Using ticketing software to lower the costs of school reunions

Scene from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' (1997) Touchstone Pictures

The years seem to fly by. One day you are throwing your mortarboard in the air. The next day you get a invitation to your 20 year high school reunion. Organizing a school reunion is no small feat. The time, effort and costs involved are similar to that of a small rock concert. Worse, the act of outreach to alumni and getting them to commit to attending can become a chicken or the egg dilemma.

We look at school reunions as events and offer the idea of letting social networks and ticketing software do the heavy lifting.

Build It and They Will May Come

Already responsible for important day-to-day operations, school district officials are sometimes saddled with the laborious task of contacting alumni (aka "outreach") for a school reunion. Many school districts rely on antiquated methods of outreach like the phone book and postal mail to find former students one-at-a-time. Even the more sophisticated methods, like Google search, leave something to be desired since typing in a common name can result in tens of thousands of matches.

The challenge of organizing a school reunion was recently described by Terri C. Lampe, director of development for the Wyomissing School District:

We're working to catch up with everyone...A lot of people who graduated from here have left, and we need to reconnect with them. But we need them to help us be able to do that. You have to think creatively and utilize every tool you have. Even in this age of constant communication, getting this information can be a tough job.

Ms. Lampe also says that the school district intends to build a dedicated website just for the class reunion and will continue reaching out to alumni one-at-a-time via telephone calls, postal mail, email and social networks. Note that doesn't include some form of RSVP ticket system once everyone has been contacted.

Lampe's admirable approach comes with no guarantee of success however. The cost of a dedicated website, web hosting, printed letters plus postage, are all being incurred before knowing how many will attend. Should the one-to-one outreach result in a successful connection, a conundrum begins to develop. The first thing alumni will ask is how many others are attending in order to decide if they will RSVP.

Chicken Or The Egg?

Costs are not just a consideration for school districts either. Attendees must commit money to re-live their youth, too. Recently, Jason Price wrote 'Are High School Reunions Worth The Cost?' for The Business Insider. Price wrote of his own school reunion and the expenses he incurred. Hotel, airfare, gasoline, buying new clothes and more, the expenditures represent a major commitment. If the alumni feel the event is too expensive or there are not enough fellow graduates also committed to attending, they may wait for another decade to pass. Price writes:

Maybe the experience is worth it for you. If so, the road trip and the ticket prices don’t have to bust your budget or put you in credit card debt. In fact, planning this far ahead could put you in a position to do something nice like buy a ticket for someone who can’t afford to go. That can make the experience even better! My father-in-law said that two gentlemen agreed to buy tickets for anyone who couldn't afford to go their reunion. They didn't want cost to keep someone away from reconnecting. What a nice gesture. I think it would be great to sponsor a ticket for someone else. In doing so, the event could become a giving opportunity aside from an opportunity to reconnect with people.

The organizing school district has to spend the money on outreach to connect with as many alumni as possible. In addition to the costs, alumni decide whether or not they should attend based on who else is going. Rather than let this chicken or the egg conundrum derail a memorable event, it may be best to utilize the tools that are readily available.

The Network Effect

What if the school district dispensed with most of the one-to-one outreach and didn't build a dedicated website? What if the school district tapped into the power of the Network Effect and simply made RSVP tickets available on their Facebook Page knowing alumni are already connected between one to six degrees of separation?

Conflating the one-to-one outreach, construction of a dedicated website and a RSVP system all into a single mechanism, that resides on a platform in pervasive use by the alumni already, would drastically reduce the costs for schools. Let's look at how that could be done...

1. The vast majority of professionals use the employment social network LinkedIn and list their school affiliation as part of their online resume. LinkedIn offers the ability to connect Twitter and Facebook account activities to a LinkedIn account.

2. A school district official can search LinkedIn by school name to discover a handful of alumni. By establishing a new connection between school and alumni each party's activities are shared. The school reunion announcement does not need to be made immediately. The school can let LinkedIn's social algorithm percolate and automatically discover additional alumni.

3. During this "percolation period" the school need only to connect its LinkedIn account with its official Facebook Page and begin to push status updates in both directions.

4. With LinkedIn and Facebook connected, the reunion announcement can be made. The alumni see and share the announcement across both platforms. Further event awareness is made with social signaling or "Likes" ("Jane Smith likes the Wyomissing School District's update"). More and more alumni become aware of the event and the likelihood of them attending is higher since they can see their fellow classmates RSVP in real-time.

5. It is at this point the school can make use of online ticketing software that is fully integrated with Facebook - no dedicated website needed. When the alumni commit to attending the reunion using the ticking software, they will have another opportunity to further increase event awareness via the ticketing software's social sharing tools.

School Reunion Software

Prompt to let us help you with your school reunionA trifecta of tools - online event management, ticket sales directly from a Facebook Page, and additional social sharing via email receipts, are offered by some of the online ticketing software companies. But only ThunderTix has the trifecta of tools plus the school budget friendly feature of no per-ticket fees. We also offer the additional benefit of plans & pricing especially tailored to schools and ticketing software for non-profits. Schools can avoid the time consuming and costly tasks like building websites and contacting alumni one-at-a-time, by simply letting our technology do the heavy lifting.