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Your institution is coming upon a significant milestone anniversary: a galvanizing event destined to produce purely positive outcomes and summon grand purpose during your celebration year and beyond. If you’re in a position to help lead this effort, you have a rare privilege and responsibility. This anniversary could be a once-in-a-career opportunity.

Whether your institution is commemorating 25 years, 75 years, 100 years or more, your future stands on the principles and innovations that made your company the great institution it is today. Your past reveals the soul of your company and fuels your vision for what’s next. An anniversary can be a powerful catalyst to inspire transformation, impelling you to engage your entire organization, customers and partners in a bold plan to move forward.

I’ve had the honor of interviewing more than 80 executives who embraced the challenges and opportunities that come with leading an anniversary campaign. They have openly shared lessons learned about what worked, what didn’t and why. Here are some of the most common insights.

  1. Start planning early. Time is your greatest asset. Begin two to three years in advance to give ample time to research, share opinions, ask questions and analyze alternatives. If you wait, time may become a liability.
  2. Focus on the future you desire. An anniversary allows you to tell stories from your corporate heritage that demonstrate how you have continually been able to create the future.
  3. Carefully craft your story. If you don’t, someone else will, and it may not be the story you want told. You have a tremendous opportunity to update, modernize or wholly transform the narrative of your company.
  4. Make your anniversary matter to those who matter most. Understand which constituents are most important and what must be achieved with each. Thoughtful planning will yield unprecedented engagement.
  5. Create a moment of great optimism. Understand that an anniversary is one of the rare events in an organization’s life that is purely positive. It will inspire pride and extraordinary participation from every leader, employee and partner.
  6. Leverage what you are already doing. Avoid the temptation to execute too many tactics and activities. What you choose to do should be deeply engineered into the common pattern of your business.
  7. Design beyond a party. Create experiences that are as extraordinary as the milestone they commemorate.
  8. Plan with deep strategic intent. Anniversaries do real work. Use your anniversary to facilitate real change and drive performance that will yield tangible ROI.
  9. Create a lasting legacy. Be a good host, not a hero. Focus on giving and not receiving. Ask yourself: What does our organization uniquely have that we can give to help solve pressing societal issues?
  10. Get a clear mandate from executive management. If your CEO is fortunate enough to be leading during a major milestone, they know it’s an important time for your organization, standing at the juncture of its heritage and its future. Understanding how they want to leverage this opportunity will help inform everything you do.

Milestone celebrations have a way of inspiring people to do their very best. Be bold with your intentions, enjoy the process and revel in the outcome during your anniversary year and beyond!