers like IngramSpark or BookBaby will only print out as many books as you order. On the other hand, you don’t want to get stuck with a significant surplus of books either.
By the way, your memory book doesn’t have to be a book at all; you can make it a video, an oral history, a presentation, or anything you like. In that case, burning CDs or DVDs will replace publishing, although you still may want to have someone do the actual processing.
Cookbooks full of heirloom family recipes or meaningful group dishes are also perennial favorites. Once again, group participation is a must. Not only should you collect recipes, you should also collect the stories behind them. Photos, short stories and anecdotes, tips, menu planning advice — it can all go into a cookbook. Plus, the more people you can get to contribute, the more copies of your cookbook you’ll sell.
As with memory books, proofread before sending your manuscript to be printed. Pay special attention to the recipes and make sure they are transcribed correctly. (Trust us, you don’t want to deal with the cook whose trademark showstopper recipe you’ve misprinted.) Also, choose one measuring system and stick with its standard abbreviations. On this side of the Atlantic, that measuring system is the volumetric US Standard, as in cups and spoons, rather than metric.
14. Quilts & Craft Sales
Creating and selling a reunion quilt is another time-honored way to earn some funds. It does take a bit of work and planning: it starts with sending blank fabric squares to all attendees and asking them to design it as they see fit. (This must be done several months or even a year in advance, and it may require some polite hounding.) Once these pieces are collected, they are pieced together by the group’s resident quilters, backed, and presented for sale.
Naturally, you’re not limited to selling reunion quilts. If you’re having a family reunion, perhaps one family member would be okay with auctioning off an heirloom quilt (with the understanding that it will stay in the family). Or if your group has a dedicated quilting contingent, maybe they can create their own unique design.
Another possibility is selling handmade crafts. In my local coffee store, someone sells handmade mittens every year. These mittens sell themselves so quickly that you almost have to line up to buy them. Your group’s crafters could do the same with scarves, hats, or other on-trend items.
Can you get a business to foot the bill for your reunion? Maybe not directly, but there are some things you can try:
- Sell Ads in Your Reunion Book and Website. If planning committee members give this idea the go-ahead, local businesses may be glad to spend a couple hundred dollars to advertise to your attendees.
- Seek Corporate Sponsorships. These are very rare, especially for family reunions. However, if your family has a long history of working for a company (everyone worked at the potato chip factory) or of using a company (everyone drives Ford cars), you might be able to get a sponsorship deal. I can’t emphasize enough that a straight-up sponsorship is rare. However, the company might go for some advertising or a donation of some products. It’s worth a try.
- Grants from Schools or CVBs. If you’re doing a class reunion, check with your school or alumni association. They may have small grants available. And if you’re working with an area CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau), they may be able to find some incentives for you to hold your reunion in their locale. These incentives might be money off rather than money donated, but it all helps.
And #18: Raffles and Auctions
Finally, we end with the raffle (selling tickets to win a prize or prizes) and its cousin, the auction. These are so well-known that we’ll just go over some basic best practices:
- First, check local and state regulations and comply with them.
- You can sell lots of things: donated professional services, crafts, big-ticket items like TVs, concert tickets, a vintage little red wagon — whatever appeals to your group.
- There are several types of auctions: online, traditional (with an auctioneer), and silent (people write down bids; the highest bid received by a predetermined time wins).
- Auctioneers suggest that you maximize earnings by starting with smaller-priced items, hit the high-priced ones about three-quarters of the way through, and finish with mid-priced items.
Hopefully, this article has gotten your creative juices flowing. Do you see a fundraising idea that will resonate with your group? Have you thought of something especially appealing? With these 18 fundraising ideas, you’re sure to find several that will help you meet your goals.