Following last night’s Charity Times Awards, here are five top tips to winning an award. The reason most people and organisations don’t win awards, or speak at conferences or become trustees etc. is because they don’t enter or put their names forward, but if you are prepared to take that first step and leave your comfort zone behind then there are some simple rules that will give you a greater than average chance of winning.
- Enter early and enter often. Give yourself plenty of time to re-read and fine tune your entry so start early and not on the evening of deadline day; which is quite likely to be a cold and damp Friday afternoon, when you are at a low ebb and would far rather be watching anything on afternoon TV. If you don’t get anywhere in year one keep trying and keep trying different awards – after all your organisation is worth it.
- Fulfil all the criteria and make the judges do their work. It is easy for judges to discard a brilliant entry if it fails to mention something they have requested, even in the entry form basic questions. So think carefully about how you are going to describe the work you are entering to ensure it matches the award criteria in all its aspects as closely as possible. Awards are often won because many of the candidates were eliminated, not because the top entries were stunning.
- Be stunning. Don’t aim just to present a possible winner, present the only possible winner by going beyond the brief in fulfilling the reason why the award was set up in the first place. If you really can’t do this – ask yourself why not? If your organisation is just aiming to be good enough in the work it does that really isn’t good enough, especially if you are also trying to raise funds in today’s competitive market. Think good enough as a fail and stunning as the entry level, then you will be on course for one of those chunky pieces of clear plastic with your name or that of your organisation on it.
- Obscurity doesn’t help. Entries can, and often do, live on their own and can succeed for unknown but brilliant organisations whose shyness or modesty has kept them from the limelight. The comfort factor for judges of picking a well-known organisation is not something that they would admit to or even possibly be aware of, but I think it does unfortunately make a difference. So, ramp up that publicity and let the world know how great you are way before your entry crosses its desk.
- Who loves you? An award entry is an orphan, until it wins when everyone decides it was their idea. So, it may just be you toiling away at the computer pulling the pieces together, but it shouldn’t just be you or your organisation saying you are great. Look for both external official proof or influential (maybe celebrity) endorsement of your work to show that what you are saying is true and appreciated.
Always have someone else read through your entry both to proof read it and to look at the flow, tone and style of your writing, as some judges are real sticklers for spelling and others can be put off by grammar and even unintentionally by your tone of voice.
Entering an award is always great fun too, and you may be surprised how a win can really boost your organisation and help its beneficiaries. So take my advice – enter early and enter often.