It’s a great way to give back and to ensure the continuity of an institution that serves to educate future generations.
In the past few years, class reunion gifts have become very symbolic of the pride shown by a class towards its Alma mater.
Many class reunions have raised over $100,000 during their milestone reunion years to show their support.
The class gift can be given in different ways including
- A scholarship towards education (E.x. Achievement Award for low income students that have demonstrated academic excellence)
- Improvement of the school (e.g. Class donated a new archway to Bryant University)
- An Endowment (for a library or just a donation of books) or a digital media library
- Straight donation to the school to use at its own discretion
- Special projects or initiatives
- Fund research projects
Here is how to get started.
Step 1 – Contact Alumni Office For Suggestions
Before you start planning a class reunion gift, consider getting the school involved. Most alumni offices will maintain a wish list of things that the school needs.
Consider using the class gift to fund one of these items to maximize the benefit of your classmates generosity.
Getting the alumni offices involved has another benefit in that they provide pre-printed class gift forms, envelopes, labels and stamps to use in your mailers.
The contributions by your classmates will typically follow the 80:20 rule where 20% of your classmates will be responsible for 80% of the gift. The trick to raising money fast is to identify this 20% as quickly as possible. The alumni office can provide contact details of classmates that have made out-sized donations in the past. This list will give you a good place to start.
Step 2 – Decide On A Class Gift
What should the class gift be? What cause will classmates prefer to give to?
Instead of guessing, put together a list of 3-4 ideas with the class reunion planning committee and have the rest of the classmates vote on it. Post the poll on the Class Reunion Website to get faster results.
Once a cause has been selected, consider setting a goal. Having a target amount to raise provides both motivation and direction.
Step 3 – Communicate Early And Often
There are two factors that play a key role in ensuring a successful class gift; communications and setting a goal
In order to organize a class gift, you are going to have to communicate with classmates as soon as the planning begins.
A successful campaign will incorporate the class gift into every aspect of the class reunion planning process. Take every opportunity, whether in an email or the registration packet, to promote the class gift as a cause worth giving to. Information about the class gift should be posted everywhere including your Facebook group page and Class reunion website.
When asking for donations for the class gift, use simple phrases and words that people use in every day language. “We hope to raise” or “As a class, we need” should be commonly used. Make it a team effort by getting as many people involved as possible.
Calling people individually can be quite effective, if done properly. Remind classmates that you are not selling a product, you are raising funds that will benefit the school. Provide details on the difference the gift is going to make in the life of current students. Finally, ask for commitments or pledges and follow up.
Just because someone is not coming to the class reunion does not mean that they won’t contribute to the class gift. We had a classmate that could not make it to our 20th reunion but decided to donate almost 50% of the class gift anyway. While you may not meet with this level of success, even small donations help you get ot the goal.
Set A Goal
The class gift goal should be updated on a weekly basis on the reunion website. Post a big thermometer or a graph that clearly shows how much has been raised and how much is left to go. Most class reunion website builders provide a fundraising page that you can use to show how much has been raised.
If you have the permission from classmates, post a list of the top 5 donors on the fundraising webpage. Often, donations are made in amounts higher than the ones on the top 5 list just to get on the list of “Major Contributors”
Also, provide some incentives to becoming the highest donor. For example, the highest donor will get to present the class gift to the school president on stage and will receive a plaque on the alumni office walls commemorating the gift.
Step 4 – Celebrate The Gift
Whether your goal is reached or not, celebrate everyone’s effort by having an invitation only cocktail hour right before the big Saturday night dinner. Invite the volunteers and everyone that made a donation to this event to single them out. Make things even more special by having the dean of the school or the principal attend the mixer as a thank you to the attendees.
Setting up a class gift is about giving back to the school that provided you an education. It is a rewarding activity that leaves a huge footprint in the lives of those that benefit from the class gift.
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