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It is all too easy to get lost in our work and forget to tell those around us what valuable contributions they are making. Awards can help to remind us of the promising and outstanding individuals we have in our communities. We have seen awards used to make people feel part of a group, bring attention to accomplishments, generate publicity, motivate behaviors, and to simply help people laugh and feel appreciated. Awards have a place in any project; they give people something to strive for and they generate news. They also positively reflect and strengthen a groupís image in the community.
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

Succinctly 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.

2. Publicize 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.

3. Announce the winner

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.

4. Throw a party

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.


Wednesday 6/05/02 2:00.00
A token of appreciation, recognition of service, or acknowledgement of having won a competition.

You want to encourage, motivate, or honor staff members and volunteers.

You have strong financial backing and/or a donor interested in supporting a special public initiative. You are seeking new ways to generate name-recognition and media attention.

You want to reach and motivate others in the community who may not be otherwise involved in the project.



You cannot clearly define the purpose of the award and its relevance to the projectís goals.

You are not able to generate enthusiasm or interest either to fundraise for the award or to solicit nominations.

You do not have a broad public involvement campaign and have no means of letting others know about the reward.


  While rewarding project participants, and especially volunteers, should occur at any time, distributing other awards is best towards end of a project, or whenever there is a special accomplishments or unique situation.