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Nine Ways to Raise Funds

How do you raise the money to fund your family reunion? Here are some ways to try.

An afternoon barbecue may only cost the price of invitations and food. A longer reunion held at a resort can cost considerably more. If you need money to hold your reunion, you can get it with one (or more) of these tried-and-true methods.

1. Ask for Donations

Once you have a budget, divide up the cost among participating family members and ask family members to contribute. They will usually be happy to pay their share of the costs, especially if they know what it will go for and they feel they are getting something useful. Include a note with the invitation or ask for contributions during the program at the reunion. Have a box or other place where people can deposit their money. It can be helpful to provide a copy of the budget near the box so people can inspect it.

2. Charge Admission

Once you have a budget, divide up the cost among the expected number of attendees. On the invitations, write "Adults: $5, Children under 12: $2" or whatever price you need to set. Be sure to explain clearly what the fee does not include such as travel expenses, lodging or the like. Collect the admission price at the registration table and stamp hands or give name badges to people who pay.

3. Sell T-shirts and Other Goodies

T-shirts, caps and other items that strengthen your family's sense of belonging can also help raise the cash for the reunion. You can set the price of the items high enough to make a profit that will pay for the reunion. It's a good idea to let family members know that you are raising funds in this manner; it will help them feel good about the price they pay for the items.

4. Sell Advertising

If you have a large family reunion you may be able to sell advertising to businesses. You'll likely print a program for a large reunion. You'll also have signs and other printed materials. You can sell ads in the program and on your signs. You can sell ads on huge banners that you'll display at the reunion. You can sell the space on the back of your t-shirts, as many youth league sports teams do, with the words "Sponsored by [name of company]."

The easiest businesses to target are the ones owned by family members. When you approach family members who are business owners, be careful to let them know this is an option, not something they have to do. Otherwise you may alienate them. If they're good business people, they'll know whether it makes sense to advertise their particular products and services to the family.

5. Hold a Raffle

Ask family members or approach local businesses to contribute items for a raffle. Explain the advertising value to them. (The larger the reunion, the more interested businesses will be.) Then sell tickets for, say, $5 a piece at the registration table. Later during the program, hold a drawing to distribute the prizes. Be sure to check with local authorities that raffles are legal in the location where you're holding the reunion.

6. Hold an Auction

An auction requires you to get donated items from family members and local businesses in the same way a raffle does. To get the best price for items, it helps to have a talented auctioneer who can help raise bids. Alternatively you can hold a silent auction by putting a bid sheet next to each item and letting people record their bids. An auction can raise quite a bit of money and be a fun part of the family reunion program.

7. Collect Coins

Ask family members to save their spare change and contribute toward the family reunion. You might consider sending a container to each family or giving families that attend the reunion a container to save for the following reunion. When family members empty their coins into the container, they'll know they are going toward a good cause. They're especially likely to contribute if the reunion will be a vacation for all.

8. Hold a Bake Sale or Car Wash

Teenagers, especially, can enjoy holding a cousins fund raiser. They can do it during the reunion so you don't have to get them together on a separate occasion. A bake sale can include goodies that family members bake as well as candies and other items. If your family has compiled a cookbook, it's worth it to put some copies on the baked goods table, especially if the cookbook contains the recipes for them. That way, those who want recipes can buy the cookbook. If you do a car wash, keep small children away for their own safety.

9. Raid Your Own Pocket

If you are financially well off and the reunion is relatively small you may wish to pay the expenses yourself. It's simple and hassle-free. It's a good idea to keep track of expenses even if you don't care how much the reunion costs because your accountant may be able to deduct some of them at tax time. Some families form a charitable family organization to make contributions tax deductible.

Combine Methods

You can combine several methods to raise funds. It's almost certain that you'll contribute a bit of your own out-of-pocket cash just because it solves problems easily. Adding an admission fee, selling t-shirts and holding a raffle or auction all raise additional money. Each method takes time and effort, however, so you'll either need to put someone in charge of fund raising or limit the number of efforts you make.

What to Do with Leftover Money

If you raise more cash than you need for the reunion, consider holding onto it to fund the next reunion. Or you can make a family contribution to a favorite charity. You probably don't want to just stick it in your own pocket since some family member is likely to spread rumors that you are enriching yourself at the family's expense--even if the money is well-deserved for all the effort you put into planning and holding the reunion.