Awards reflect accomplishments. People earn awards; they are not random prizes. An award may be given because of work over a long time period, such as a service award given after being with an organization for 5 years; or for one specific event, such as writing the best essay or taking the best photograph entered in a competition. Who wins the award is determined by a set of guidelines and rules.
The award itself can take most any shape or form. It may be a certificate, plaque, statue or other memento. There may also be an accompanying check for a scholarship or stipend, or the publication of the piece with credits in a newspaper, a poster, or other appropriate medium. The award may be a one-time event or an annual occurrence.
Groups can use awards to attract potential donors. Establishing a specific fund can be appealing to individual and corporate contributors who want to specially allocate their gifts. It can also be setup as a memorial gift due to someoneís death or a gift to honor the retirement of a long-serving volunteer or employee. Information about the award should always include a history of how it was created and its sponsors.
Awards can also be more informal. Hosting an awards banquet following the end of a season or an especially large undertaking does not have to meet the same criteria as more formal awards programs. Use either traditional tokens, such as certificates, or more humorous gifts. One volunteer may be given a plant with thanks for helping the organization to grow or a box of mints in honor of keeping the group fresh. These types of rewards are limited only by creativity and imagination Ė but remember to use only appropriate humor that cannot be considered offensive.
1. Create an award
define the purpose of the award and what you hope to accomplish
by giving it. Its purpose should be related to the overall mission
of the project or group. Depending upon the nature of the organization
giving the award, consider whether to make the award ongoing, such
as an annual scholarship or celebrating multiple years of service.
Unless awards are being given to everyone as fun acknowledgements
of service, establish how the recipients, or winners, will be chosen.
Can they nominate themselves? Do they need to submit portfolios
or references? Is anyone eligible or is there an age limit and/or
residency requirement? What is the deadline? If there is a review
panel, who will be on it and what are their qualifications? This
is also the time to create a budget. Money needs to be available
if the award is a scholarship or other monetary prize. Plaques,
framed certificates, statues, gag gifts, or other items like clothing
or mugs need to be purchased. Decide if there will be an award ceremony
and how elaborate or simple it will be: an evening dinner and reception
or snacks during a regularly scheduled meeting.
a nominating process and rules
When the award
is decided upon and the procedure is fully documented, get the word
out to both those who are eligible and to the general public. Depending
upon the target audience, announce it in the groupís newsletter,
write a press release or place an advertisement in a local newspaper,
post signs in public spaces and on the groupís web site, send letters
and email, or contact school principals and guidance counselors.
Use this as
an opportunity to generate positive press for the organization.
Write a press release including quotes from the winner or winners
and the groupís president. Also consider including the winners and
short biographies in the groupís newsletter and web site. Even informal
awards make good stories. (To build suspense, hold off on these
activities until after the party as discussed below.) Keep in mind
that if awards are given after a contest or nominating process,
announcing the winners avoids appearances of any improprieties and
also generates enthusiasm for future events.
Plan and host
a ceremony; it can be elaborate or simple, just make it special.
Invite reporters, volunteers, and key stakeholders. Have a community
leader or motivational speaker deliver a keynote address. Carefully
prepare remarks about the award and the recipient. Depending upon
time and budget constraints, consider assembling a short slide show
or video capturing why he or she is receiving the award. Acknowledge
any volunteers or donors as appropriate. Take plenty of photographs
and videotape the speaker for advertising next yearís award program
and for other publications.