As a CSR team we used to apply to many award schemes relating to our partnerships and impacts. Historically, our organisation had been recognised by prestigious schemes, and it was just something that we had in the diary to do. Most schemes have a similar deadline each year and we were primed to submit when the time came. In the days approaching deadlines there were stressful times and mad scrambles, on top of business as usual, to get submissions polished and sent off.
Certain doubts crossed my mind, is this a worthwhile exercise? Does it warrant the stress, and the time and manpower it takes? Aren’t there more important things to do, like focusing on increasing the impact itself? It’s not just the time it takes preparing award applications, but writing them is a particular skill – was it worth investing in developing this skill as a team?
After some initial submissions, we realised we were going to have to up our game considerably, if we were to add to the cabinet of, by now somewhat dusty, historical awards. It included the much valued Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award, which to us was THE award to win.
Whether you decide to develop the skill in house, or opt to use an expert team to help to frame your projects in the best light (Boost Awards are a great consultancy that specialises in applications), there are many reasons which make aiming for awards, and taking the time and focus to submit, worthwhile.
Well established schemes have honed their criteria over many years and are well aware of the kinds of programmes and partnerships which are successful, ie sustainable in the longer term and likely to make the biggest difference. By viewing your programmes through the lense of their questionnaires and criteria, seeking feedback from the judges who are experts and working towards providing information, in the format required, you learn a lot about your programmes and where they can be strengthened.
By reading up on the programmes others are putting forward for awards, you get ideas and a good sense of best practice. Knowing we would have to provide detail around measurable impacts, in particular, impacts which could be attributed to our programmes, and compared over specific timeframes, gave us the motivation we needed to improve our measurement and recording of information on our programmes.
One of the trickiest things about award application writing is the very limited word count you’re often given, in which to convey programmes you are so close to and passionate about. Many an evening was spent in our team, agonising over submissions to cut them down, each word having to work hard to earn its place in the final submission.
Again, this can amount to a big investment of time. However, once you’ve been forced to articulate your projects and impacts in this way, you are left with a particularly effective way of communicating what you’re doing. This is really valuable for repurposing and use across your website and social media platforms and for internal and external communication purposes. Practitioners in this space know how vital this is in engaging stakeholders, from clients and potential clients, to senior executives within your organisation.
Succinct, effective communications regarding your programmes and their impacts are invaluable in inspiring people to get involved, or support charitable initiatives more broadly. Furthermore, external recognition of programmes can be a huge boost for teams that struggle for legitimacy and support internally, for a number of reasons. Publicity that goes with a win can be hugely beneficial to charities, the people they serve and the causes they address.