Sometimes we think of awards as just for the largest charities, and perhaps just to increase the level of smugness we suspect some people feel; but awards can have some very positive effects not only for staff satisfaction with their work, but also to enhance the charity’s level of awareness and support from the public.
Having sat on many award committees I can say that small charities stand as much chance of winning as large charities, but they do need to highlight that key element that makes their bid both original and completely on target for the reason the award is given. Large charities seem to win most awards merely because they enter far more awards than small charities, not because of their status or some inherent quality of scale in their bids.
The sector sets out a lot of awards each year, from tonight’s Third Sector Awards to the Institute of Fundraising’s Awards and the Charity Times Awards. Googling ‘charity awards’ gives 82 million responses, though I doubt there are quite that many out there.
So here’s why your charity should be entering…
1. Staff morale
Awards do have a very positive affect on staff morale and on the morale of the whole organisation. Sometimes this even leads to boards having much more respect for the professionalism of their staff. Our staff are often underpaid and work long hours without much recognition, so this form of affirmation can have a much larger effect than we might expect.
2. Public confidence
Awards give the public a feeling of confidence in your charity almost regardless of the nature of the award. This helps with recruitment of donors, volunteers and even trustees. There is no point winning if you do not publicise the fact internally and externally.
3. Evaluate performance
Applying for an award makes you look critically at your charity. What exactly have you done that deserves an award? In today’s challenging climate it is not enough to be competent, or even very good at what you do, that is just the entry level. In what are you outstanding? What are you doing that is brilliant, awesome or even epic? And if nothing maybe you really need to up your game and deliver a much better service.
4. The buzz
The whole process is exciting and fun right down to the award ceremonies. I remember when my organisation won an award that we really did not expect and the result was electrifying, both on the night and in the following days – who would have thought that so many people were aware we had entered and won. Awards are also great at enhancing your social media presence – totally non-swank of course – and a year later you can create a buzz around your next entry.
5. Celebrates the sector
Call me old fashioned but awards demonstrate that the sector is working well and delivering an outstanding service that justifies its tax exempt status. Today the trend is towards social enterprises, which do not have the same tax status, and Generation Y is increasingly drawn into this area of social good but with a for-profit basis, and charities really need to show they deliver great results or we will reach peak charity and the zeitgeist may move away into a profit driven zone as government support moves to enhance the social enterprise offering.
So, if you haven’t already entered do set out an awards pipeline for the year, as you do for your trust applications, complete with the award deadlines and conditions so you really maximise your chances of success.
CEO, International Fundraising Consultancy