As nonprofits reach significant milestones, celebrating anniversaries is an opportunity to tell your story, reflect on your impact, and inspire action. As you prepare your nonprofit’s next anniversary campaign, here are four tips and examples to help draw people into the celebration.
Celebrate the past, but focus more on the present.
Commemorating your nonprofit’s history should be a key part of anniversary messaging, but it’s important not to dwell exclusively on past achievements. Instead, strike a balance between honoring your organization’s roots and highlighting the evolution and progress your nonprofit has achieved since its inception. Share compelling stories and testimonials that show the change your organization has brought about. Communicate how your nonprofit has adapted over the years, emphasizing the journey that has brought your work to where it is today.
For our client, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, we created the theme “45 Years of Joy in Resistance” which they used as a throughline for their anniversary campaign. This speaks to the importance of joyful struggle in the past and ongoing fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberation around the world. They applied this message across emails, events, social media posts, and more. Their annual report wove stories of their past with their current philanthropic philosophy which can be summed up below:
“Over 45 years, Astraea’s staff and partners have witnessed ups and downs, celebrations and disagreements, and both joy and struggle. Many of these memories won’t be captured on film or memorialized in history books, but these moments also build resilient, intersectional movements. That’s why we continue to ground our philanthropy model on supporting grantees with unrestricted and flexible resources, which allow movements to build capacity and strengthen their resiliency to respond to community needs.”
Set the stage for the future.
An anniversary celebration should serve as a launchpad for your nonprofit’s future. Inspire your audience by demonstrating a clear vision for the future and outlining the concrete impact and goals you are striving towards. Use this occasion to unveil exciting new initiatives, programs, or strategies that align with your organization’s mission. Because anniversaries arrive in predictable increments, your organization can time a brand rollout or refresh to launch at the same time, reinforcing your vision for your next phase of life.
The Open Door Family Medical Center honored its 50th anniversary in part through the launch of a major capital campaign to fund improvements to their community health centers. We worked with them to name and develop materials for the “50 More Campaign,” which put the organization’s future center stage in the campaign identity. In overview materials, they shared:
“Our 50 More Campaign is the catalyst for realizing our vision of achieving better health outcomes for all our neighbors. As we celebrate Open Door’s 50th anniversary, we are proud to lead the future of health care in our own backyard. Our communities are only healthy when everyone has access to health care.”
Highlight your core values.
An anniversary campaign is an opportunity to reinforce your nonprofit’s core values — the central beliefs that guide your organization’s decision-making. What values have served as a connective thread, uniting your past, present, and future, even if the actual services and activities your nonprofit has focused on have changed? Whether it is resilience, justice, community, love, collective action, innovation, or something else, the anniversary can be a platform to showcase these foundational values that have shaped your organization’s identity and defined your story.
We worked with IPAS to develop their 50th anniversary campaign, “Abortion affects every body” to reaffirm the organization’s unwavering commitment to reproductive freedom and abortion access. On their anniversary campaign page, they anchor the ask for gifts with these values:
“Abortion affects every body. For 50 years, Ipas has supported communities around the world to ensure access to abortion and contraception for all. You can help us protect every body’s right to reproductive freedom.”
Spotlight your partners, staff, donors, and community.
An anniversary celebration should not just be about your nonprofit’s work itself but also about the collective effort of your partners, donors, staff, volunteers, and community. Express gratitude and acknowledge the efforts made by those who have contributed to, shaped, and funded your organization throughout the years. Celebrate their involvement, share stories of collaboration, collectivity, and participation, and offer opportunities for them to engage actively in the anniversary campaign.
In The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center’s 40th-anniversary campaign video, which was debuted at their 2023 annual fundraising gala, “members of the community who have been part of The Center’s history gather to share memorable moments and reflections on how the nonprofit organization has shaped LGBTQ culture, history, and people in New York City.” The video does a great job of highlighting that it’s the people involved that truly define the organization.
As nonprofits celebrate their anniversaries, they have a unique chance to engage, inspire, and strengthen relationships with their supporters and the wider community. Let your anniversary be an effective tool to tell your organization’s story.
Big Duck helps organizations develop the concept and materials to celebrate anniversaries to engage the community, raise funds, increase brand visibility, and more. Contact us if you’d like to explore how we can partner with your team to leverage these milestone moments.