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The Annual Herding of Cats – The Homecoming Event (350 to 550 alumni returning)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Member Organization: University of Georgia – Redcoat Band Alumni Association
Email: (Contact Your NAoAB Regional Officer)
Background: Involved with the Alumni Band Board for about 15 years; about 10 years as Homecoming Chair

INTRODUCTION TO ISSUE

Maximizing participation in Homecoming, as well as contributing to fundraising efforts for the current band.

THE CHALLENGES

  • “Changing the culture” – In addition to having a rewarding event to bring back alumni, spotlight the group mission of raising donations for the band.
  • With the growing success of the football program, a greater percentage of the stadium seats are sold for the season and less seats are available for the alumni band block.  We don’t control ticket prices, seat location, and other logistics.      
  • Registration with game ticket deadlines for the alumni block is July1. Most don’t know their Fall schedule yet (kids soccer, lessons, etc.). Registration with obtaining tickets elsewhere tend to spike at the last minute, causing last minute activities and question handling.
  • Getting members to read and follow directions.     
  • Early registrations with non-refundable ticket purchases can be problematic when committing to something that far out.  Tickets are nonrefundable however, what happens if members have a schedule change (12 noon game vs 8:00 pm game)? 
  • As schools and football programs expand, traditions, procedures and tv control more of the day’s schedule.

THE OPTIONS CONSIDERED

  • Homecoming committee with year round tasks
  • Enlarge the participants as the event gets closer
  • Outside vendors 

THE OPTION TAKEN AND REASONS WHY

What was the plan? A mix of all of the options:  

  • Homecoming Event Committee – Homecoming planning is generally not a task for more than a handful of people.  (or the Chair perform the task spread out over several weeks).
  • Packet preparation – Tickets, envelopes, name tags, field field credentials, etc. could be accomplished by a larger group of volunteers, but with volunteers spread out all over the State (and some out of State) it is easier for 2-3 people to perform the task spread out over time.
  • Paperless and videos – Schedules, music, rehearsal clips, marching charts, maps, and auxiliary routine videos are all available from the alumni band web site.  
  • Outside vendors – Uniforms and field credential vendors that are reliable and satisfy our deadlines.
  • Replaced the 4” x 3” name tags with a souvenir personalized field credentials to raise the quality of the alumni experience.
  • Enlarge the volunteer group the day of the event – assignments for all Board members and others volunteering the day of event works well for us.
  • Backup knowledge – Ensure at least 1 other person familiar with the overall process for a succession or emergency plan
  • Allow ticket exchanges between early registrants and later registrant up to 10 days before the event.  Those offering tickets satisfy those needing tickets – both due to schedule changes. 
  • Twenty years of photos – Consider adding photos – Extensive photo collection each year posted on the RBAA Alumni Band website and Facebook page.  We make every effort to get both candid and posed photos of everyone so they can remember the day fondly.  Make an effort to take photos of band legacies – multiple generations.
  • Questions – Answered by dedicated people responding to a dedicated email, and monitoring social media (where the most bizarre questions arise).
  • Fundraising – Reporting annually each year how much was raised for the band and a recognition program has raised the level of donations and awareness of the mission.
  • Relationships – Close personal relationships and open communications with the band organization and athletics is needed.

THE RESULTS

Donations – The deliberate focus on giving back to the current marching band has resulted in 99% of the event performers donating annually through the event. 

 The Band Family – The Redcoat Alumni Board has been blessed with great volunteers on the day of the event and they are always eager to pitch in and do whatever is asked to make the day go as smoothly as possible.  Every little  contact with an alumni member should be regarded as a recruiting opportunity for involvement and increased engagement as well as contributions.  

Tradition and Uniform – The move to a red and black alumni uniform for musicians and auxiliaries has immediately produced a sharper looking performance – something of which the group and Athletics can be proud.  The same uniform is required for pep band gigs throughout the year.

Numbers – Annual participation has remained constant (300-350, with the 40th and 45th Anniversaries higher).  

Embrace the mantra, “You must value your experience in the band, or you wouldn’t be spending the time, expense, and effort to return for the privilege of performing at a game.”  Attempt to do whatever is in your purview to make it an enjoyable day where they would want to return annually.

Non-quantifiable smiles –  It is readily apparent from the attitudes and looks on their faces how happy they are to be back to visit with friends and take in the experience again.  The obvious joy, hugs, and general appreciation from the vast majority demonstrates that with very few exceptions, members are happy to be participating.          

Gameday Teams – We get to meet and build friendships and new working relationships with band members from every generation.  The smoother and more positive the gameday experience becomes, the more appealing it is to return in subsequent years.

THE COST INVOLVED

For members:

$30 for shirt (can be used every year), and personal black shoes and pants.

$75 SEC football ticket for participant, and $75 for family/guests each

$35 minimum donation for registration (approx. $25 goes to the band, the remaining $10 for expenses for web hosting, field passed, office supplies, other direct costs, etc.).  Donations above the minimum goes to scholarship funds and band capital projects.  

Chick-Fil-A breakfast and shuttle buses from practice field to Stadium provided by the Redcoat Band (the Redcoats do not practice that day, so the Alumni Band gets their allocation).

With the minimum fee, the Homecoming event is self-funded and self-sustaining.  

Participants must find their own hotels, etc. if needed.   

For Alumni Board:

We have been fortunate to keep overall expenses just under $1,000.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS OPTION TO OTHERS

  • This Homecoming committee option is adjusted every year, in conjunction with the Band Staff, Athletics, volunteers and game day details.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • The annual Homecoming gather of friends from the band family is priceless to the members.
  • The transportation to and from the band practice field located away from the Stadium has presented challenges.  It requires shuttle buses (so far covered by the band) for transportation after the morning practice.  
  • Using the band shuttles largely eliminates fellowship with the current student musicians.  This can result in a palpable disconnect between the 2 groups.  Make every effort to mingle with the current students wherever possible (post-game, etc.).    
  • Homecoming is not cheap – planning is needed to make it worthwhile for alumni so they will invest their time and money to return and support the current band.   
  • Attempt to develop relationships with the Foundation arm of the school for assistance where needed.  
  • Be patient with members. The committee know all the details that can change every year.  Planning is needed to disseminate those details and answer questions for all stakeholders.

WHY THIS TOPIC IS OF INTEREST FOR A VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLE

  • Of interest to newly formed alumni bands and certain procedure for established alumni bands.
  • 2020 health discussions will be fruitful to cover obvious changes due to government and school mandates that relate to groups and gatherings.   
  • To compare successes as well as weaknesses can influence universal best industry practices.
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