Photo by Richard Howard
In recent years, the fifth reunion cycle has been drawing record numbers of young alums back to campus. Before 2012, the largest group of fifth-reunion classmates that had ever returned numbered 212. By 2016, the class of ’11 had fielded 281 alumnae in all their yellow finery. What’s fueling the increase? We asked Marjahn Golban ’10 and Jane Zhou ’10, who chaired their fifth two years ago, to talk about the tactics they used to get their classmates back—strategies that all classes can employ.
To what do you attribute your class’s impressive turnout (253 classmates)?
It comes down to a few things: Do they know about reunion? If so, are they able to get the time off? Can they afford the trip? And are enough of their friends going, to make it worth the cost/time?
To make sure everyone knew about the event, we used our class Facebook group, which [includes] almost our whole class, and our Wellesley email/mailing list to get the word out. We also relied heavily on word of mouth—asking classmates to text their friend group, [participate in] phone trees, start Facebook threads on their own walls, and tag their friends. By getting the word out early, we tried to get it on people’s calendars early so they wouldn’t make other plans.
We also worked funds into our budget (and received a generous gift from the class of 1960) so we were able to offer anonymous stipends to ensure that alums who might not have been able to afford the cost of reunion plus flights were able to have some help.
We tried to get people in different friend groups signed up so they could help encourage others to come. Also, making sure the events are conducive for reminiscing and spending time with friends helped, too.
How early did you start communicating with classmates about reunion?
A postcard went out about a year in advance. Then we started in October and did big pushes in late February (when registration opens), mid-April (when early-bird registration ends), and May (when final registration ends). From October, we coordinated with our class council to send monthly “Road to Reunion” newsletters and hashtagged #roadtoreunionW10 Facebook posts to build up hype.
Any other successful tactics?
We created a reunion-specific website for our class that had pictures from our time at Wellesley to get people excited, important information about the schedule of reunion, a place to submit their updated page in our class record book, and information on how to register for reunion (plus our email addresses in case people had any questions). We also had FAQs. We tried to incorporate interaction with the class whenever possible, such as having an online poll to choose our specific class insignia. One tactic that worked well was competition with other classes: We have a competitive class, so setting goals to try to beat 2009 or the average both for fund-raising and sign-ups really helped.