How Creating a Ritual Can Grow Your Nonprofit Revenue and Community of Support

Are you unforgettable? More importantly, is your nonprofit on the lips of thousands of people at least once per year? You can help people to remember you by creating a ritual that recognizes and celebrates your work. This article studies Persons Day, a day familiar to Canadians but unknown south of the border. 

Person’s Day

In Canada, every October 18th, thousands of people gather in 13 cities to celebrate Persons Day. The festivities celebrate the Famous Five (Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby), who won a hard-fought victory in the Supreme Court of Canada and the British Privy Council. From that 1918 date forward, women were considered persons under the law. Several groups sponsor Persons Day events, including The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund and The Canadian Voters Congress. In Winnipeg, one Persons Day event draws 1,000 people.

Unpacking Persons Day’s Community Building Potential 

What fundamentals create this concept? Let’s slow down to unpack some of its components so you can adapt it to benefit your nonprofit. Here’s a checklist to use as you consider ideas.

Your day:

  • Celebrates a victory otherwise forgotten
  • Helps people to remember, appreciate, and notice progress on a continuing journey
  • Brings people together around your work
  • Impacts your income, resources, and status

What This Community Buiding Fundraising Approach Is Not

An event like a Persons Day is not just another event. Instead, it is a ritual that helps people place things in perspective. It helps them to remember the past, recognize the present, and glimpse the future. The concept invites reflection and more.

How Can You Use This Concept?

1. Identify an event, turning point, or person that uniquely represents your nonprofit. Check if a day or an event already exists for your cause upon which you can capitalize.

2. Create A Ritual. Help people to remember. As a child, did you have assemblies for Arbor Day? My classmates and I shivered around a newly planted tree on Arbor Day. Teachers and students recited the pledge of allegiance, listened to poems about trees, and sang a song. As I quivered, I marveled at the older trees around me about ready to leaf out in the Connecticut spring. I contemplated how the tiny sapling would one day join its huge relatives in time. In the bustle of our lives, rituals give people a place to stand to reflect and see anew. They offer perspective. Offer your community a chance to remember your cause by creating a ritual around it. 

3. Start Small. For instance, this year, announce a new holiday and tweet it. Next year, celebrate with a coffee at your worksite. Invite a dozen people whom you want to meet. Year three, celebrate with a small ceremony at an art gallery featuring an exhibit related to your cause.

Or follow this group. Celebrate your Founder’s birthday with an opening ceremony outside their facility. Lock the doors for fifteen minutes and remember his or her work.

4. Setting. Consider setting options for your celebration. Where might they be done? At your site? Virtually? Privately? In a public venue? Every December, Compassionate Friends backs the Worldwide Candle Lighting ceremony. The Lighting now includes a mixture of both public and private remembrances. 

5. Results. Plan how the celebration will serve your nonprofit. Don’t make the event stand alone — give it context. In all resource-strapped nonprofits, activities need to do double or even triple duty. How will you connect the remembrance to your other fundraising and community-building efforts? What will people learn? Remember? How can you involve the media? Will you use the event to support your income needs?

During most worship services, it is common for the plate to be passed for donations. Will you pass the plate? Or earn income from ticket sales? Ask for donations? Send a follow-up email mail? This kind of thinking isn’t mercenary. It’s smart. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Philanthropy Day is celebrated each November with luncheons and educational events across North America. One chapter recently made $40,000 with the luncheon. Maximize your results: plan for money and more.

6. Build. Instead of starting new each year, make your celebration an annual. Create momentum. Build on past success, so your marketing efforts remind people of the idea, not introduce the concept. Add new low-labor intensity elements. Switch out tired or work-intensive stuff. Fine-tune your celebrations.

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This article helps your nonprofits create rituals around events to build community, support your income, and help people to remember you. Persons Day represents a ritual of remembering and looking to the future with hope. We need rituals in our lives. Your nonprofit can create one around your cause to help you be a profitable nonprofit.

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