Tag Archives: membership development

Commemorative Histories Serving Different Goals: Case Studies

Organizations large and small can benefit from publishing a commemorative book. Determining the function you want your history to serve can help you achieve your strategic goals. A look at a few examples from Timelines’ client portfolio is testament to that fact.

Greensboro Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, celebrated its centennial in 2009 by publishing a 128-page anniversary book. The club had four primary objectives for recording its history. First, it was in the middle of a new member recruitment initiative. Club officials felt that by honoring and maintaining the club’s traditions and heritage through a book, interest in membership would result, which it did. Second, preserving GCC’s history for future generations was of utmost importance. Third, the process of having members unearth memorabilia and share stories and memories of a bygone era tightened the bonds amongst members. And, finally, the book provided an instrument to recognize current and past employees, board members and volunteer committees.

The owners of Wyoming’s Red Rock Ranch published a coffee table book on their dude ranch in 2002. Besides documenting the ranch’s past from its homesteading days in the late 1880s to the present, the book preserves the traditions and heritage of a special way of life up the Gros Ventre Valley. Ultimately, the book creates a sense of place and is a testament to the people and events that have shaped this unique hideaway in the American West.

The primary purpose for The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut, to develop it’s centennial book in 2011 was to recognize the school’s namesake, while acknowledging the contributions she made to the lives of young women. Additionally, the book celebrates the spirit of the Walker’s community and its resilience despite huge financial obstacles during it’s first century. Finally, administration officials wanted the book be a vehicle to reconnect alumnae with their alma mater – a critical factor from a philanthropic standpoint.

So, as you can see, commemorative histories cater to a variety of needs. Once strategic goals are targeted, anything is possible.

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The Functions of Commemorative Histories

Gathering decades – or even a century – of data and anecdotes, conducting oral histories and researching archival photography to document an organization’s history is a time-consuming, involved process. However, many organizations and associations undertake these projects every year. Why? What value is derived from creating a commemorative book? What purpose and function does it serve?

The most obvious purpose of an anniversary book is to document an organization’s history. However, the deeper and more engaging questions include, “Why do we want to document our history in the first place? How will recording the past serve our organization going forward? And, how will the production of a commemorative history help us achieve our strategic goals?” The answers to these questions depends on numerous factors, including the type of organization, the make-up of its people, its longevity, as well as geographic location. Typical reasons for completing a commemorative book include:

  • Preserving history for posterity.
  • Celebrating and honoring the organization’s “trailblazers.”
  • Demonstrating the leadership of the organization over time.
  • Illustrating the benefits that a relationship with the organization brings to the individual over time both professionally and personally.
  • Educating constituents about the evolution of the organization and the changes it has wrought in itself and the community at large.
  • Soliciting potential donors by illustrating the organization’s intrinsic value.
  • Honoring donors, volunteers and others on behalf of the organization.
  • Carrying on the organization’s legacy.

Commemorative books serve multiple purposes, as each individual organization has its own objectives. No two organizations – or commemorative books – are identical. The history should reflect, through literate text, imagery and style – the unique character of that particular entity. An entity’s driving goals for producing a book will ultimately determine the budget, whom to interview, types of images to collect and/or shoot, as well as the book’s physical size, shape and feel – in other words, the overall scope of the project.

Determining if a limited edition, customized history is right for your organization can be challenging. Figuring out the goals of such a project can be even more so, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Just ask yourself these questions:

  • Do we want to tell meaningful stories of a bygone era? If so, why?
  • Will the book be used as a marketing tool? A gift?
  • Do we want the book to be used as a vehicle to bring new members or families through the front door while increasing the bottom line?

To help you in your process, look for these future posts:

  • Examples of commemorative histories that serve different functions.
  • Determining the process and look of your work once your goals are set.
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