Celebrating Milestones

A funny thing happened to me last week. My oldest child turned 10. I know, really it happened to her. But it's strange for me to think about the changes the last ten years have brought to my life as a direct result of her presence. In a very real way, I owe her much of my progress as a writer and creative consultant to nonprofits. Having her was an earth-shattering, highly focusing experience.

So after the dust settled from her sleepover party and all-around over-the-top birthday celebrations with family and friends subsided, I decided to take a few minutes to celebrate my own journey over the last ten years, reflect on what I've achieved, and plan for the next decade.

The process is ongoing for me, but it also made me think about my clients and their upcoming milestones. So much excitement and opportunity -- so how can we take advantage of it?

Does your nonprofit have a big anniversary coming up?

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect on the past and set new goals for the future -- individually and for nonprofit organizations. Sometimes you find you simply need a course-correct. Other times, a full-on reinvention is required. And while much of this work will be internal, there are ways to celebrate publicly...and perhaps induce your donors to give even more to commemorate your milestone.

Here are my key suggestions, cautions and ideas for celebrating your nonprofit's anniversary with your donors:

  • First up, you have to remember that donors generally don't care as much about the anniversary as you at the organization do. With a few exceptions, they're not going to give solely because you've suddenly reached 25 years (or whatever anniversary it happens to be). It doesn't mean you can't celebrate it with your donors, but I would caution against making huge projections based on it being an anniversary year.
  • See if you can get a challenge grant from a major donor in celebration of the anniversary. You know that a good Challenge Grant will spur other donors to give, and pinning that challenge to a big, sentimental anniversary might give it a bit extra oomph.
  • Can you segment out charter/founding donors? If so, give them special treatment for their longevity. These are your most loyal donors and the ones most likely to be invested in your anniversary, so make sure they know they are the reason you reached such a monumental milestone.
  • You might consider designing a special anniversary edition of your logo, to be used just for that one year. Using that in all donor communication will help remind them that it's a special year/exciting time for the organization. Maybe even try using a retro look -- old fonts/logos that were used/popular the year you were founded. Anything you can do to make your donors feel sentimental (read: emotional) about your organization will inspire more giving.
  • Consider revisiting some of your early success stories. Tell donors again about the people you've helped, the battles you've won, the previous milestones you've celebrated. Can you profile someone whose life you touched early on, give a "where-are-they-now" update? Even better! Remind your donors why they gave to you in the first place, and they'll be more inclined to give again and keep giving.
  • Above all, try to use the anniversary as a way to remind donors of all the great work they've accomplished over the last xx years and then tell them your plan for this year (and the next xx years). As always, keep it simple and compelling. Remind them that they made this anniversary possible.

Anniversaries are a great opportunity for your organization as a whole, and they can also be a good hook for fundraising as long as you always remember this key: it's all about your donor. Stick to what your donors care about in fundraising, avoid showing them the internal details of your reflection, and make them feel like a part of your organization's past, present and future.