by: Barb Kachelski, CAE, SVP, CUES
When your organization is celebrating a significant anniversary, it’s easy to shift to the tactical, and say things like: “We’ll put it on the website” or “We’ll write an article about it.”
But as CUES turns 50 this year, I’m finding that the milestone isn’t so much about celebrating the organization as about celebrating the members we serve.
As we started to plan what CUES would do to mark this historic occasion, our president/CEO, Fred Johnson, reached out to our charter members and others who have shaped the organization, like past board members and CUES Hall of Fame inductees, and young “next gen” members as well. He asked them, “What impact has CUES had on your career?”
They’ve responded with letters and videos that warm our hearts. We have had 30-year members and members in their 30s alike say what a large and positive impact CUES has had on their professional lives. Their thoughts have been interwoven into all of our 50th anniversary celebration activities. Here is an example of what we’re getting, this one from Ken Burns, CCE, president/CEO of $3.6 billion Patelco Credit Union, Pleasanton, Calif.
To credit unions celebrating a milestone anniversary, I suggest reaching out to your members and listening to what they have to say about how your credit union has had a positive impact on their lives. Once you’ve got your members involved and inspiring the process, try some of these celebration tactics that have worked well for CUES.
Develop a look for your anniversary brand. We wanted CUES’ 50th anniversary to be visible, so the gold logo was developed for use in everything that we do during this special year. We are placing the logo in our magazine, in the email signature staff use, on our website, on our blog, and on our Facebook page.
Update your image in places your members care about. CUES has an exhibit at America’s CU Museum in Manchester, N.H. For this anniversary, we updated the exhibit’s timeline. We were lucky that members offered us their CUES awards to include in the museum display. CUES’ trade show booth also has been updated to highlight members over the years.
Make special editions of giveaways you usually create anyway. We’ve already started to distribute special 50th anniversary pins. We usually distribute a CUES pin at the World Council of Credit Unions’ annual meeting each year.
Plan special communications throughout the year. Our year started with an editorial in Credit Union Management magazine. During the year the milestone will be recognized in the magazine several more times, including in a special supplement in June featuring letters from members. Our blog will include at least one anniversary-related post a month, and our website will sport a new top graphic each quarter to help celebrate.
Plan special events where members can help celebrate. CUES Symposium: A CEO/Chairman Exchange early this year was the first event to feature the 50th anniversary in words spoken from the podium, PowerPoint slides thanking sponsors, and speaker handout covers. At Directors Conference in December, the totes with event materials will have the 50th anniversary look. For us, celebrating on site at meetings is extra cool because it takes the anniversary to where members physically are.
Consider more lasting ways to mark the occasion. CUES is planning a new entrance sign to commemorate this year for members who visit headquarters in years to come.
Have people from throughout your organization make suggestions about how the anniversary could be recognized. You’ll gain great perspective on the many ways this effort can be approached.
Keep your member focus. If you focus too much on the internal, it could become a chore and “extra work” to undertake a celebration.
If you’re thinking of using pictures to illustrate your CU’s history, gather them early in the process. It takes time to collect what you have and identify people in the photos.
Even as you celebrate history, look to the future. The idea here is definitely not “50 and you’re done,” but rather that you’re going to be carrying on what charter members established. The people who founded CUES were young leaders when they started carrying the professional development torch. Now we have people who are going to carry that torch into the future.
Barb Kachelski, CAE, is CUES’ SVP/chief operating officer.