Anniversaries can be exciting and poignant for nonprofit organizations. A well-planned anniversary celebration can build authority and trust by highlighting a nonprofit’s past accomplishments, as well as draw new interest and excitement for your future initiatives.
Organizations must remember, however, that simply celebrating an anniversary isn’t guaranteed to engage and revitalize your audience. The key to a successful anniversary celebration is to show the impact you have made and invite your audience to help push even further for your mission. An anniversary should be as much about the upcoming years as the ones before.
Make It Matter
To drive excitement, you need to show your audience why they should care about this milestone. The two most important questions to ask when considering an anniversary celebration are…
1. What accomplishments and progress are you celebrating?
2. What are our goals for this event or campaign?
Whether you want to engage existing donors, build brand awareness, or raise funds, your campaign should have concrete goals to guide your plans. You must harness the excitement and energy around your celebration to take the next steps in your mission.
What Are You Celebrating?
Your anniversary campaign should shed light on the past to generate excitement and interest in your work. It’s a little like when a speaker is being introduced. To get the audience’s attention and trust, the introduction highlights the individual’s accomplishments and qualifications. The audience is given reason to trust this source and follow their lead.
So what accomplishments should you share to build interest and passion around your work?
One of the most common ways to highlight impact is to give your audience the big numbers. It could be the total number of people you’ve helped, the number of hours volunteered, or any other impact metrics you have. This can reveal the scope of your work over the years.
While impressive statistics are worth including, most people won’t be emotionally moved by them. This is why you should expand on these facts by sharing individual stories and anecdotes. It’s great to hear that your organization raised $5 million for cancer research, but what people will remember and care about is the little girl who has gone into remission with one of the treatments you funded.
Episcopal Relief and Development, a nonprofit fighting poverty, hunger, and disease in nearly 40 countries is celebrating its 75th anniversary. To show the scope of their impact, they are sharing 75 stories from their work, featuring individuals Episcopal Relief and Development have served.
Another way to generate excitement and pride in your organization is to show how far you’ve come. When a nonprofit has been around for 10, 20, or 50 years, it can be powerful to show your audience where it all started. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco created an interactive timeline to show how far they’ve come in 25 years.
While anniversary celebrations can stir up some interest in a cause, the organization still faces the task of channeling that excitement into action. One way to do this is by creating a fundraising campaign around your milestone anniversary. After highlighting the success you’ve achieved, donors may be more receptive to giving because they can feel a part of that success. This is a great chance to recapture lapsed donors or promote your recurring giving program.
The Akilah Institute for Women educates and helps women launch professional careers in Rwanda and Berundi. For their fifth anniversary, they promoted monthly giving in conjunction with a $2 million capital campaign.
Depending on how many years you’re celebrating, you can link it to a fundraising goal or suggested donation. For example, The Arts Alliance celebrated their 10th anniversary by offering supporters a membership in exchange for a $10 gift.
Another way to direct the excitement around your anniversary is to introduce a new goal or initiative, whether it’s building 500 homes or doubling the number of vaccines you administer. Use the joy of past success to mobilize people for a new challenge.
With some forethought and creativity, anniversaries can be great rallying points for nonprofits. But interest and participation is not guaranteed. When planning an anniversary celebration, remember to use your past success to fuel future progress.