Could you plan a big reunion on your own? Sure — if you quit your job, cancelled your social life, and left your family to fend for themselves for a few months. For most of us, this is as unappealing as it is impossible. That leaves forming a reunion committee.
A reunion committee’s function is obvious: they research and decide on all things reunion-related, from pre-event fundraising to post-event cleanup. In this article, we’ve broken down the main areas of reunion planning (communications, accommodations, activities, finance, food, and, well, planning). We’ve also shown which subcommittees would logically come under which leadership. We’ll also give you some ideas as to what kind of person work best for each “job description”.
Planning for the Planning Committee
First of all, you need to plan for the planning committee. There’s no need to have a huge committee for a small reunion, but things can get pretty frantic if there’s not enough people to plan a large event.
If you’re expecting a small reunion — under 50 people — and you’ve done some event planning before, you probably could handle doing all the planning yourself. For medium-sized groups (50-100), a few people can work together to fill the planning committee roles. For example, the Chairperson might double as the Activities Director; the Treasurer as the Accommodations Director, and the Secretary as the Food Director.
For larger groups, you’ll probably be looking at finding people for some or all of the subcommittee groups. You may even need to add your own groups (i.e. a Sports Director that works within the Activities Committee).
Communicating with Your Reunion Committee
If possible, schedule face-to-face meetings with reunion committee members. Since your reunion will be in the planning stages for some time, regular updates are imperative. You may want to schedule a standing monthly or quarterly meeting just to see where everything stands.
If in-person meetings aren’t possible, a group call or video conference are the next best thing. There are loads of free services (Skype, Google Hangouts) that you can use. Don’t try to conduct a meeting via email or message board except as a last resort; they are frustrating and messy.
One final word: take meeting notes and email them to the participants so that everyone is on the same page. You may also want to send an agenda to everyone before the meeting so they can be ready with questions and ideas.
Reunion Committees, Roles, and Who Should Fill Them
If it helps, consider your reunion committee organization like that of a business. Your president is the reunion chairperson, who also oversees the planning committee; the secretary is also the leader of the communication committee, and the treasurer is person in charge of the finance committee.
- The president or reunion chairperson should be comfortable handling a lot of responsibility. Taking charge and making decisions come naturally, but the president’s people skills make them a pleasure to work with. A head for details and a flair for conflict resolution are must-have skills.
- The treasurer must be reliable, honest, and organized – not to mention, great at math and bookkeeping. They should also be able to explain things to others, and stand their ground when a decision isn’t monetarily feasible.
- The secretary is a multi-tasking communications whiz. They should be comfortable enough with technology to manage group emails and basic website usage. A people person’s people person, they thrive on giving and receiving information, and they are sufficiently organized to make sure no invitation is left unsent.
For a small- or medium-sized reunion, your planning committee will likely handle all the functions listed below. For a large reunion, the planning committee will be made up of the chairperson, the secretary, the treasurer, and any additional directors.
The planning committee will manage the overall activity of the other committees, making sure that everything works together and stays on track. They make the big decisions: date, location, and theme, if any. This is the “brain” of your reunion.
The secretary will usually be head of the Communications Committee. In addition to the bullet points listed below, the Communications Committee also cares for the related fields of photography, history, registration, and gifts or souvenirs. For a large reunion, these fields may become subcommittees.
The primary responsibilities of the Communications Committee include:
- Sending out notices, invitations, and surveys
- Maintaining email lists and guest lists
- Finding missing guest information
- Managing all communication and publicity programs
- Preparing meeting minutes and agendas (with other committee directors’ input)
- Creating and maintaining a website, Facebook page, and other social media activities
- Maintaining records of past and present attendees
Ensures the reunion is documented photographically, either by guests or by hiring a professional. Develops photos, identifies who is in them, and may work with the History and Souvenirs subcommittees to produce scrapbooks, memory books, or other special items. Also manages video recording and production.
Researches and documents family or group history. May tell stories, create family trees or curate records, yearbooks, charts, photo albums, and other items.
Works with other committees to choose memorable gifts and souvenirs for attendees.
The Activities Director should be a fun, creative, energetic person who also possesses the know-how to plan specific events. They may be in charge of booking group tickets to shows or excursions, planning talent shows or group activities, and hiring entertainment equipment or personnel.
In addition, the Activities Committee may also plan fellowship or worship services and special events for kids and seniors. In a large reunion, these fields may become subcommittees of this committee.
Plans events especially for children of various ages. Makes sure that children are properly supervised, either by hiring babysitters or arranging for volunteers.
Creates environments and events for seniors.
Plans and presents rituals, ceremonies, and memorials specific to this reunion.
The treasurer is the director of the finance committee, which handles all money matters. This includes collecting funds from reunion attendees (and tracking who has or hasn’t paid) and determining how money has been raised and how much has been spent. The Finance Committee works closely with the other committees and subcommittees to set up a budget.
In addition, the Finance Committee may also plan fundraising and scholarship programs. In a large reunion, these fields may become their own subcommittees.
Develops long- and short-range fundraising projects, including auctions, bake sales, and other events. May physically present fundraising events as well (i.e. setting up a silent auction for an upcoming reunion).
Determines scholarship rules and requirements and reviews applications. Plans and officiates at the scholarship awards ceremony.
The food director should be someone who has experience in preparing food for large groups. This is true even if the reunion is being catered. Ideally, the food director is both creative and safety-conscious. They will spearhead meal and menu planning, including the type of food arrangements (catered, restaurant, potluck, picnic, etc.). Other responsibilities include:
- Booking restaurants or catering services
- Ensuring adequate seating, utensils, food prep equipment
- Arranging drinks and snacks
- Hiring servers (or marshalling volunteers)
- Overseeing special dietary needs
- Ensuring food safety rules are followed
The job of Accommodations Director would ideally go to someone who is organized, observant, and not afraid of a little bit of haggling. In addition to the bullet points listed below, the Accommodations Committee also cares for the related fields of Hospitality, Setup-Cleanup, Lodging, and Transportation. In a large reunion, these fields may become subcommittees of the Accommodations Committee.
- Researches, tours, and books the event venue
- Arranges bulk discounts and other deals, if possible
- Serves as liaison with venue management
Welcomes guests to the reunion and presents a Welcome Bag (if available). Assists with name tags and onsite registration.
Sets up chairs, tables, and other items before reunion and takes them down again afterwards. May also be responsible for site cleanup.
Researches, tours, and books hotels or other accommodations. May assign rooms, cabins, etc. Arranges for discounts and liaises with lodging management.
Provides directions, maps, instructions and other useful information to guests. Arranges airport pickup schedules. Coordinates reunion group travel during the event.
As you can see, it can take a veritable village to plan a successful large-scale reunion. By dividing up the tasks and putting them in the charge of the right person, you can lessen your own load. And those participating in the reunion planning process will feel even more invested in making it a hit!