Tips for entering the Awards

1. This is an opportunity

Take time to read the criteria carefully and be sure you write a relevant entry. Check the criteria for each award, they often are different for each category. Take a bit of time to read it and revert back to it when checking the entry to make sure you’ve understand the entry process and have covered what the judges will be asked to look for.

2. Are your members happy with you?

This is a relevant point. Your internal developments would be great, but how your members think about you is your real picture. Whether it is member benefits, your events, publications or other products, an entry that doesn’t mention the members won’t impress many judges.

3. Be outstanding

If you have not got much to say you might not want to bother entering. But if you do, try not to promote ‘the average’. Sometimes entries make a big play about something that everyone should be doing every day as part of their normal job. Think about what you have done to add extra value.

4. Get off to a good start

Write an exciting intro and make your best points first. Judges will often have dozens of entries to read. While they are all read it can be a time consuming process so building up to your killer point, which might take a thousand words to get to, may not be the best approach.

5. Back it up

Back up your facts with evidence and detail. It is baffling how many entries talk about an association's good intentions without actually including any evidence to back it up. Not every association can be 'the largest' or 'the most active'. But saying it doesn’t really mean anything, the trick is to prove it. Be aware that entries will be read and that judges may check out your points. Use statistics where possible and always source the research. It is disappointing how many entries for areas such as member service rarely include any information on service standards or how an association’s service is measured.

6. Stick to the truth

Judges will often know if you’re telling a few porkies. “We regularly attend XYZ development event.” Do you really? “We regularly contribute to ABC working party.” Honestly? “We regularly feature in the press.” If so, back it up. If you do these things then do say so because any work that benefits your association is likely to be very well received. But back it up and do not stretch the truth.

7. Include feedback and endorsements

Independent feedback, especially from members, can be very persuasive. Including a positive sourced quote or two from a member or an adviser cannot really do any harm and could be the difference between two strong entries. Do make sure it’s a really good quote though. Quotes such as “The product was very quick and efficient” is not particularly outstanding.

8. Don’t forget the basics

  • Put your association name on the actual entry: a high proportion forget to do this and judges often need to get half way through the entry before knowing who the association is.
  • Don’t send in an old entry that was written for a different set of awards: while entries for different awards might be similar the criteria and word count will often be different.
  • Stick to the word count: some judges might be ok with an entry that goes slightly over but many will automatically discount entries that ignore the word count, likewise any entries that are woefully short are likely to be dismissed.
  • Don’t miss the deadline: try your best to be on time and if you ask for an extension be aware that if the judging is close, an entry which was late is likely to be marked down.
  • Don’t waffle and don’t waste your words: telling judges where you are based or saying things like “We are proud to be nominated and thank the judges for their time”, is often just a waste of words that could be used to say something really important.
  • Avoid excessive punctuation: try to avoid putting words in bold, capitals, italics, different colours, using exclamation marks and so on. Keep it simple and let your association and your facts do the talking. 

9. Yes, but I don’t have time…

Writing award entries is often one of those jobs that ends up on the ‘too difficult’ pile. Other associations might have big teams and you might be too busy to enter any awards. But if you don’t agree with who has won, and if others associations can make time, herein may lie your motivation. Generally speaking everyone is busy, including larger associations, and you either want to win the award or you do not. So regardless of whether you have two staff or 200, take it seriously if you want to win.

10. If at first…

Don’t be put off if you entered before and didn’t win. Try, try, and try again. It might take a few hours to write a good entry, in fact it will probably take half a day – but many people say that the process of taking time out to summarise all the good things their association does is a worthwhile process on its own that can help association development in the future.

11. Sensitive data in your entry

Backing your project up with supporting evidence and data might involve sharing sensitive information. We only share the information in your nomination with our judges who are themselves under a confidentiality agreement. You can include sensitive information in your nomination, and advise us not to mention it while we introduce your association as shortlisted / winner, if this will be the case.

12. Association Success Story

Through their nominations, associations share valuable information and insights into their projects, knowledge which can inspire and empower other associations to have similar excellent results. As such, we may invite shortlisted associations to come and discuss their projects at the forthcoming congress and also to have their success stories published in the Association Insights magazine.