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.
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
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
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:
- Remind people what you do and why it is important. People might think they know what you do (or did). This is a good time to remind them. For example, trade union Equity recently turned 90 and ran a campaign showing famous faces with their equity cards.
- Look to the future, not just the past. RNIB celebrated its 150th in 2018. It rebranded and launched new campaigns. #RNIB150 content included this video of children with sight loss talking about their futures and a video showing how the experience of blind people has changed.
- 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:
- 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:
- Reach new audiences. Is your anniversary newsworthy? Share your story with national / local press. For example the local press covered Somerset Sight’s centenary.
- Thank your existing supporters. You probably thank them all the time. What can you do to go the extra mile? Acorns Hospice in Birmingham took to the phones for their 30th to thank their supporters.
- Many anniversaries help to shape fundraising appeals. For example look at children’s charity Momentum who are 15. They are hoping to raise £900,000 this year via their 15appeal. Their year was launched with a visit from Basil Brush.
- Celebrate! Of course, some organisations just have a party – see LoveBrum 4th birthday.
- Get a cake – there must always be cake. See this Moment of amazing cakes made to celebrate the NHS’s 70th.
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
- How-to celebrate a charity anniversary – KnowHow NonProfit.
- Making the most out of anniversaries – Kirsty Kitchen for Charity Comms.
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.