We’re used to celebrating personal milestones like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, but we often neglect to plan appropriately when it comes to significant organizational milestones. It’s easy to get entrenched in day-to-day matters and completely lose sight of the fact that your thirty-year anniversary is right around the corner.
Tips for Planning a Commemorative Celebration
With all that in mind, here are five key steps to help you plan a meaningful and festive commemoration.
1. Identify your upcoming milestones.
This sounds basic, but you’d be surprised by how many businesses and organizations never do it. If you’re involved in an organization whose leadership changes frequently, institutional knowledge can easily get lost in the shuffle.
Take a second to look back and see when your company or organization was founded. Perhaps you know that it was in a certain year, but you don’t know the month — find out. Sometimes significant milestones are still a long way in the future, but at least now you’ll have them on your radar.
For a major milestone, such as a fifty-year or centennial anniversary, many organizations start planning at least a full year in advance. In other cases, however, you’ll realize that a major anniversary is rapidly approaching and you need to act quickly to capitalize on the opportunity.
2. Decide what your goals and key messages will be.
Milestones provide an opportunity to thank your members, show your employees that you value them, highlight accomplishments, rebrand if needed, and/or attract new members or customers. Don’t let this growth opportunity go to waste.
First, decide which of the above goals you wish to focus on. Then, develop the messages that you want to weave into the celebration. Employees, members and/or customers should be able to immediately understand what you are celebrating and why.
3. Form a committee.
You may have founded a company or organization by yourself, but you’re going to need a team to help execute a thoughtful milestone celebration. Whether it is a one-time event or a months-long series of social media posts and special offers, you’ll need the extra hands.
4. Gather your assets.
In order to tell your story, especially in a retrospective, you will need visual assets that allow you to depict the various stages of your past. These might include photographs, scrapbooks, programs, publications, objects and awards. It will depend on your organization and the types of materials you’ve accumulated over the years.
Stories from your employees, members or clients are powerful items to include, especially in the form of oral histories. Ideally, you already have a digital archive in which you have been preserving and tagging your materials. That will make this process easier. If not, now is definitely the time to invest — the effort can continue to bring you value in the future. And remember, this process will take much longer than you think!
5. Formulate a detailed plan.
A committee without a plan goes nowhere. You need a full-on content strategy accompanied by a timeline covering the lead-up, the actual milestone and any subsequent activities. Write it all out and assign deadlines to specific individuals. Accountability is everything!
Key Questions During the Planning Phase
Here are a few key questions and issues for your committee to consider while planning:
- What do you want to be the start and end dates of the celebration? Is it a year-long, a month-long or just a single day? If your milestone falls on a holiday, will you celebrate it on that date regardless, or will you find an alternative date?
- Can you create an infographic or timeline of the significant dates in your organization’s history? For example, if it’s a twenty-year anniversary, can you identify the top twenty significant moments?
- Who are your employees, members and/or customers who have been with your organization the longest? Prioritize obtaining oral histories involving those individuals and feature them throughout your celebratory period.
- Do you want to design a temporary commemorative logo?
- Do you want to produce any commemorative merchandise, either for sale or to give to employees, members and/or clients?
- Do you want to incorporate some sort of philanthropic element? A hands-on community service event or a call to donate $20, for a twenty-year anniversary, to a nonprofit that shares your organization’s values?
- Along similar lines, if you are a nonprofit organization, do you want to incorporate a fundraising element, like asking people to donate a small amount (matching the year of your anniversary) toward a bigger goal? Maybe that goal is to preserve your own history.
- When creating your content strategy, are you exclusively focusing on social media? Consider also creating a special milestone-themed landing page, making one or more videos, spreading the word through your newsletter and sending a press release to local media. You can also add a milestone-themed tagline to email signatures during the period of celebration. Just for fun you could create a playlist of songs that were popular the year your business or organization was founded and share it as part of your campaign.
- Is there another organization or business that you have a positive relationship with that is also celebrating a significant milestone around the same time? If so, consider teaming up and cross-publicizing your anniversary posts and activities.
- Do not neglect the fun factor. Throw a big party! You can also send gift baskets, host an online trivia competition about the organization, offer a special discount on services and more.
However you decide to mark your milestone, don’t forget to document it. At your twenty-year celebration, it’s both fun and rewarding to be able to pull up and share materials from your ten-year anniversary.
Congratulations on achieving your milestone. Enjoy taking the time to reflect on and celebrate it!
If you need any support, we can help! We specialize in supporting organizations going through milestone celebrations.
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One thought on “How to Plan & Celebrate Your Organization’s Milestones”
Congratulations Kristen! I remember when History IT was just a gleam in your mind. And now look what it has become!
Congratulations on your first ten years and the invaluable service you are providing.