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Family Reunion Forum

Re: When Family Members Don't Respond

I agree with the points made but I also feel strongly that "adults" ought to be more responsible. Granted some folks are last minute types; however, depending on the geographical location for the reunion it is almost imperative that you have a fairly decent idea of how many plan to attend for preliminary planning purposes. For example, if reunion events are to be held off site (and not at the hotel), it is necessary to know how many are planning to attend in order to secure the right sized venue. I am the coordinator for our Neal Reunion being planned for July 2008 in the San Francisco area. I say San Francisco area because lodging and other costs in San Francisco proper are sky high. We identified a really nice hotel just outside the city boundary and only a few miles from the airport that offered us a decent rate (that only came about through my work relationships and networking). However, even their banquet or ballroom capacity is not large enough for the number I believe eventually will attend so I'm having to try to find other local venues that are nice and would fit our needs. That also means having to identify good, local and hopefully Black owned caterers to handle the meals.

Like others, I'd sent a "Response Form" and asked that it be returned by a certain date, explaining why the information was needed. Word got back to me from a couple of quarters that some just can't plan that far in advance. One relative e-mailed me that she would not know until one month before the reunion if she would attend. That simply is not acceptable. These no longer are the days when we had a family gathering at someone's house, family members prepared the food and because they lived nearby could always come up with extra on short notice if need be.

What those family members who do not respond seemingly fail to realize or appreciate is the undue stress and strain their lack of response puts on the "volunteer" planning committee or reunion coordinator. That is one reason I feel certain that young family members (who have stepped up and coordinated prior reunions) no longer want to be involved. I mentioned to my cousin who coordinated our 2006 reunion (that was held in the Baltimore area) that I hope to find a way to diplomatically let family members know -- if you all want the reunions to continue, we need full cooperation. And it goes even further - in order to set registration fees that will cover reunion expenses, you need to know how many are planning to attend. Re: our 2006 reunion, the coordinator had indicated the fees had been set based on "full participation." Well, full participation did not occur (and some people had not responded to let her know yea or nay about intending to attend). End result: she ended up covering a big deficit. That is not fair. That large of a deficit could have been avoided if people had replied with their best guess as to whether or not they planned to attend. That would have given her a better idea on setting registration fees. In my request I stressed their response was not a commitment but just to give us a decent estimate. It is understood that some who responded "Yes" might not be able to attend and some who responded "No" may in fact find out later that they can attend. But for the most part I believe the majority of responses generally are accurate.

Granted the coordinator may not have to provide the final head count to the caterer until a few days before the event, but to factor that catering cost into the registration fee schedule, you need to have a pretty good idea of how many will be present for those catered meals. That will give you a good estimate as to the final total catering cost so that amount can become a part of the reunion budget and, by extension, factored into the registration fee schedule. A similar thing occurs when working on a room block at a hotel. You need to have a good idea of how many rooms to include in that block and as well be fairly certain all the rooms will, in fact, be booked. Normally, unbooked rooms result in a penalty fee that must be paid.

As we all know, planning a reunion can be a very detailed and overwhelming job. We want it to be successful and for that to happen requires a lot of hard work, foresight, and planning, especially in terms of activities for all ages that will be in attendance.

As I've mentioned to a few family members, I want our 2008 reunion to be really special (since it will be the first time it's been held in San Francisco - long time home to my father and three of his brothers -- all now deceased). I want it to be nice but I also want it to be over! (smile) I've already given the word that I will not be coordinating another reunion. I'd given that word to the other side of my family a few years back, as well. It is a monumental task, especially if it is in addition to working your regular 9 to 5.

But as someone mentioned, when the reunion is successful and you see how much it is enjoyed especially by the family elders, it can make all the work feel worthwhile, at least in the short term.

I think we just need to find a way somehow to educate family members about being responsive. Some of those same family members probably are quite responsive when it comes to business deadlines -- I would think they could act the same with regards to family matters like reunions. Well, I think I've probably said enough.

Good luck to everyone with your respective reunions.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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