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Club Event and Class Mini-Reunion combined at Art Exhibit

Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Cost to attend: Low (slightly higher for non-Club members)

Event: A regional Yale Club and the Yale Class of 1988 collaborated to stage an special evening event: A visit to an exhibit of art work by an internationally recognized Yale graduate, with a talk by the artist, at a premier art museum in Washington, DC (June 2009). The event served as both Club event and Class of ‘88 mini-reunion.

Lead time: 3 months
Date of event: June 2009

Resources:
2 lead volunteers – 42 hours
1 volunteer – 2 hours
1 speaker – 2 hours (preparation and speaking)
1 club paid staff – 4 hours

Results: 150 people attended, including alumni and guests. Of these, a total of 53 were affiliated with the Class of 1988. The event raised $3000.

(What is a mini-reunion? Regular Class Reunions are held every 5 years at the end of May or early June in New Haven, Connecticut, the home of Yale University. Mini-reunions are smaller gatherings, usually held in different years, at different times, in different locations. Mini-reunions are sometimes held to generate enthusiasm for an upcoming Class Reunion. Sometimes they are held as a follow up that builds on the enthusiasm generated by a recent Class Reunion. Sometimes they are held to build friendships and camaraderie among “local” classmates.)

Why a success? The Class of 1988 was able to hold a memorable mini-reunion in a unique setting at a reasonable cost. The Yale Club of Washington DC was able to hold a memorable event in a unique setting with much of the initial leg-work being done by someone else. The “guaranteed” minimum attendance which made the event possible could only have been achieved through such a cooperative effort. This event also allowed each group to extend its networking reach, as well as generate a greater feeling of inclusion and connectivity.

Although not intended as a fund-raiser, the marketing synergies ended up with greater than expected attendance, and a “profit” of $3,000 for the Club.

Details: Background: Maya Lin ’81 BA, ’86 MArch is an internationally recognized artist. She is also a Yale graduate who has served on the governing board of Yale University (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Lin). Her exhibit Systematic Landscapes was being shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from March 14, 2009 — July 12, 2009. The Corcoran is a premier art museum that was one of the first fine art galleries established in the U.S. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corcoran_Gallery_of_Art). The Corcoran is often used for exclusive major private functions, including receptions and weddings of up to 1500 attendees. Ms. Lin (based in New York City) is at times in Washington, DC for service on various commissions.

The Event: On June 18, 2009, the Corcoran Gallery stayed open beyond the normal 6 p.m. for this special alumni event. Yale alumni got their name tags and began viewing the exhibit. Ms. Lin had a break from her service on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and joined the group at 7 p.m., spoke in the main foyer for 25 minutes, and returned to her prior commitment. Yale Club members and guests enjoyed light hors d’ouevres and refreshments (including wine, beer, and soda), seeing the exhibit, hearing from the artist, and networking with alumni.

In addition, members of the Class of 1988 found it easy to gather at one end of the bar and enjoy a mini-reunion.

Registration for the event was per person, collected by the Yale Club both online and via checks: $25 for young alums (and guests), $30 for current Yale Club members (and guests), and $35 for other alumni (and guests).

The Corcoran ordinarily charges $10 per person to visit the museum. A group rate was obtained, with no deposit required because of the expected attendance. The Corcoran also charged a reasonable facility fee which included bar set up and bartender. Atypically, but because of the nature of the event, the Corcoran allowed the Club to bring in their own wine, beer and soda at substantial savings. (Per pre-arrangement, the Corcoran was paid a week after the event.)

Reasons for the Collaboration between the Class and the Club: A volunteer from the Class of 1988 learned of the Maya Lin Exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery and thought it would be a good setting for a mini-reunion. This volunteer made initial contact with the artist and the Gallery, but could not guarantee a large enough attendance to make the event feasible. The Class of ’88 volunteer then contacted the Yale Club of Washington, DC to collaborate on the event. With the Yale Club as sponsor, a larger audience would be invited, and a larger attendance guaranteed.

Resources needed: Much of the initial work was done by a volunteer from the Class of ’88 who spent about 30 hours of time over 3 months, making arrangements and drumming up Class interest. In addition, a lead volunteer from the local Yale Club (the Vice-President of Programs) spent about 12 hours, another Yale Club volunteer spent 2 hours, and the Yale Club Administrator (paid staff) spent about 4 hours.

Yale University itself (and the AYA) was not involved. No money was required up front.

Announcements were emailed to 7000 local alumni, including 100 local members of the Class of 1988. The event was also posted to the Yale Club website.

The Corcoran Gallery understood that they would be mentioned in the announcements, and the Gallery Development Office knew this would be worthwhile publicity. The Gallery was kept in the loop as registrations grew and cooperated in pricing and billing.

Metrics: 150 people attended, including alumni and guests. Of these, a total of 53 were affiliated with the Class of 1988 (including 31 members of the Class of 1988 and 22 spouses and friends).

For comparison, there are about 100 members of the Class of 1988 living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, so 30% attended this mini-reunion. A total of 11,000 Yale alumni (with all manner of affiliation) live in the Washington, DC area. The Yale Club of Washington, DC has valid email addresses for about 7,000 of these.

The registration fee was designed for break even at 60 to 80 attendees. However, because of better than expected attendance and good management, the Yale Club made a profit of almost $3,000.

Possible improvements: In addition to emails, a special postcard invitation send by regular mail might increase attendance at such a special event.