Class Reunion Planning: Getting Creative with Spring Reunion Planning to Improve ROI

September 2022 — By Keith Hannon

It’s hard to believe that spring reunion planning is already beginning. If your departmental strategy includes a class reunion for your alumni in 2023, you’ll want to ensure you have reunion outreach and planning guidelines in place early on to get the most out of the event.

Though a lot has changed in higher education and alumni engagement over the past few years, reunions have remained a critical strategy for alumni engagement and alumni. While some may think reunions aren’t the best strategy for engagement in a post-pandemic world, the reality is they can still be a powerful strategy to maintain relationships with alumni and increase fundraising. In fact, more than 30% of alumni who attend an event will give funds, compared to 3% who don’t attend events. That being said, they still require a huge investment in time, money, and labor that many universities don’t have.

So, if you’re already in spring reunion planning mode, you’ll certainly want to make it worthwhile.

Read on to learn how to plan a memorable reunion, improve your return on investment, and get some new class reunion planning ideas.

A Creative Class Reunion Planning Guide to Better ROI

If class reunion planning is on the horizon for you, you’ll want to ensure you know how to plan a class reunion that will give alums a great experience and will help you reach your strategic goals. Here are a few alumni reunion planning tips to get you started:

  1. Expand Your Reach

    Don’t wait until alums are 10, 25, or even 50 years post-graduation to invite them to a big bash. While those milestones are certainly worth celebrating, think about planning a reunion for your more recent alums. There’s a stigma that recent grads are less likely to give, but that may not be the case. In fact, the 2020 National Young Alumni Survey found that of the alumni who graduated between 2002 and 2017 and made cash donations, 64% reported giving to their alma mater. Higher education actually sat at the top of the list of organizations supported by those alumni, followed by social justice and political causes. Consider engaging with alumni from the moment they graduate to expand reach and provide a more immediate ROI for your department. You’ll build long-lasting relationships with these alums, making it even more likely they’ll keep showing up for the reunions you plan in the future.

  2. Make Reunions More Accessible

    Not everyone will be able to travel back to campus for spring reunions. As people have become more comfortable with digital event formats, many still prefer to attend virtually, especially when high costs and travel logistics are involved. One study showed that 84% of respondents still prefer the option to attend events in a virtual or hybrid format. Finding creative ways to make your events more accessible and inclusive is especially key in today’s world, and digital platforms are a great way to increase accessibility. Allow alumni to be part of the reunion no matter where they spend that weekend physically.

  3. Incorporate Valuable Programming

    Often, people won’t give unless they get. Especially when reunions are part of a fundraising strategy in which you’ll be asking alumni to donate. What type of unique programming or incentives can you incorporate to make alums feel appreciated and know their gift is valued? Inviting influential faculty, staff, and even alumni can make attendees feel like their presence will result in more than just a fun time. Networking is actually one of the top reasons people attend events. You may consider planning exclusive events based on affinity or identity groups that complement the greater reunion to create a space for alumni to re-engage with their social circles.

  4. Encourage Lasting Connections Beyond the Event

    The celebration doesn’t have to end when the event does. Given that reunions are a hefty investment for universities and alumni that attend them, you’ll want to make sure they have an impact that lasts long after everyone heads home. Have a plan in place to help people maintain those rekindled relationships and keep their bond with the institution strong all year round!

These tips should be fundamental in your reunion planning guide this year (and beyond!).

Ensuring Spring Class Reunion Planning Success with BrightCrowd

It can be challenging to figure out the right strategy to ensure all stakeholders are satisfied while also juggling multiple responsibilities as an alumni relations professional.

When the stakes are high, and you want to make sure your spring class reunion is a success, consider adding BrightCrowd to your reunion planning strategy.

With BrightCrowd, alumni engagement has never been easier.

A BrightCrowd digital scrapbook will help improve your reunion planning ROI without overwhelming your to-do list. Here are a few reasons why a BrightCrowd book should be a key part of your alumni reunion planning guide for 2023:

  • It’s simple to launch and can be ready to go in minutes. How often do you hear that when it comes to implementing a new initiative?
  • It’ll help expand your reach. Books can be open to multiple classes and an unlimited number of participants.
  • It saves time and resources, since you don’t have to design and print reunion books. No more manually tracking down each participant to try and get their information. No more laying out pages with interns and staff members. No more layers of approval or extensive hard costs. The total cost for BrightCrowd books averages out to less than $5 per participant.
  • It’s more accessible, since there are no geographic limitations to using BrightCrowd. Even if an attendee can’t come to the event, they can still participate in its benefits (networking).
  • It offers deeper information for your department and attendees. You can gather information about attending alumni early on to incorporate meaningful and relevant experiences. Alumni can see who’s coming and connect beforehand, perhaps even influencing their decision to attend.
  • It enables lasting connections beyond the event. BrightCrowd books serve as a snapshot in time, so people can continue to refer back to them as long as your book stays open.

Here’s an example of the power of BrightCrowd for improving alumni engagement and ROI.

“The 50th Reunion class at Washington and Lee University has historically produced a printed milestone yearbook. This past cycle, the class of 1972 made the transition to the online BrightCrowd book. It was embraced and supported by the reunion chairs and committee, and was met with overwhelming response by the class at large. 59% of the class created pages, completed the questions, and uploaded photos. BrightCrowd is easy to navigate from both the university's standpoint and for the end-user. It's perfect for all generations, and the beauty of the product is the customization to meet the needs of the intended audience. Highly recommend.” - Michelle Jones, Washington and Lee University

Many other schools have also seen the overwhelming success and engagement levels that Washington and Lee University have with their own BrightCrowd books. We’d love to be your collaborative partner in helping bring your class reunion planning ideas to life. If you want to be among the institutions that have successfully engaged alumni through BrightCrowd books, start with a free 30-day trial and see how our digital scrapbooks can improve your spring reunion ROI.

Keith Hannon