Traditionally, silver is the gift for 25th anniversaries.

However, Lighthouse is celebrating their first quarter of a century with fiberglass and some fancy artwork.

Lighthouse, which provides after-school programming for teenagers, has sponsored a public art project for the past several months in Lincoln, Neb., titled “Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse.” IMG_4445

It’s important for nonprofits to celebrate their achievements and their milestones. Lighthouse’s use of lightbulbs and public art didn’t just act as a way to toot their horn, but it also provided awareness about their needs and served as a fundraiser.

“Ultimately, this year-long celebration will illuminate everyone to the importance of after-school programming and the success of Lighthouse for the past 25 years,” Pete Allman, the co-founder and board president, said in an interview with L Magazine.

Local artists decorated and designed the 51 6-foot-tall light bulbs, which have been spread throughout the city. Designs include starry night, an owl and a giant metallic hand holding a lightbulb. All of the designs can be found on Lighthouse’s website.

The lightbulbs around the city are just part of a year-long celebration of the organization’s anniversary. The program’s executive director, Bill Michener, drove one of the bulbs 1,500 miles to the Thomas Edison Museum in New Jersey and received national media coverage. The capstone event is a two-day celebration in October that ends with an auction of the light bulbs. More than a dozen schools have requested the bulbs live permanently in front of their buildings.

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The project illustrates the success that comes with thoughtful planning as well as involving the city and community in your milestone. Rather than just one big event to give themselves a pat on the back for their work over the years, they tied a big project into their education and fundraising efforts to have a much larger impact on their mission and bottom line.

The project has been a massive success. In addition to the media coverage, the light bulbs have filled up social media as people have trekked all over the city to take their pictures with the bulbs. Special maps were printed and people made visiting all 51 a part of their summer plans. Even other nonprofits are utilizing the project into their events. For example, one nonprofit that hosts an adventure race incorporated the bulbs into a challenge.

Nonprofits celebrate anniversaries all the time. Lighthouse took their milestone and made it a source of community pride and rallying point. It didn’t just happen overnight though. They planned and worked on the project for months prior to the first installation. In the end, the project will last for the next 25 years of the organization and beyond.

UPDATE: The Illuminating Lincoln project turned out to be a massive success as it raised nearly $250,000 for Lighthouse with one lightbulb going for $16,000.