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Maximising return on investment: seven tips for a successful anniversary campaign

23 February 2010

We’ve just celebrated our 25th anniversary with a campaign that generated a return of investment (ROI) of 94:1; this means that for every £1 we spent on the campaign we earned £94.

I’m going to talk about how we did it and the lessons I learnt along the way. You can also use many of these tips to help create a successful relaunch or repositioning.

1. Be clear about why your organisation needs this campaign.

Make sure that your reasons to celebrate your anniversary pass the "so what?" test. Unless you are celebrating at least a centenary or more, there’s a risk that you could launch an expensive campaign for its own sake. You need to ask yourself: what’s in it for your audience? 

For example, the ultimate aim of Lasa’s 25th anniversary campaign was to tell our stakeholders how our services could help them. To get to the stage where they were receptive to this message, we needed to use the initial phases of the 25th anniversary to:

  • rebuild our reputation after a recent restructure
  • demonstrate the business case for our services (in our case, increased need for advice about welfare benefits)
  • reach influential stakeholders in our market (e.g. Chief Executives and Directors in the charity and public sector organisations who use our services)
  • reposition ourselves as a leader in the fields we work in.

2. Get buy-in

So, you’ve had a great idea for your anniversary/ relaunch/ repositioning. Now what? You’ll need to get buy-in and support from your board and directors. Make sure that you involve them early on in the planning stages. I found that even when budgets were tight, the board and directors were still supportive if I could show the business case for what I was trying to do.

3. Plan, plan, plan

Who are your target audiences? We invested time in thinking about who we were trying to reach with our 25th anniversary campaign: what kind of people were we targeting? You need to consider what their job titles are, what kinds of organisations they work in and what processes they go through when deciding whether or not to use your services. You also need to think about creating simple but effective key messages that will cut through the "clutter" to reach your audience. What do you want them to do after they’ve experienced your campaign?

In my view, charities should be careful about how they use nostalgia in anniversary campaigns. Sure, what your charity has achieved is important and it’s made a big difference. Celebrating that will reward the loyalty of long term supporters. But keep the focus on what you’d like your audience to do now, e.g. donate or, in our case, fund or use our services. And build into the planning stage how you are going to track the success of your campaign. For example, you can suggest that a donations target should be hit.

4. Choose the best tools for the job

Once you’ve got a business case, buy-in and a broad plan for your campaign, you need to think about how you can find the best tools to reach your target audience. In Lasa’s case, we needed a low cost tool that our stakeholders trusted. We focused on PR, using a mix of press work, sponsorship and two carefully targeted events with speakers that we knew would attract our target audience. We planned the events so that they were as interactive as possible; for example, we launched a survey on the theme of the events a few weeks beforehand, and announced the results a few days before the final "flagship" event.

5. Build the right team for the campaign

Whether you are using staff from your own marketing and communications teams, external suppliers or pro bono help, take the time to choose people who know the tools you want to use, and who can use them well.  I was fortunate enough to work with Luica Mak of Bright One and Jo O’ Rourke of Keynote Consulting, both of whom have many years of experience in PR and events.

6. Keep a close eye on costs

With a big campaign, like an anniversary or a relaunch, costs – especially design – can spiral beyond your original estimates. It’s also easy to overlook VAT or other "hidden" costs.

The main lesson I learnt from our 25th anniversary campaign was not to spend a penny of our budget without thinking about what the return on investment would be. As a result, our final campaign costs were less than 40% of our original estimate.

We also were fortunate to have some very good sponsorship opportunities, including from one of our funders, City Bridge Trust.

7. Measure your results

Looking at your original key performance indicators of success for your campaign, how did it perform? At Lasa we achieved some significant press coverage and, as direct result of some networking opportunities from our 25th anniversary event, also won a new contract with a government department.

Keeping these tips in mind, you should be able to generate successful return on investment from your anniversary campaign.

Zoe Amar

founder and director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at and @zoeamar