Blueprinting Your Birthday
Anniversary functions are an excellent way to celebrate an important milestone in an organization's history. However, while the celebration itself may be a joyous occasion, the extensive planning leading up to the event can oftentimes be headache-inducing. Judith B. Durham, executive vice president, the Architectural Woodwork Institute, Reston, Virginia; Mary Hanger, manager of programs and corporate membership, the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, McLean, Virginia; Matt Jeanneret, vice president of communications, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Washington, D.C.; and Rich Youmans, director of communications and publications, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, Providence, Rhode Island, relate their anniversary experiences and offer advice for making your association's big bash go off not with a whimper, but a bang.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What is the best piece of advice you can give for making the event a success?
Durham: Begin planning four to five years ahead of time, at least. Set money aside to fund the programming and celebration portion of the event. Most importantly, have a dynamic, well-networked president in place for the year. We did, and he did a lot of personal work to ensure the event was a success--calling all past presidents, chapter presidents, and many members who were no longer involved.
Hanger: Determine who you want your audience to be, and create an event that they will remember. In our case, special invitations went to past and current Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International leadership. Our co-chairs and past association presidents emceed the event, welcomed and entertained their peers throughout the evening, and even wrote a song reminiscing the years gone by.
Jeanneret: Advanced planning involving the association's members, and determining the scope of activities given available financial resources are all key ingredients to executing a special anniversary.
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association began preparations for its 2002 centennial as early as 1999 with the establishment of a member-led 100th Anniversary Committee. ARTBA's volunteer leaders developed a list of activities and initiatives to implement throughout the anniversary year. Passionate dedication of the ARTBA staff and support of the association's top management also helped make the anniversary a positive experience.
Youmans: Plan early. Once the anniversary arrives, the months have a way of passing too quickly. Also, make sure key members are
involved--from board directors to those members that always seem to give that little bit extra. The more people you have on board, and the more ideas you have flowing from the membership, the better off you'll be.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What was you favorite aspect/outcome of the event?
Durham: The celebration evening was best; we had an actor who pretended to be the founder of our organization. The script was excellent, and he made everyone laugh. That was the other excellent part of this meeting, every event had humor included--either through our professional speakers, musical entertainers, or by our officers themselves. We also had games one afternoon, and that really brought everyone together in a lighthearted and fun way--that was the second best aspect.
Hanger: I did not realize how touched the attendees would be by this gesture to recognize them and celebrate our association. We received numerous letters from guests thanking us for a memorable event that reunited them with some of their closest and oldest friends. We also sent each past president a beautiful, paper album with photos that captured the spirit and faces of the evening, along with a note from our CEO.
Jeanneret: ARTBA's 100th anniversary celebration was successful in strengthening the association's brand identity and reaching key audiences on Capitol Hill and the White House with messages about the importance and value of transportation investment to America.
Youmans: One of the things we did was run a serial history of the association in our monthly publication and on our Web site. To see the growth of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America led to a deeper appreciation for the association and the industry for me personally, and several members commented that they enjoyed reading the history unfold each month.
The milestone was also a time to think anew about the association, and we used it to help inaugurate a new logo and a redesigned Web site. Finally, as part of the celebration, we produced a Tribute Journal that helped to raise over $27,000 for the industry's charity, the Jewelers Charity Fund, which was presented to the JCF at our Centennial Gala celebration during our annual trade show. So, our centennial served not only as an opportunity to celebrate 100 years of MJSA, but it also gave us the chance to give back to the industry.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: If you could go back and do one thing differently surrounding the event, what would it be?
Durham: The only frustrations were that we could not do everything we wanted--due to resources and time--and that some people were not recognized in the manner they wished. Otherwise, I don't think I would have changed a thing; it was as close to perfect as we could have achieved.
Hanger: The event itself flowed perfectly. I would have preferred to have chosen the hotel earlier, but the Plaza Hotel in New York City did such a great job that no one would have ever known that the hotel had only been determined two months prior to the event.
Jeanneret: Most of the 100th Anniversary activities were done on a beer budget and were not initiated until the association had successfully raised money for them. In hindsight, having a dedicated budget from the outset that was derived from a special anniversary member dues assessment or other revenue source would have made things easier.
Youmans: As with anything of this magnitude that has a very finite time frame, there are always things that I wish we could have done differently. In the end, you do the best you can with the time and resources available. To me, the true success of any centennial is not what you do to look back and celebrate, but what you do to look ahead and plan for the next hundred years. If the centennial serves as a springboard toward an association that is charged and ready to tackle new challenges, then it's successful. Given that our membership is growing and that we have more and more new projects on the horizon, I would say the centennial was a success for MJSA.
Jesse Alter is editorial assistant for ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT magazine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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