Increase donations. Build relationships. Inspire supporters.
By Shellie Speer, Senior Vice President, BDI Academy
Whether your organization has an upcoming milestone year ending in a 0 or 5 – or any year in between – please don’t let an anniversary pass by without celebrating! It’s a great opportunity to increase donations, build relationships and inspire supporters.
There are several reasons why your organization should recognize your achievements. Celebrating milestones…
- Stimulates a sense of pride with the community and your key stakeholders
- Acknowledges those who have been involved in your successes
- Builds faith in your organization’s abilities
- Is a way to share your vision for future growth
- Sets expectations for other achievements to come
However, to fully utilize these opportunities, you have to plan ahead. That’s my number one tip: devise a strategic plan well in advance that can be implemented throughout your anniversary year. Planning is critical!
There are countless ways to celebrate an organizational milestone. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:
1. Design a special logo and tagline.
This promotes your anniversary and should replace or accompany your standard logo wherever it is used. The new logo could be included on:
- Letterhead, business cards and other printed materials
- Direct mail appeals and newsletters
- Website and social media platforms
- Materials from any partner organizations
2. Produce a documentary.
Don’t let this idea intimidate you! There are plenty of local companies that can help put together a documentary about your organization. Video is a powerful way to educate people about how your organization has helped shape the community over the years. Discuss how times have changed and how your organization changed with them.
Your documentary can be shown on local television stations, by corporate sponsors to their employees, by churches, at events, and on your website and social media. Also be sure to upload it to YouTube and share the link with your donors.
A documentary is also a great platform to make a case for support that may require a little more explanation. For example, when someone uses a rescue mission’s services, it costs the community nothing. However, when someone is incarcerated, taxpayers cover the costs. This point may be difficult to get across in print or digital communication, but it could work well in a documentary.
3. Get major donors involved.
We all know how powerful word of mouth endorsements can be! Your major donors (that includes board members) can reach other people like no one else can. They have connections and influence in the community and can engage like-minded individuals and corporations with your mission and vision. Encourage your major donors to host events to engage potential new supporters. People are more likely to donate if they know their peers are doing the same!
4. Run a social media campaign.
Get online to celebrate your anniversary! You can set up a special page on Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube to post videos and share details of events. This is also a great place to build credibility by sharing the history of your organization. Post historical photos of other milestones and key events from your organization’s past, so people have a better understanding of how far you’ve come.
Also consider running a Facebook promotion to increase your reach. You could challenge current “Friends” to invite a certain number of people to join your cause in honor of the anniversary. Each person who participates could be entered into a drawing for a prize. For more tips about growing your online presence, check out this article about what to post on different social media platforms.
5. Book advertising space.
This is a great way to promote your milestone. You could look at space on billboards, benches and buses, local newspapers, television and radio stations – then decide what works best for your organization and budget. Also consider hanging special flags or banners with your anniversary logo around your facilities.
6. Coordinate public relations efforts.
It’s important to let the wider community know about your milestone. Send press releases and secure feature articles. Request your mayor or governor to issue a proclamation about your anniversary. You could incorporate this into a special event to attract more media attention.
Also ask for endorsements from prominent individuals in the community, such as a politician, police chief, congressmen, TV personalities, athletes, large corporations/CEOs, etc. These endorsements can then be posted on social media and used in brochures and newsletters to increase your organization’s credibility.
7. Host an open house.
Invite the community into your facilities to see your work in person. You can also incorporate volunteer opportunities into such an event. For example, a food bank could open its doors for people to walk through its facility and then help prepare food boxes for people experiencing hunger in the community. This is a great way to gain buy-in and a greater understanding about your day-to-day needs and operations.
8. Send a special direct mail appeal.
Don’t forget to send out mail during the month of your anniversary! Set a response deadline as the last day of the month to increase urgency. The letter should discuss why the occasion is significant and include a special ask that ties in with the milestone.
For example, if your organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary, you could ask for an additional $20 gift. Want to learn more? Check out this article about why direct mail is so important for fundraising.
However your organization decides to celebrate an upcoming milestone, please remember that advanced planning will be critical to your success. You’ll need time for designing, printing, coordinating and getting key stakeholders involved and up to speed – and all that always takes longer than you think. Yet, when you have a strategic plan in place and the commitment to make it happen, a milestone campaign can make a lasting impact on the real and perceived health of your organization. You can read more about that impact in this article. It can raise much-needed funds, foster community partnerships and set the foundation for years of future growth. It may be a little extra work, but it will be worth it!