How to mark your charity’s anniversary

A significant anniversary can be a big milestone for any charity. Surviving and thriving for a year or five or 100 is a big deal. How should you mark this?

Should you do something public? Could you use it to tell a story, reach new people, fundraise, raise your profile or change direction? A significant anniversary can be a good opportunity to talk about your impact and ambitions for the future.

number grid in a playground - close up of 10, 20, 30 etc

Here are two detailed examples of charity anniversaries and the digital comms they have produced to mark the occasion. Plus top tips with more examples to help you think about what you could do to mark your anniversary.

Combat Stress – 100

Combat Street tweet showing a leaflet from their archive

In May, Combat Stress will mark their centenary. With 100 days to go until the big day, they are sharing insights into their work. On Twitter they are creating one thread counting down. Follow #100StoriesIn100Days for a mix of images from their archive, stories and examples of their work today. The stories are also shared on Instagram and Facebook. Their website has a page for the centenary explaining the history of the organisation.

This volume of comms might seem impossible but if you have a rich archive of stories or facts or images, why not package them up to tell a bigger story? Take a look at the digital advent calendars to help think about the challenges of planning and keeping the momentum going over a long period of time.

London’s Air Ambulance – 30

screenshot from LAA website. Red helicopter against blue sky over London.

In January, London’s Air Ambulance celebrated 30 years. On Twitter they got lovely happy birthday messages from Saracens Rugby Club, London Fire Brigade, and others. They have been sharing fundraising and press coverage via #30YearsSavingLives. Prince William was named as a patron of the campaign and films of him flying a helicopter were widely shared and viewed.

This LAA short video shares how the service started and grew from its early years. Their website is prominently promoting the 30th, with pages dedicated to the anniversary including patient stories and the fundraising appeal. They are also trying to reconnect with patients via Facebook.

Of course we haven’t all got the luxury of Prince William or a lovely red helicopter to drive comms. But this campaign boils down to telling the stories of the impact the service has made. #30YearsSavingLives is a powerful and engaging statement.

Other examples and ideas

Show your impact and ambitions:

Be creative:

  • What can you do with your number? Kemp Hospice are turning 50. As well as decorating the windows of their shop windows gold, they have developed golden branding and shared what donations of £50 could do.
  • Get out of the office. Cumbria Foundation’s 20th birthday card was given its own roadshow so that 20 organisations supported by the foundation could sign it.
  • Get a nifty but simple hashtag which will work over the time you are using it. Track its use and join in conversations where you can.
  • An anniversary isn’t always a celebration to shout about. Think about how you can use the event to raise awareness instead. Missing People are 25 this year. Rather than talking about themselves, an art exhibition brings together portraits of missing people.

Use materials from the archive:

NCVO's time line - close up of highlight from 2005, 2011, 2012

  • Can you do something physical if you are celebrating a big anniversary and have people visiting your office? NCVO who are 100 this year have produced an illustrated timeline in the reception of their office.
  • Have you got an iconic building, product or brand that people love? Share behind the scenes stories or images from the archive. The Guggenheim in New York is 60 this year and are sharing highlights.
  • Have famous people been involved in your charity? Can you share details from the archive? For example, Kensington Palace shared this photo of Diana and William’s names written in The Passage’s visitor’s book from 1993.
  • If your organisation has shaped the way people live, let your archive tell the story. For example when NCT was 60, it was covered in a BBC magazine article.

Build and thank supporters:

Document:

  • Archive and look back. If you are celebrating a significant anniversary over a whole year, document events and share a review at the end. People might still be new to your news or if they were very involved, want to re-live achievements. The Fire Fighters Charity celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2018 and produced a review of the best bits including impressive fundraising activities.

Should you mark an anniversary?

Think about your audience. Do they care that you are 10 or 25 or 75? What might make them care? Do you have a story or hook to make your anniversary engaging?

Think about the practicalities too:

  • Do you have the capacity (time / funds / energy) to mark an anniversary?
  • Will celebrating improve or reduce team morale?
  • When was the last time you did this? Celebrating 30 might not mean so much if you made a fuss of your 25th.
  • What might you lose by doing nothing?
  • Will your comms be over the year if it is a big anniversary (say 100 or 150), in the run up to a particular day, or just one day?
  • Will you run comms across all your channels or limit to one where it fits your audience best?

New charities

If you are a new organisation, getting to an anniversary is a big deal. Celebrating years 1-5 with the people who have helped you get there can give everyone a boost. It can also be a hook to show your impact and reach a wider audience.

For example Little Village recently celebrated its 3rd birthday saying ‘we’ve made it through the critical first 1000 days of life’. They released new figures showing how demand for their service is increasing and the many different ways they have supported families to date, along with an appeal to raise £10,000.

Conclusions

These examples show that there are lots of different ways to mark an anniversary.

Planning and implementation of anniversary activities and comms can take up a lot of time and may only lead to low engagement.

But if you have a meaningful hook to share your impact, fundraise or tell a story and the anniversary is a special one, then go for it. Get creative. And don’t forget the cake.

screenshot from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Corpus Christi, cake celebrating 25 years

Your tips

Have you worked on a charity anniversary or seen any interesting or unusual anniversary comms? Did supporters get involved in the activity? How much time did anniversary planning take? Was it worth it?

I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments.

See also

With thanks to Gemma Pettman who suggested I write about this topic.

Can I help you?

Please get in touch if I can help you. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection or help develop your digital strategy.

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Digital round-up – January 2019

Highlights this month: January#, towels for owls, H-O-M-E, digital trends to avoid / embrace, how to declutter your digital footprint.

Things feel a little gloomy at the moment. So switch the news off and catch up with some creative charity content and recent good reads you might have missed.

a pile of colourful bird whistle toys

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Dogs Trust tweet with almost 500 likes. Image: smiling dog. Text says 'Good dog!!! #NationalComplimentDay'

Shelter's tweet showing a still from the Bros doc. Matt Goss says: i think the words H-O-M-E are so important, because they personlify the words home'. Shelter tweeted ' true though'

It can be difficult to remember all the good stuff from last year. Take a look back in these review from 2018:

Coming soon….

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Fundraising

Fluffy owl wrapped in a towel, being held by volunteer. Close up.

Still think you can’t ask for donations on Twitter? Be authentic / fun like these examples:

See also:

People

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss the last round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

#YouMadeItHappen 2018

The first #YouMadeItHappen day was brilliant. Well done to NCVO and partners for inspiring so many organisations to join in within just a month of launching it. The hashtag looked to be trending all day. Thousands of charities and other non-profits thanked their supporters and shared stories and stats showing the impact of their work.

NCVO's #YouMadeItHappen graphic

Impact of the day

NCVO analysis shows that #YouMadeItHappen reached 5.4m people and was shared from almost 10k accounts.

I did a quick spot check of large and small charities. I chose 10 of each at random. 6/10 of the large charities had tweeted at least once using #YouMadeItHappen. 2/10 of the smaller ones had done the same. This is impressive given that the idea was only launched at the end of October via NCVO’s blog.

Many used video, threads of tweets, images and gifs to enhance their messages. Engagement though was varied. In my sample, all but a few only generated visible low interaction (likes and RTs).

The hashtag is still active – organisations are using it beyond the big day.

Highlights

Here are a few of my highlights

Women's Aid tweet: A huge, huge thank you to all our supporters - our survivors, donors, members, volunteers, runners, campaigners, community ambassadors, and everyone who's shared awareness on domestics abuse - YOU are making change possible, and setting survivors free. Thank you #YouMadeItHappen

See also:

Vicky Browning's tweet: UK charities spend £1,500 per second improving lives and supporting communities. Thanks to all those who donate - however big or small the amount. #YouMadeItHappen

See more examples in this Twitter Moment of the day.

screenshot of #YouMadeItHappen Twitter Moment

And more examples in ACEVO’s Moment.

What did you do?

If you joined in what results did you get? It is a good time to think about what this tells you about your comms style and what works well with your audience.

  • Was engagement any higher than usual? If so, why, what was different?
  • Did you join in on other channels or just Twitter? What was different?
  • Did you use video, graphics or gifs? Or share stats or stories? What can you learn from this?
  • Did you create new images or video for the day? How easy was this to do? Could you use them again or create more for different uses?
  • Did your tweets prompt people to ask questions? Did you respond or can you add this information to your website?
  • Did you get any negative comments? I saw a few (like these in response to Shelter’s tweets). What did you do? Was that right?
  • How can you continue to thank supporters? And talk about your impact? (see this post on communicating your impact.)

What did you think about the day?

Did you see any interesting examples you could share? Or did it pass you by?

I’d love to know what you thought about the day. Should there be a #YouMadeItHappen 2019?

Other blogs / round-ups

Join in with #YouMadeItHappen day

Do you know about #YouMadeItHappen day on Monday 19 November? The aim of the day, led by NCVO and supported by Charity Comms, Small Charity Coalition, FSI, IoF and ACEVO, is to thank supporters and show the difference charities and supporters make together.

photo of street art - john lennon's face next to the words Help, I need somebody, help, not just anybody

Think of it as a free pass to talk about the impact you make. And a chance to show supporters the bigger picture – how their involvement (through fundraising, campaigning, volunteering etc) made all the difference.

Many charities don’t use social media enough to thank their supporters or talk about the impact they make or show the detail of the work they do. So this is a good opportunity with the excuse of joining in with a shared hashtag / campaign to make it easier.

Get involved

Think about how you could use the hashtag and make it work for your organisation. There are no rules for the day. Here are some ideas.

  • Share a handful of interesting stories about particular people who have gone the extra mile to support you. Have they done something unusual or impressive or tough? What did their support achieve? Do you have data about impact you could use?
  • Has a staff member or team achieved something particularly important which has had a big impact? This could be a good opportunity to talk about it.
  • Are there people you could thank individually? Or an activity which lots of people did which you could feature?
  • Share some detail about your impact. Focus on headlines from the last year or just a month or week. Or show a day in the life. Or show the impact on one person. Statistics show volume, stories bring impact to life.
  • Be more creative – how can you make the messages you want to share, extra engaging? Could you create a quiz, write a poem or make a short video?
  • Think about the action you want people to take and how you want them to feel. You don’t want them to think that it is ‘job done’ and you don’t need their support any more. You want supporters to feel proud of how they have contributed, happy to be part of a community of people like them who have collectively made a difference. You want them to do it again. Or if they haven’t supported, you want them to do so.

Examples

Spend some time playing around with the hashtag. How does it work with your tone of voice and the things you want to say? I have had a few tries here.

sample tweet - last half term, we served 76 children with hot meals. Thank you to everyone who donated money or time. #YouMadeItHappen

sample tweet - Did you know.... Last Christmas 125 people took part in our reverse advent calendar scheme. Local families had a happier Christmas because of the food and toys donated. Thank you. #YouMadeItHappen

sample tweet - This year our supporter Mo ran five marathons for us. He raised a staggering £10,465 which will pay for our helpline for a month. Thank you Mo! #YouMadeItHappen

There are other suggestions in NCVO’s #YouMadeItHappen day blog post and a few tweets doing the rounds already (eg Sussex Community Rail).

Practicalities

  • Capitalise the words within the # (ie #YouMadeItHappen rather than #youmadeithappen) so it is easy to read.
  • Include images or graphics to illustrate impact.
  • Use words which are emotive / powerful.
  • Use the hashtag early in the day to get the most out of it.
  • Be prepared for negative comments – how might you deal with people challenging what you are saying?
  • Think about how messages may overlap or complement comms you have planned for #GivingTuesday the following week. You don’t want to distract from activity on #GivingTuesday.
  • Think about how to connect and document content from the day so your work doesn’t get missed. For example, post your messages as a thread on Twitter – all at once or over the course of the day. Package your tweets up into a Moment afterwards so you can refer to them in the future.

Keep an eye on the hashtag on the day. See how others are using it and join the conversation.

UPDATE: Twitter Moment of #YouMadeItHappen and blog post with more detail about #YouMadeItHappen day highlights.

screenshot of #YouMadeItHappen Twitter Moment

Further reading

What do you think?

NCVO's tweet promoting the hashtag

Is this day a good idea? Are you going to get involved?

I’d love to know what you think. Please comment or tweet.

 

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Go outside your echo chamber, that’s where the reward is

First-hand stories, conversations, performances are very powerful to listen to. To have real impact they need to reach people who can make a change.

The message from this year’s Being the Story was that we need to take these stories out of the echo chamber.

9 images from Being the Story 2018

Following Being the Story 2016, I wrote about the power of empathy as a listener, how hearing a first-hand story can change hearts and minds. In 2017, I wrote how first-hand storytelling can be a cathartic process for the person telling their story.

This year the message was that lived-experience stories can drive change.

The impact of stories

During the day, we heard from people with lived experience who have been telling their stories in different ways and in different places. These stories reached the media, policy-makers, funders and other decision-makers. The stories were not only heard. They didn’t only generate empathy. In some cases, they led to being part of bigger change making.

For example, this year we heard how:

  • Simeon Moore from DatsTV has become a go-to speaker for the media about street violence since he appeared on stage in 2017. This profile has meant that policy-makers involve him in their plans
  • Caroline Kennedy is using her experience of poverty in Glasgow as a commissioner with the Poverty and Inequality Commission that advises the Scottish government on child poverty issues, sharing the personal stories of parents, from those with children with learning disabilities, to asylum seekers, all families experiencing poverty
  • Steve Arnott from Beats Bus took a chance and trusted film-maker Sean McAllister to make a film about him which has had a general release and will be shown on BBC2 later this year. This has given him a platform to speak about poverty but also build big plans for Beats Bus.
  • The Empathy Museum have taken their Mile in My Shoes series to the NHS Confederation Conference and Houses of Parliament so that decision-makers there listen and understand those first-hand experiences, and hopefully make changes for the better.

A call to action

‘Go outside your echo chamber, that’s where the reward is’ said trans activist Charlie Craggs who takes her pop-up nail bar round the country to generate conversations.

What can you do to help people with lived-experience to tell their stories? How can you help them to find new audiences away from the charity bubble? How can you help them to join with others to tell a bigger story? What can you do to connect them with the media and decision-makers so they are listened to and involved in finding the solutions?

Take inspiration from the sounddelivery team who work tirelessly behind the scenes to train their Being the Story speakers to tell their stories on the day and beyond. They connect them with other people working in similar areas. They put them forward to journalists.

sounddelivery keep themselves out of the story. Your organisation is not the story. The cause or issue and the lived-experience of it, is the story. Find people with lived experience and let them speak.

Being the Story 2018

Every single one of the speakers and performers from this year’s event was brilliant. Get a flavour of the day in the official Wakelet from the event.

Read more responses in the blog posts written about the event so far:

You can also look at the #BeingTheStory hashtag and read the programme from the event.

Being the Story – crowdfunder

Update from 2019 – Jude Habib has launched a crowdfunder to build a network of media confident storytellers. The project aims to support people with lived experience to tell their stories so they have real impact.

The fund is currently £500 off its first £5000 target at which point it will be doubled. Please support it if you can.

Are you going to #BeingTheStory 2018?

There’s now just a week to go until this year’s Being the Story event in London.

Sounddelivery have put together another amazing line-up of people who will tell their stories in creative and powerful ways. You really don’t want to miss this.

4 speakers from Being the Story 2017

Why should I go?

The event will be moving, thought-provoking and inspiring.

It will make you think about your use of case studies and storytelling.

It will open your eyes to different experiences and views. Get a flavour from previous Being the Story events:

Get tickets

Book your place today! Friday 19 October, Conway Hall near Holborn in London.

Hope to see you there.

Using social media for crisis comms

How your culture, use of social media and the crisis itself influences whether you should use social media to respond.

This blog post was produced for Hospice UK following the HUK Comms Day in July. It is intended for hospices and healthcare providers but is relevant to others too.

chaotic hose pipe, swirling patter

What does your crisis comms plan say about how you’ll use social media? Does your social media policy or strategy (if you have one) include detail about how to respond to an emergency or high-profile story? Do you have the skills and processes in place so you could hit the ground running if you needed to?

Charities have consistently been in the headlines this year. Some cases such as Oxfam, GOSH and Alder Hey were front page news for weeks. Charities such as RNLI and Dogs Trust had to set the records straight when journalists mis-reported stories about their work. We live in a time where people can voice their opinions loudly.

In crisis situations (which can be bad or good), social media can be well used to promote your side of the story, to connect with supporters and to even turn a story around. But to get it right, you need to fully assess the situation to work out how to respond. What you do depends on having a culture and framework where social media is a well-oiled comms tool.

Deciding what to do depends on the crisis and your approach to social media.

Different types of crisis

For the comms team or social media officer, a crisis occurs when they have to drop everything to work on the issue. Therefore a crisis can take various forms. For example a crisis can be:

  • an organisational crisis – physical incidents (fire, flood, power cut, bad weather etc) / patient incident / funding crisis / fraud / malpractice / data breach / high-profile patient / patron in the news
  • a crisis in the local area – as community-based organisations, should you join in with local issues? If a local crisis hits (such as a big accident, fire, local celebrity scandal) do you have capacity or the inclination to connect with local people or show solidarity?
  • social media ‘crisis’ – this means something which is primarily on social media. This could be something you have started yourself which has ‘gone viral’ or a hashtag you need to join in with, or a patient documenting their illness which includes the care you are giving them.

How you respond depends on the situation. And the culture and community you have created around your comms.

A social culture

Does your organisation primarily use social media to broadcast? This means that your Twitter or Facebook feeds are effectively noticeboards announcing events or news? There is no interaction or engagement.

Or is your social media, social? An organisation with fully social channels typically does many of the following:

  • receives and responds to comments – building relationships with supporters
  • comments on other people’s messages – this means they follow and listen to others, responding where relevant
  • connects with local people and businesses away from their own channels – either in other forums or groups, or joining in with social media ‘events’ like #BirminghamHour
  • being creative with social – joining in with trending or topical issues
  • using storytelling
  • trusting staff and volunteers to use social media in their work (this is especially key if you had to draft in colleagues to help out in a crisis)
  • building a group of followers who stand up for the organisation.

If you have a social rather than broadcast approach to your comms and social media, when a crisis hits, you will be in a better place to respond. Partly because you’ll probably have a bigger audience but mostly because you will have an engaged one.

Comms planning

Key to responding well is planning. Have you done a training exercise around a crisis situation? Have you brainstormed situations and standard responses? Even if these scenarios never occur, it is useful to have done the thinking so you can apply it to a different situation.

It is essential to have done thinking around:

  • your tone of voice and housestyle. How is this different on social media? How would your press statement work cut and pasted on to Twitter? Do you need to change the jargon or simplify the message? What images could you use?
  • your integrated comms – how will you use different social channels? How will this integrate with your website, print and email comms?
  • processes around publishing to social media, including monitoring and responding out of office hours. Do you have a list of who uses social media in a professional capacity to represent your organisation so you can get hold of them in an emergency?

I have produced a set of questions to help you work out whether it is a good idea to respond or not – see Crisis Comms Questions (PDF). There are no right or wrong answers and not every question will be relevant. This is intended to help you think about the situation either as part of your crisis comms planning in ‘peacetime’ or if you are in a live crisis.

screenshot of questions about whether to take action or not

Examples

In addition to well documented crisis, played out on social including Oxfam, GOSH, RNLI and Dogs Trust, here are some examples of hospice crisis comms in action.

St Giles Hospice – #MakeFredFamous

Some of the tweets received to #MakeFredFamous

91-year old Fred attends St Giles Hospice’s computer group. The team asked people to wish him happy birthday via their Twitter feed. It took off!

To date there have been 45k retweets and 40k likes and thousands of people sent birthday messages. Fred was featured on local news and radio.

The team worked out when to calm the situation down and regularly checked in with Fred that he was ok with the attention. Fred signed off the press release. The coverage helped them to tell people about a different aspect of their work as Fred wasn’t a patient.

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall

Sample of tweets responding to a theft at Thorpe Hall

When someone stole donations from the hospice last Christmas, the team wrote an open letter to the thief on their website and promoted it on the social channels. This inspired people to do something to help.

Local people, businesses and community groups rallied round and gave donations. The story got on the local news. The hospice was overwhelmed by the response and over £5000 was raised.

Thorpe Hall could have said nothing about the incident but by approaching it in a positive way, the story spread and inspired people to get involved with great results.

Useful reads

See also 5 digital comms tips for hospices – a blog post from 2015 with some great examples.

What do you think?

How has your organisation approached crisis comms? Are there situations where you purposefully haven’t used social media? How do you make decisions about what to do? Who decides?

Please do share in the comments. I’d particularly like feedback on the PDF questions – are they useful / what’s missing?

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital copywriting, content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. Can I help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection?

 

 

With thanks to Sue Ryder, St Giles Hospice, St Wilfrid’s Hospice and St Ann’s Hospice who shared their experiences as part of research for the workshop / blog.