Family Reunions - Part 2 - Fundraising and Genealogy | The Armchair Genealogist
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Family Reunions - Part 2 - Fundraising and Genealogy

In yesterday’s post, I gave you a look into our Kowalsky family reunion.  The large weekend affair has incorporated many a fun event. I also gave you some of my tips for organizing a reunion. Today, I would like to focus in on some of the fundraising we have done in the past and how it has helped offset the costs of our reunion making them affordable. As well how we incorporate our genealogy into some of our events in order to keep our family history alive. 

Yard Sales

One of our first fundraisers was a family yard sale. The family in Canada donated household items for a giant sale while the family in the United States did the same.  We raised about a $1000.00, however, this was a lot of work. As the years passed, we got smarter.

The Silent Auction

Now our biggest fundraiser is a silent auction. Months in advance, family members are encouraged to create a hand-made item to put on the auction table. The kind of things we see on the table include, knitting, painting, woodworking, jewellery, stained glass windows, stepping stones, framed pictures etc. We have some very talented people in our family and usually there a number of items that become hot items. Bidding usually starts by mid-day on Saturday with the bids closing out by Sunday afternoon.  We usually raise over $2000.00 and the money goes into the bank to get us started on the next reunion.

A Family Cookbook

 Although a family cookbook is a small fundraiser, because frankly the cost of producing the book leaves little room for profit, however, they are very popular. Family members submit their favourite recipes to a co-ordinator months in advance. They are then printed and sold at the reunion. I would advise taking pre-orders so you don’t have too many leftovers sitting in your basement. This was also a wonderful way to incorporate genealogy, as many old-fashioned handed down recipes showed up in the book. The book was also filled with trivia questions about the family. We held a contest, if you mingle throughout the crowd during the weekend and answered all the questions you got a prize.

The Quilt

One year I brought fabric paints, and a whole bunch of fabric squares. We set up a table in the shade and throughout the weekend, the children were encouraged to be creative on the fabric squares.  At the end of the weekend, we gathered up the squares and took them home. Five years later, we returned with all those squares sewn together in the form of a quilt. We sold raffle tickets for the quilt and it soon became the prized possession for one of my cousins.  She says she will hold onto it for a few years, (she has it displayed on a wall in a guest bedroom and her guests say it even glows in the dark). She intends on returning it to the reunion at some point in the future and raffling it off again to another family member. 

The Family History Genealogy Table and DVD 

In recent years, we started a genealogy table, with pedigree charts and pictures, in future years, we will offer updates to the family history book and display any new genealogy finds we have made over the past 5 years.
Some wonderful ideas for incorporating genealogy into your reunion can also include a slide show. Last year, we did this at the Kowalsky Reunion. Family members were encouraged to bring past family reunion photos on a CD, in the evening; we projected them in a slide show on the side of the barn.

For the Desmarais family reunion, that only took place a few short weeks ago, we took this one-step further.  My uncle was known for taking 8mm videos at family reunions. We took those old films to a professional photographer and turned them into a DVD. This cost us approximately $200.00. At the family reunion, we also had our own little drive-in theatre and projected the movies onto the side of the barn. After the movie, we sold copies for $10.00 each.  They sold out and we more than covered the cost of transferring the 8mm to DVD format. 

In terms of genealogy, the DVD is a wonderful way to share a family history. Those 8mm tapes had images of ancestors long gone, including a great-grandmother and great-grandfather that many of us had never met, as well as an aunt and a couple of uncles who had past along with grandparents who had passed over 40 years ago. It brought back great memories for many of us, and for the younger generation, it introduced them to ancestors they had only heard about.

The Penny Sale 

The Penny Sale, this is a popular fundraiser at the Vaillancourt Family Reunion.  The kids really enjoy it; however, it does not make as much money as the silent auction. Everyone is asked to bring an item to donate to the table, than family members buy penny sale cards. At the end of the day, winners are announced.

A Photographer 

If you have a family member that is a great photographer, I encourage you to set up an area for family photos. As the family historian, I loved this idea. We recently did this at Desmarais Family Reunion and now I have an updated copy of everyone for my genealogy database and my next family history book. One family member took the pictures another set up the people for the shoot so it moved along nice and quickly and didn’t consume the day.

The Desmarais Sisters

Finally, I want to touch on a comment from a reader yesterday, who said her family had lost interest in their family reunion.  She wanted some ideas. My first thought is don’t hold your reunions every year,  they become tiresome, spread them out every 3 or 5 years, and turn them into a event that family members do not want to miss out on. I would suggest a Family Reunion Facebook page. This is a great way to keep family up to date on the plans and create some excitement.  For our family, competitive as they are, it usually results in some challenges as we move closer to the big day. 

Getting the next generation involved is highly important to sustaining a family reunion throughout future years, and making sure the task does not fall to the same few people continually keeps the family from burning out.  
Reunion planning is a large task, but very rewarding, and I know appreciated by your family.