While some reunion records are still kept on index cards, computer databases can be easily created using programs like Excel or Google Docs to keep necessary reunion member information accurate and updated. Alternatively, there are free or low-cost software programs designed specifically for managing reunions.
Regardless of what you use, each person, couple or family should have a record that includes name, address, phone, email address and other numbers. Set up your database to sort by zip code for mailing; by last name for a directory; by city, age, interests.
Staying in touch
Once your reunion becomes a tradition, it should be each person’s responsibility to make sure his or her information is up-to-date, so ask for help to fill in details of your database. Rely on members or social media to find others. There is often one person who stays in touch more than anyone else: a genealogist, historian, classmate, aunt or uncle who has kept careful records about everyone can help.
Searching is an ongoing process often delegated to your most curious and detail-oriented members. Genealogists and family historians are notorious for starting family reunions and they never stop searching. Technology is exciting, constantly changing and makes searching easier. Websites and national phone directories provide instant access to many databases that put endless information at your fingertips.
Keeping everyone in the loop
There will be no reunion until you announce it. All reunion communications should include dates, times, location and contact information. As you learn more, include information about fees, payment/cancellation/refund, maps and party instructions.
How often should you communicate? As often as necessary! A note in your Christmas card or a postcard sent in plenty of time to make reservations might be sufficient for some. A series of letters, e-blasts and newsletters build momentum, share planning progress, keep members informed and updated, generate enthusiasm and increase attendance, but make sure every communications piece has an action item. Here are a few tools you have at your disposal.
Letter/email announcement – This is how you kick off your formal reunion plams. If you’re mailing the initial communication, no one minds photocopied letters.
E-newsletters – Regularly published newsletters are popular for reunion communication. Keep a schedule and invite everyone to submit news. When your members look forward to reunion information, they learn to respect your deadlines.
Postcards – Postcards are a quick and easy, graphic-friendly and inexpensive way to communicate. Pre-printed postcards that announce “Save the Date” and remind folks that time is running out are inexpensive to produce. Consider printing overruns and mailing “Save the Date” cards twice.
Phone – Share phoning and follow-up responsibility with committee members. Use a phone tree where volunteers agree to call and notify a list of others until everyone is called. A good division of labor is to have one person from each generation/branch/class/unit/group take responsibility to notify others in their “line.”
Websites – Creating a website used to be a complicated, expensive task, but no longer. There are a host of low-cost or free services that help you create a professional looking, easy-to-use website.
Social media – Many reunions have turned to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to announce and report changes and progress, as well as post photos, calendars, agendas and so forth.