5 Ways to Shake Up Reunions

Nearly all universities plan reunions in some form, and around 20-30% of each class typically attends. However, year in and year out, it can be tough to think of events that will truly draw in your alumni. Here’s 5 events and/or tools that will help you increase your reunion engagement.

1.     Alumni Match

You might already use an alumni engagement platform like Quadwrangle that automatically collects information on alumni demographics and affinities. If so, this one will be easy for you, but if not, a simple survey sent out to alums attending reunions can do the trick! The idea here is to “match” each alum individually with another alum in attendance for a one on one meet-up. This could take the form of friendship, mentorship, professional connections, or anything else! You can partner with local restaurants to add drink or meal coupons to further encourage alumni to follow through on the meet-up, but this can be a great tactic to get alumni excited about reunion events.

2.     Affinity Meetups

A less individualized approach to alumni meet-ups can be to host general affinity mixers. You could devote one afternoon to these mixers and encourage alumni to freely float between events. The affinities can be anything – Black Alumni, Greek Life Alums, LGBTQ Alums, Women in Science, or any other subgroups you can think of – but allowing alums to attend multiple mixers of interest across an afternoon will help your alumni feel more connected to one another (and their alma matter!). To help publicize these events, you can use your alumni engagement platform or a survey ahead of time to collect demographic data on alumni, and send out a personalized email on “events of interest” occurring at the reunion. Or, you can simply include information on each mixer in a brochure or events app so that alums can specifically seek out events that align with their backgrounds.

3.     Housing Tribes

There is one more creative way to get alumni connected based on their affinities: housing tribes! If you host alums on campus for reunions, think about grouping them meaningfully. For alumni traveling with kids, consider designating one housing space as family friendly and providing amenities like childcare, day trips for older kids, a snack room, and quiet rooms. Other potential housing communities include a Rainbow House for LGBTQ identified alums, or a Greek House for former sorority and fraternity members. You can even create houses based on interest: perhaps an Activist House that has nightly round table discussion of activist issues, or an Athlete House where you can plan daily morning outdoor workouts or classes.

4.     Class-Incentivized Donor Events

Whether you do more specific affinity targeting or not, if your alums are at the reunion, they probably feel some level of allegiance to their class year. You can mobilize this inherent affinity as a means to encourage alumni donations. You could have one big party where people where a pin or sticker to indicate their class year and donation table. At the end of the night, the attending members of the class year who donate the most could win a prize – a pack of 10 tickets to football games next year, 3 drink tickets at a local bar, or an exclusive sweatshirt. Make sure that progress is clearly visible, either through manually filled out progress bars, a dynamic graph on monitors around the event, or even a leader board that you update throughout the night. By mobilizing class affinity to encourage donations, you will incentivize alumni to chip in – and have fun doing it.

5.     Centralized Event Portal

Most alumni engagement platforms do have event portals. Consider choosing a tool that allows you to automatically populate relevant events in each alum’s event feed. Many tools automatically collect demographic data and even recover data through social media linking, allowing you to easily create a custom “agenda” for each alumni without intensive manual event targeting. If, say, I am a 2010 female graduate who was a varsity athlete and currently works in tech, my schedule may automatically include events meant for all alumni (Welcome Speech, Campus Updates Tour, Closing Ceremony); class of 2010 events (2010 Mixer, 2010 Night Out); and affinity based events (Varsity Athlete Welcome Mixer, Women in Tech Meetup, Women’s Wine and Cheese Night). This is useful for alumni because instead of flipping through tons of irrelevant events in a printed brochure, they can automatically see the events that are actually relevant to them.

While we hope that these ideas help, we understand that planning a reunion is hard work! If you want to chat about event ideas and engagement strategies, we’re here to help.

Rachael Stein