This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.
Are you excited to reconnect with your alma mater and its alumni for an upcoming college class reunion?
Many colleges and universities are now hosting reunion celebrations online, which means friends and classmates can connect easier than before—providing an unrivaled opportunity to strengthen your alumni network and bolster their relationship with your university. However, while many of the same traditional reunion activities can occur during a virtual reunion, there are a few virtual reunion planning differences to address.
If you’re a part of your university’s online reunion planning committee or just getting started organizing that committee, let’s explore how to structure your virtual college reunion planning team for success. We’ll explain the ideal college reunion planning committee structure, roles and responsibilities for each member, and an ideal timeline to plan your event with ease.
Partner With Your Alumni Association
Before making any plans for your upcoming college class reunion, contact your university’s alumni association to check if there is already a planning committee in place that you can join.
Your alumni association should also have resources and guides to help streamline your planning. Work with them to understand any available funds to support the event, attendance of past reunions, ways to fundraise for a class reunion, an ideal timeline for planning your college class reunion, and any other historical information that can inform your planning.
Even if your alumni association already has a team ready to plan and support the reunion, there is almost always a need for more volunteers to help with the planning. It’s a lot to get done, and it never hurts to have more hands-on-deck to help plan and coordinate events during the reunion.
Key College Reunion Planning Committee Roles
There are a few central positions you will want to appoint on your virtual college reunion planning committee. These individuals will then partner with a group of volunteers to conduct the day-to-day planning activities for the reunion.
The size of your committee will depend on how many alumni you anticipate will attend your event. Unfortunately, there is no definite way to answer how many people should be on a college reunion planning committee. Still, it is best to have at least 20 people ready to help throughout the planning process.
These are the essential reunion committee positions and associated responsibilities:
The reunion chair oversees all reunion planning and acts as the main point of contact for the alumni association and other planning committee members. This role is responsible for coordinating committee meetings, making all final approvals, and overseeing the planning timeline.
Alumni Support Chair
Your prospective attendees will have a range of questions leading up to and during your event. Appoint one person to oversee and coordinate alumni support services. This person will act as a traffic controller and partner closely with the communications/marketing team to route requests to the finance, technology, or program teams as needed.
The communications or marketing lead oversees a team to coordinate all alumni outreach before and after the event. In addition, this team partners closely with the alumni association to:
- Source alumni contact information
- Create and distribute invitations or save-the-date cards, as well as ongoing event communications through phone, email, or other channels
- Manage any reunion-related social media channels or online communities. Build information hubs for reunion attendees, including an event website
This individual is responsible for creating and monitoring the budget for your class reunion. At the end of the reunion, the finance chair will report on all expenses and income, as well as any leftover funds. All other committee chairs must gain purchase approvals from the finance chair, and all volunteers are responsible for helping to meet the finance chair’s fundraising goals.
A core goal of many college reunions is to help raise funds for the university and garner ongoing support for the university’s mission. Appoint a member of your committee to advance this goal. They will partner with the alumni association to determine the best approach to encourage donations to the university. They will also coordinate all follow-up and thank yous for donors.
Appoint a person who will oversee the creation and management of your class reunion agenda. This individual will not be solely responsible for organizing the series of activities, but they will be the one to finalize all agenda elements ahead of the reunion.
The main difference between a virtual and in-person college class reunion is the technical requirements for hosting each. With a virtual college reunion, it’s essential to designate a tech-savvy individual who can partner with the finance chair to find an event platform that will meet your alumni’s needs. In addition, the technology committee should partner with the communications committee to create FAQs and how-to documents to help alumni navigate the tech elements of your reunion.
An Ideal Online College Class Reunion Planning Timeline
Your team should start planning your reunion at least one year in advance. The first step is to identify the right people to serve as the committee chairs we described above. Then, meet at least once a month, or more as needed, as an entire planning committee to oversee the next steps and encourage each chair to host separate meetings to coordinate their team’s activities.
Ideally, follow this timeline when planning a virtual reunion:
12 months before event:
- Identify all committee chairs and align on responsibilities.
- Partner with your alumni association to source contact information for all prospective attendees.
- Conduct a pre-reunion survey to understand what your attendees want out of your event. This survey can also invite alumni to volunteer to help your planning committee. Field this survey for at least one month, and then use it to inform your next steps.
11 months before event:
- Set a general budget for the reunion based on your anticipated attendee count, which you will gauge in your pre-reunion survey.
- Divide existing volunteers into appropriate committees.
- Begin planning your agenda elements and inviting speakers.
- If there is an in-person component of your reunion, begin sourcing group hotel rates or other travel logistics.
- Confirm reunion date.
Ten months before event:
- Begin exploring event technology vendors.
- Finalize fundraising plan.
- Send initial save-the-date postcards or emails.
- Publish reunion website to serve as a hub for prospective attendees.
Six months before event:
- Open registration for alumni.
- Coordinate a bi-weekly communications cadence to remind alumni of the reunion and promote your registration. Include social media posts, emails, and other communications channels to reach as many alumni as possible.
- Post a preliminary reunion agenda to drum up excitement.
Four months before event:
- Start collecting any memorabilia for the reunion, including photos for the slideshow.
- Plan and purchase alumni gifts or swag bag items.
One month before the event:
- Release full reunion agenda.
- Research and develop remembrance ceremony materials.
- Finalize all planning elements.
- Receive any final presentation or other agenda item files for your reunion.
One month after the event:
- Share a photo slideshow, talk recordings, and other relevant files with attendees.
- Debrief as a planning committee on post-reunion statistics, including how many people attended and how much money was raised for the university.
- Draft a document that collects the lessons learned and outcomes from the reunion to act as a resource for the next reunion’s planning committee.
- Send all donors a thank-you card.
Sustain Your College Class Community Between Reunions
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting a virtual college reunion, and we encourage you to structure your planning committee and timeline in a way that can best support any range of fun activities or ideas that your team has in mind.
Once your reunion is finished and everyone has received their thank-you notes and said their goodbyes, it can be easy to slip back into your “normal” life for another five years until your next reunion. If possible, have a subset of your reunion planning team keep in touch to plan additional events between your reunions to keep the excitement high.
Learn more about how Social hour can help you host a memorable virtual alumni event.