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 often stressful times and mad scrambles, in top of business as usual, to get submissions polished and sent off.
Certain doubts crossed my mind, is this an exercise that is worthwhile? Does it warrant the stress, and the time and manpower it takes up? Aren’t there more important things to do, like focusing on making the impact itself? It’s not just the time it takes preparing and submitting award applications, but writing them is a pretty particular skill – was it worth investing in developing this skill as a team?
After some initial submissions, we realised that 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 – including the much valued Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award, to our team this was THE award to win.
Whether you decide to develop the skill in house, or opt to use an expert team to help you to frame your projects in the best light (for a great consultancy that specialises in award applications, seek help from Boost Awards), there are many reasons which make aiming to win awards, and taking the time and focus to submit applications, 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, sustainable in the longer term and likely to make the biggest difference. By viewing your programmes through the lenses of their questionnaires and criteria, seeking feedback from the judges who are experts in CSR and working towards being able to provide the information in question, in the format required, you stand to 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 that exists elsewhere. Knowing that we would have to have detailed information around measurable impacts, in particular, impacts which could be attributed to, and compared over specific timeframes, gave us the motivation we needed to improve our measurement processes and recording of relevant 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 – which practitioners in this space know is vital in securing engagement of your relevant stakeholder groups, 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 in your programmes, 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.