Class of '65 Case Study
The Class of '65 site at hr65.org was the first site based on the template to go live. I thought it might be useful to record our experience with the template for the benefit of other classes using it. Note that, because we were first, we spent a good deal of time dealing with glitches in the template, which have now been fixed, so that subsequent classes shouldn't have to worry about them.
This article is a work in progress. I will update it as we get more experience.
This turned out to be much easier than I'd anticipated. I knew of a few classmates who had written books but I found a lot more by going through the last five years of Class Notes from Harvard Magazine. Because the magazine is online, that turned out to be much easier than you'd expect. The whole five years worth of notes appears on a single page and all you have to do is to scan down looking for the italics used for the names of publications.
(In order to access the Class Notes on Harvard Magazine, you have to register with their system, which can take a few days. This is not the same as registering with post.harvard.edu.)
Once I'd combined the results of the Class Notes search with my own knowledge I had a very respectable 50+ books on the site.
I would estimate that using the helper program described here, the whole process could be accomplished in a single day.
Note that it may seem complicated to get an Amazon Associates account but that only takes a few minutes and the browser tool bar that they provide greatly simplifies the process of building links to the books.
Also, some sort of photo-editing software is needed to retouch book photographs downloaded from Amazon. I used Photoshop but I'm sure that many simpler and cheaper programs would do just fine for this simple task. (Anyone who uses something else might let us know what it is.)
Creative Works Page
I had thought that this page might be a challenge but, once I had mentioned the site to a few people and asked them to spread the word to their friends - mentioning the request for creative works, I soon had enough material to launch the site. I found that classmates were delighted to have their work publicized and were very helpful about supplying photographs and media files.
Ask your HAA Representative for an Excel spreadsheet with a list of the deceased members of your class. Make sure it includes the date of death. Once you have this it's pretty straightforward to set up the list. hr65 used a format that lists the classmates by year, and then a separate page with an alphabetical listing.
This seems to be an uphill battle. We seeded the forum with a couple of discussions and have had a few replies but not much. We also announce classmate deaths in the forum.
We activated the poll and asked about one of the books we were assigned to read before we came to Harvard in 1961. We've had about 15% of the class respond and about 75% of them actually read the book on time.
News from Harvard Magazine
It's easy to include the relevant news from Harvard Magazine. There are instructions for doing this in the suggestions for specific pages section of the documentation.
Coordination with Reunion Committee
It pays to be in touch with your reunion chairs. They will help spread the word and will have lots of good suggestions.
We had about 20 users that we got by word of mouth, before we launched the site. The experience of signing these people up was very helpful when it came to dealing with larger numbers later on.
Announcing the Site
We announced the site in December (about 10 months before our 45th reunion). The initial announcement was an email that reached about 700 classmates. From that group we got about 140 registrants over the following month. Here's a copy of the email we used.
In February we sent an email to the entire class that promoted the Web site and had information about the reunion and class events. You can see a Web version of the letter here. That mailing produced another 30 or so registrations at the site.
We also mentioned the site on the "Save the date" card that was sent to the class in January.
In March, we tested two formats for the newsletter: One was identical to the February letter and the other was much simpler. We tracked both the number of times the letters were opened and the clicks on the various links in the letters. The simpler format outdrew the fancy format by more than two to one. You can see a Web version of the simpler format here.
The click counts were revealing. We got 122 clicks on the link that led to a list or classmates intending to attend the reunion. We got 35 clicks on a link to a video of a classmate appearing on The Daily Show. After that the counts dropped off quickly. In other words, people wanted to know who was coming to the reunion and what other classmates were up to.
By mid-April we had 270 registered users. At the time of the reunion in October, we had 401 registered users.
The Hunt for Email Addresses
113 of the emails we sent out in February bounced because of bad addresses. We wrote a personalized letter to each of those individuals and got a 40% response giving us up-to-date email addresses.
At the start of the process we had 313 classmates for whom we had no email address. We sent each of them a personalized letter asking for an email address and got a 9% response. When the responses came in with email addresses I sent each of them a thank-you note with links to the web version of the last email newsletter and to the class web site. This resulted in quite a number of registrations at the site - more than we got from the larger number of bounced email replies, which were not followed up with a thank you.
By mid-April we were up from 700 good email addresses to 850; and by the end of April to 900.
Classmates who hope/plan to attend the reunion
We maintained an online list of classmates who hope/plan to attend the reunion on the "45th Reunion Attendees" page. Some of the names were the people who indicated on hr65.org that they wanted to come. Others came from our class representative at the HAA. What I didn't discover till well into the process was that the HAA list only included people who returned the physical postcard. It did not include the people who filled in the electronic equivalent of the postcard at the Class Report Site. You have to contact the Class Report Office to get those names.
Also, see How to add non-user attendees for information on how to include classmates who haven't registered with your web site on the list of reunion attendees.