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5 Great Ideas for Corporate Anniversary Gifts

January 14, 2020 • Jason Dressel

This article was originally written in 2012, and updated with contemporary examples in January 2020.

When you think corporate anniversary gift, what comes to mind? Probably something you’ve seen with a logo on it: a mug, a bag, a jacket, maybe a hat. Perhaps something a little fancier with some wood or metal—after all, something engraved is always nice. And these corporate anniversary gift ideas are perfectly fine, especially for organizations that have employees and other constituencies with a rabid appetite for their branded swag.

But for many other organizations, the corporate anniversary gift is just going to be another collectible in their arsenal of stuff. Let’s be honest: How often do you get a mass-produced gift from your company that you really need? Here are just a few of our corporate anniversary gift ideas for your next brainstorming session—ideas that we’ve seen work and that provide memorable value.

1. Time Off

Pictured: Two professionals are shaking hands.

We all need it. However, while everyone would certainly appreciate some time off, the concept of giving an employee time away from the company in celebration of the company’s anniversary always struck me as off-note. But over the past few years, companies have provided employees with more flexibility over when and where they work. At the same time, they have encouraged volunteerism as part of their own community outreach programs. Giving employees some hours or a day to volunteer somewhere is a great way to recognize employees’ efforts and willingness to do what’s been asked of them, and it also reinforces the company’s commitment to having happy, engaged people.

2. The Object with a Story Behind It

This is a photograph of an employee holding a Stanlo replica bus made out of puzzle pieces.

Most organizations consider ideas like time off or donating to a worthy cause on employees’ behalf but still conclude that the corporate anniversary gift should be a tangible gift. We suggest that it should be an item of meaning. Remember, this is an anniversary, so there’s a nuanced distinction from other gifts. The gift should reinforce the mission, values and character of the company and brand. Ideally, the gift should have a story behind it. We mine company archives all the time to find objects with stories behind them. A mug is more meaningful if it’s the same design as the founder’s mug from 100 years ago. With this approach, the gift is a symbol of what we work toward together. People tend to like old stuff, and they like stories. Put those together well, and you may have a winning anniversary gift—but make sure the story accompanies the object and is not assumed.

3. A Company History Book

This is a photograph of Brooks Brothers' custom history book, which they created to commemorate a major milestone.

As noted above, a gift with a story behind it is invaluable. What has more of a story behind it than your company’s actual history? Companies often want to commemorate a major milestone with a corporate history publication. As with #2, a book should reinforce a company’s mission, values, character and brand. The full story of your company will give employees a reference point for how you got to where you are as a business and why the company operates the way that it does. Furthermore, key stories, quotes and images from your company’s past and founding leaders can connect the workforce with previous generations, help build a feeling of pride, and create a unified culture. All of these intangibles can have an incredible effect on morale and help to engage workers.

4. A Corporate Anniversary Event

This is a photograph of History Factory's employees, who are celebrating the company's 40th anniversary outside the original offices. Each employee received their own commemorative replica sign.

Sure, time off is nice, but what about a company event—a shared experience that unites workers for the next year, five years or decade?

History Factory recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a companywide meeting and gala that included a bus tour dubbed the Magical History Tour. Employees visited locations around the D.C. metro area that are significant to our company’s history: our first office in Alexandria; our first client, Riggs Bank; and the first building that became known as “The History Factory.” All of this was narrated by founder and CEO Bruce Weindruch, whose commentary was peppered with anecdotes ranging from inspirational to downright hysterical. It was a galvanizing experience that was meaningful for both longtime employees and recent hires

This kind of event might not be possible in organizations that are spread across the globe or with more than a bus full of people. Events can be scaled up or down, or done in a way that is entirely inclusive. We have seen entire stadiums rented out, worldwide digital parties, and staggered events with similar programming done regionally. In all of these cases, the uniting factor is the shared experience.

5. Company Sweepstakes or Competitions

This is a photograph of Intel's 50th anniversary celebration. Hundreds of drones with lights are flying in the night sky, spelling out 'Intel 50'.

Who doesn’t love winning great prizes? When technology manufacturer Intel turned 50 in 2018, the company celebrated the anniversary with the tagline, “50 Years of Wonder.” As a plank of the anniversary campaign, the company launched internal competitions for employees labeled “Winners of Wonder.” More than 1,500 employees won prizes at global anniversary events, ranging from extra vacation time, to 50 shares of company stock, to new computers, to TAG Heuer watches. In addition, some employees won a trip to visit Intel’s headquarters and company museum in Santa Clara, California, and four lucky employees won new cars. This is a great example of finding innovative prizes for employees linked to the anniversary theme—probably with the exception of the car prize. In cases like this, we’ll overlook that it wasn’t linked to the anniversary because it is a big-ticket item that generated a lot of buzz and appreciation among employees.

What do these five ideas have in common? They’re personal, memorable and compelling. If the company gives you a day off out of the blue, you’re going to remember that. We’ve also found that a gift with authenticity and meaning also can hit the right note of emotion. And that’s what anniversaries should be all about. An anniversary gift should be an authentic expression of the company and anniversary itself.

There’s a whole other list of ideas that you shouldn’t do, but I’ll save that one for another day. Spoiler alert: Employee cash is at the top of that list.

For more information on how to plan and execute a corporate anniversary celebration, check out our comprehensive guide to celebrating your company anniversary.

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