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 – October 2018

Highlights this month: big hashtags, user-generated content, AI, voice tech, digital skills and more….

The nights are setting in and seasonal content is upon us. October is a very busy month of awareness days. There was lots of great content launched. Pop the kettle on and catch up.

close up of 50s metal toy robot

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

10 October was #WorldMentalHealthDay, #WorldHomelessnessDay and #HousingDay. I have never seen my list of trending topics look like this for an hour, let alone all day. The trending hashtags and topics were consistently related to these issues. Nothing else got a look-in all day.

all 10 trending topics relate to social issues - a rare sight

There was some amazing content including:

Gallery of faces with white writing painted on them sharing insights into their mental health

Also this month:

screenshot of Halloween Twitter Moment

Twitter takeover of the month: CoppaFeel’s Kris Hallenger / @nhs. Kris who has been living with stage 4 breast cancer since 2009, talked about treatments and good health.

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Fundraising

graphic for Gift Aid awareness day - £560m in gift aid is unclaimed every year

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.

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Did you miss September’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

SMEX18 – Telling stories

The keynote speech at this year’s Social Media Exchange (run by soundDelivery) was given by Dr Sue Black. Sue led the campaign to save Bletchley Park (do go if you haven’t been) and aims to have trained 1 million women through her #TechMums programme by 2020. She set up the BCS Women network and was recently named as one of the top 50 women in tech in the Europe. Her message was ‘If I can do it, so can you’.

This had also been the message of the day. Speakers shared tips and examples so others (mainly people from small charities) could develop their skills so they could do it too.

After a quick warm up, here are my top takeaways….

warm-up exercise at SMEX18 - everyone with their arms in the air

1. People want to tell their story

I went to sessions by Jessica Barlow who launched the @nhs account and George Olney, Stories Journalist at Crisis. Both of them work as facilitators of stories.

Take a look at the archive of stories as Twitter Moments from the brilliant @nhs account to see the insights being shared by medical professionals and patients. Then look at Crisis’ EverybodyIn campaign which works a bit like Humans of New York, sharing photos and stories from homeless people across the country.

screenshot of Crisis' stories

People want to share. They want you to understand something. They want you to learn. Listen.

How can you help the people you work with to tell their stories? Is your organisation stuck, not doing anything with stories in case it goes wrong or is off-message?

The Crisis stories don’t mention Crisis. The stories are helping us to understand the causes and impact of homelessness. The charity doesn’t need to get in the way of this.

Similarly, the @nhs curator is given freedom to talk about what is important to them. Tweets are not edited or approved. As a result they are engaging and authentic. [Read more about Twitter takeovers and rocur.]

> Get out of the way. Help people to tell their stories. Your organisation doesn’t need to be the story.

2. Stories come in different forms

We are in a golden age of content. But this means there is a lot of noise and you can break the rules. So now is your chance to be creative!

Look at Emma Lawton’s video blog. Since April 2017 she has been vlogging every day through her PD365 series on YouTube. This heavy content commitment means she has had to be creative and find different ways of sharing different messages.

screenshot of Emma Lawton's vlogs showing lots of different styles

Luke Williams ex of RNLI shared lots of examples of charities using 360 video, virtual reality and chat bots (take a look at Luke’s slides). More and more organisations are experimenting with new formats for stories. An immersive story where the user gets to experience something rather than just reading about it, will have greater impact.

> What format will have the most impact for your story? Experiment and just do it!

3. Personal connections matter

The most moving story was from Alison Hitchcock who wrote letters to her friend Brian through his treatment for bowel cancer. She subsequently set up From Me to You, a campaign to encourage people to write letters to friends, family and strangers with cancer.

A simple letter can be like holding someone’s hand. It can be a distraction. What a beautiful thing to do.

> How can you make a personal connection to help someone?

4. Just do it

Barbara from Behind Bras and Andy / David from Hair Unite shared their experiences of seeing a solution to a problem and rolling their sleeves up to get on with it.

Jessica from NHS England was the one who thought that a curated account would work to tell the hidden stories away of the health service press releases and tabloid stories. She researched and risk-assessed it, pitching the idea to colleagues.

Crisis know that they need to reframe perceptions and prejudices of homelessness in order to drive the change to end homelessness. Sharing stories and photographs helps them to do this.

> Don’t wait for someone else to make something happen. Be part of the change you want to see.

SMEX18

What were your highlights? What were your takeaways? Please do share.

Also, do take a look at Gemma Pettman’s blog post in which she shares the tips she picked up at the event.

More on storytelling

Can I help you? I am a digital freelancer, working with charities on their content, comms and digital strategies.

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Digital roundup – October

My top reads for October. Catch up with this bumper month!

Images from some of the content covered in the post

October was hashtag-tastic! We had #WorldTeachersDay, #WorldMentalHealthDay (see Third Sector’s series), #WorldOsteoporosisDay, #InternationalDayOfTheGirl, #WorldHomelessnessDay, #WorldSightDay and #WorldPorridgeDay. It was Breast Cancer Awareness month, #HospiceCareWeek,  It was also the month that the #RoundPound went out of use and many of us got our #FirstTenner.

It was also a month of great charity content and useful reads.

Great content

Headless weather presenter gives the forecast for Halloween

Useful stuff

Flowchart showing how to decide how to respond to trolls

Want more? Read JustGiving’s 10 things you should read this month.

Blog posts

Surprising content

Macmillan tweet about their charity number 261017

Coming up

November is sure to be busy too with #TrusteesWeek (13-17 Nov), #OurDay (for local government on 21 Nov) and #GivingTuesday (28 Nov). Plus all the preparations for Christmas fundraising and fun. If you are thinking about seasonal content, read my post about digital advent calendars.

Examples from WCHP, MS Society, Royal Marsden, New Mills Food Bank, Bliss, Bookstart, Family Holiday Association

What have you seen?

What did you read or see in October? Do share your highlights.

—–

Did you miss June’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

 

 

Digital round-up – May

Photo of dinosaur skull appeaing to eat someone in a museum!

Had a busy week? Here’s my round-up of good reads about charity content and digital stuff.

The tireless fight to bring press releases into modern comms continues with this post by Dan Slee: Educate your client on how alive their press release really is.

I thought this gave interesting insights into groups who are digitally excluded: The Changing Face of Digital Exclusion: It’s not your nan. The post is about skills so it doesn’t mention how the design of websites, apps and software is digitally excluding those with disabilities because developers don’t know or care about accessibility.

Citizens Advice - card sorting exercise

The Citizens Advice digital blog is always a good read. The latest post looks at internal knowledge, especially the barriers caused by poor search, volume of content and inconsistencies of language used. The post talks about how they’ve run workshops to identify common user goals. It’s a big and important topic to tackle, especially in an organisation of this size where information management is their bread and butter. What Citizens Advice needs from a digital workplace – And what your workplace might need too.

Graph showing low engagement for early school education and high for pre-school

This is a useful reminder about language and avoiding jargon. Use the language used by your audience. See also What charities can learn from MailOnline which is about ensuring your content is audience-driven and data-driven.

'Off to bed. You really need to buy some books off us. We are seriously skint'

The Big Green Bookshop in London (the one who live tweeted Harry Potter to Piers Morgan) tweeted an urgent request for help recently and were bowled over with the response. Similarly, a food bank in Glasgow sent an urgent appeal. Useful food for thought who those who don’t think it is right to fundraise on social?

See also

Content and comms:

Process and management:

Other stuff:

What have you read this week? Please do share your nuggets.

(Cover image taken at the Grant Museum of Zoology)

Charity content round-up

It’s been another bumper week for interesting charity content. Here’s my round-up.

In my previous post I looked at using rocur to share lived experience. This week the amazing @nhs Twitter account reached new heights by live tweeting an operation! It was a brilliant way of giving an insight into a hidden world and raising awareness about the teamwork of the NHS. You can see a selection of the tweets in their operation Moment.

@nhs live tweet a bowel cancer operation

The patient was clearly ok with the profile and a quote from him was tweeted the next day thanking everyone for their good wishes. Hopefully bowel cancer charities can use the event to raise awareness about the condition and to reassure others about to go through the same treatment.

There was some nice content around for Pancake Day including this brilliant video from the National Trust.

series of people flipping pancakes to each other in different NT settings

See more pancake content in this charity Pancake Day Moment.

A ‘highlight’ of every parents year is World Book Day. The Woodland Trust produced a helpful guide to wildlife related book costumes.

tweet with image of a cardboard Stick Man

If you are a parent of a young child, this new Gruffalo Spotter App from the Forestry Commission looks amazing.

On a different note, we are seeing more stories about hidden homelessness. Buzzfeed shared short stories from people sofa surfing or squatting. This BBC news video illustrates rural rough sleeping in Cornwall.

The Guardian have produced a guide on How you can help refugees and asylum seekers in Britain which gathers many organisations working in this area. One charity not included is Refuweegee, a new Glasgow-based charity who encourage their supporters to write welcome messages like this one. You can read about their start-up lessons on the Zurich Insurance charity blog.

welcome message to refugee arriving in Glasgow

Good reads / listens

What did you spot?

What were your content highlights or good reads of the week? Do share….

How to share lived experiences using #rocur or Twitter take overs

Hearing someone’s story firsthand can build empathy, a sense of community and crush stereotypes or assumptions. But in a noisy world, how can we as charities get those voices heard?

Finding ways for people to engage with real experience is key. More charities are trying rocur (rotation curation) or media take overs. Find out how they could work for you.

colourful children's drawings of faces

Hearing lived experience

We’ve talked before about empathy and the power of stories (following Jude Habib’s amazing Being the Story event in 2016). Last week at the Social Media Exchange Lemn Sissay argued that charities shouldn’t be working to ‘give children a voice’ as they have voices already. Rather we should be working to find ways for their voices to be heard.

This idea was explored more deeply by Gemma Pettman in her blog post following the event in which she included reflections about the Expert Citizens programme.

We may feel like we are working hard to get the voices out there but your case study or a video probably isn’t doing this. As editors we are applying our own filters and key messages to these stories. Of course as comms professionals, we might feel like we know what makes a good story and we want to streamline the story so it ticks our boxes (we don’t want any other causes or issues getting in the way). But this isn’t the way people work.

It might feel scary or dangerous but how can we create a platform which we can hand over to the people we represent? Some charities are doing this through their blog or vlog. For example Mind invites anyone to contribute. Others are using social media to share user-generated content. For example read about Anthony Nolan’s Facebook content strategy.

To actually hand the keys over to the channels is another level, with no editorial control! Here we look at some examples.

Rocur (or rotation curation)

According to wikipedia, rotation curation started on Twitter in 2011 with the @sweden account. Rocur accounts are usually managed on a weekly basis with each new person sharing details of their lives. An administrator manages the account, ensuring every week is covered.

The Sweden account (which itself says it started in 2009) is still going strong and has 104k followers. There are now many other location-based accounts including @LondonisYours, @WeAreXPats and HI_Voices.

In October 2016, the nhs account launched with Richard who shared his experience of living with cancer. The account is ‘manned’ by staff, trainees and patients and already has 10.6k followers. It is used from 8am-8pm, Monday to Thursday and from 8am-6pm on Friday.

text says: @NHS aims to celebrate the NHS by bringing to life the stories of staff and patients through their own words. To highlight the amazing stories that happen every day and the people involved. @NHS enables people with an NHS story to tell to share their experiences.

This account works so well because it is well curated with different voices each week. The weekly host tends to share a lot of personal information and they respond to questions and treat it as a conversation. It feels like followers are genuinely learning about someone’s job or condition from reading the tweets. Read more about the @nhs account.

In a similar vein, @Parkinsons52 is used by people who have experience of Parkinson’s. The account has been live since February 2016. It has been hosted by patients experiencing varying stages of the disease from across the world as well as health care professionals and staff from Parkinson’s UK including CEO Steve Ford. It was set up by David Sangster who saw it as a way to connect the Parkinson’s community, raise awareness and to show how the disease can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

tweets from Parkinsons52

Take overs

Less of a committment is to host a social media take over, where someone outside of the comms team uses the account for a short time. This is generally less about lived experience and more about giving an alternative insight or perspective. Museums are good at doing this such as with their ask the curator sessions.

Kids in Museums drive an annual day where museums let children take over. Some organisations do this by letting young people use their social media accounts to share their experiences of the museum. The Teen Twitter Takeover is in August and there are useful factsheets about how to let teenagers tweet from the museum account. The guide says that the biggest benefit is that the teenagers feel really trusted to be allowed to do this. Read more about Take Over Day.

Take over day tweet from Helston Museum

Each year local government joins in with #OurDay. This is more managed than a take over but gives an opportuity for councils to share the stories of employees and locals who use services. Through the social media activity they can show the detail and breadth of what they do. See this Moment of #OurDay in 2016 for some examples.

Could it work for you?

If one of your goals is to raise awareness, then somewhere within your comms strategy should be a way to show rather than tell.  Finding simple ways to build understanding and empathy is key.

These examples are all about showing the detail of something, the everyday impact of a condition or situation. It is the detail which connects us. And it is the detail which is often missed in our corporate comms where we are often trying to show the bigger picture to make a point.

Giving a platform in this way can be daunting. Some of the barriers could be:

  • “it sounds too time consuming to administer and monitor”
  • “we don’t have access to a big bank of potential people who could contribute”
  • “we have a duty of care for children or vulnerable people – what if people ask probing questions or they get trolled?”
  • “is it really worth it – will people listen or engage? Will it actually change anyone’s minds?”
  • “our community has low IT skills or limited access to tech.”

A good plan, policy and support are key. Be realistic about what you can take on. You don’t have to sign yourself up to a year-long stint of weekly hosts. It is ok to take a pause. Why not start small, an hour on the first Friday of every month or a pilot project?

Of course, this method will not work for every cause and will be out of reach for many small charities. But as the examples show, they don’t have to be owned by a charity. Parkinsons52 works so well because it is about the disease rather than about the charity. PUK are occasionally involved but they don’t own or manage it.

For contributors it can be a real opportunity to share their experience and feel like they are helping other people to understand. It can be empowering. It can be a way of connecting with others in a similar situation.

If there are accounts out there related to your cause why not support them, promote them and even contribute to them?

Tips for recruiting and managing contributors

  • Recruit a good mix of volunteers to help you get started. This will also help to establish the tone. Think about people who have interesting stories or ideas and who are used to using social media. Once the account gets going, think about how you’ll find new people to contribute. Make it easy for them to sign up and keep good records of who has contributed and who is to come to make sure you have a good mix.
  • Produce tips and guidelines to give to contributors. Include an idea about how often to tweet (5 times a day is achievable for most) and best times of day to get a conversation. Be very clear about your posting guidelines (eg no obscene, offensive or self-promoting material) and what contributors can do (such as unfollowing or DMing people).
  • Provide instructions for the practicalities of using the account such as the handover between people and logging in. Will you change the password each time a new person uses the account?
  • Help your next contributor to prepare for their time. Ask them to think about what they do and don’t want to tweet about, what questions they will ask to prompt conversations and how they’ll deal with people they disagree with. Help them to think about a ‘message’ they’d like people to go away with at the end of their week if this is relevant. It is also useful to help them prepare for the lull days in the middle of their stint. Polls can be a good way to drive interaction. As can photos.
  • Be ready to step in if they need support. It can take a brave person to put themselves out there (especially on mega accounts like @nhs). You should also do some thinking about the things that could go wrong and have strategies in place to deal with these.
  • At the end of their time, think about how to support them – it can be hard to get used to normal life after having so many people listening and talking to you!

Tips for getting the most out of the content

  • Pin a welcome message for the new account holder so your followers can understand what is going on.
  • Personalise the avatar and username – the nhs account do this really well.
  • Curate the best tweets from the event or week. For example take a look at the @nhs Moment from Yvonne’s week and the full list of @nhs Moments. Think about how to showcase these on other channels.
  • Prime some friends, colleagues or family to ask questions to get the conversation going, especially as the account gets established.

screenshot from @nhs account

Share your examples

Have you seen any other good (or bad) examples of rocur or take overs? Are there any other charity or public sector examples? Do share them here.

If you are looking to experience a take over firsthand to get a feel for how it works, accounts like @LondonIsYours are always looking for new contributors. Why not see if there is an account you can contribute to?

With thanks

Big thanks to rocur users Leah Williams Veazey and David Sangster who shared their experiences for this post.