For events, organizational milestones like significant anniversaries can be challenging. Beyond the fact that your organization has made it this long, how do you use that mile mark to engage donors? The key is to utilize the occasion in an effective way that isn’t just self-congratulatory, but in a way that actually drives the programming and fundraising.
This year Virginia Garcia utilized the opportunity of its 40th anniversary to completely change the event format they were using. The shift enabled them to celebrate both the work that their organization has done over the last four decades with the help of their donors, as well as utilize the event as a platform to launch excitement about their next stage of growth.
The event was a large shift into a gala format with dinner, auction and special appeal. They saw it as a real opportunity to engage their major donors and make them feel like the anniversary was a big deal. In doing so, they activated their major donors even more and had a great night of fundraising.
The 40th Anniversary Gala did an amazing job of both reflecting on the past as well as celebrating the future of Virginia Garcia. The history of the organization is one of local Latino leaders who recognized the need for health care for the many migrant workers and underserved population in the area. The senseless death of a young girl named Virginia Garcia galvanized them and moved them into action. The organization grew from a small clinic in a garage into a local healthcare leader serving over 42,000 patients a year at 16 clinics.
This story of this accomplishment alone could have been where they focused for their programming. But they didn’t stop there. They also made the people in the room feel a part of their longevity and success. From the stage, the organization’s Executive Director stated, “As I look around this room I see the faces of the providers, staff, board members, volunteers and donors who made this all possible. The growth we have seen over the years is immense. We are serving anyone who walks through our doors. No one is turned away.”
And in that moment she brought the history into the room and made it a story that everyone was a part of. That connection activated donors and made for a great night of fundraising and celebration looking toward the future.
Significant anniversaries can be a great occasion for a major donor event. Leverage the celebratory mile marker to get the right people in the door, especially past leaders and supporters. The key is to continue to extend the hand to your audience and make the successes feel like they happened with your donors. Not just that your work is amazing. It’s the difference between Isn’t it great how much we have done over the last 40 years and Look at all of the amazing things you have helped make happen.
Donors respond in big ways when they are included in the action and accomplishment.
Graphic Design by LeAnn Locher
Photo by Izzy Ventura