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When I think of nonprofit milestone or anniversary celebrations, I see visions of black tie galas. For someone like me, who has primarily fundraised for small nonprofit organizations, the prospect of organizing an event like that is daunting. How will all other daily fundraising operations continue if we focus on celebrating a milestone? And if we don’t have the resources to host a big event like a gala, is it worth acknowledging a milestone at all?
To learn how nonprofits of all sizes can harness the opportunity that a milestone presents, I reached out to two nonprofit leaders, Al Cantor of Al Cantor Consulting and Joyce Cellars of CPG Enterprises. Both were gracious enough to share their insights, and I was encouraged by what I learned about the range of options for nonprofits of all sizes. Whether you’re gearing up for a big event or you’re wondering how to celebrate a milestone on a smaller scale, these tips will help you make the most of your milestone celebration.
Anniversaries and milestones are about impact. They’re a perfect occasion to reinforce what has been accomplished and highlight the difference your organization has made. Reflecting on the past is important, but it’s even more important to look to the future. Where is your organization going? What impact can it have on the community in the next 25 years?
Al Cantor says that when it comes to milestone celebrations, what works for one organization may not work for another—and milestone celebrations aren’t one-size-fits-all.
Think about the fancy gala I mentioned previously. If an organization already hosts a successful gala each year, then by all means an even bigger gala to celebrate a milestone is a great option! Keep in mind that it’s okay if black tie doesn’t fit with your organization’s culture. For a community garden network, a casual picnic may resonate with your stakeholders. Other organizations may find that a series of workshops or lectures is a better choice. Above all, your celebration needs to be true to your organization’s values and culture.
Joyce Cellars cautions fundraisers to remember that events can have low return on investment. In addition to your event, or instead of it, you can use a milestone year to focus on internal goals to boost your fundraising operations:
Whatever your organization’s size, you can find a way to celebrate a milestone that is true to your values, productive for your mission, and meaningful. Joyce urges you to be joyful and have fun with it—you have a lot to be proud of!
Thanks to Al Cantor and Joyce Cellars for sharing their time and knowledge.
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