How to write a great submission for the Insight in Fundraising Awards 2018

Not entered an industry award before?  Not sure where to start?

Insight in Fundraising InsightAwards2018_logo_PRINT_2018

We’d like to offer you some helpful guidance for writing your entry to the Insight in Fundraising Awards 2017. Whilst the entry process is simple, here we run through further tips and advice to help you craft your story and pull out the most compelling aspects to make a winning entry:

 1.      Identify candidate projects or initiatives

Which projects or initiatives have been heralded as a great success or you and your team are particularly proud of?  You may have received very positive feedback from others in the organisation or felt proud of the way that you have tackled a particular issue.  Note that good or ‘best’ practice need not be radically new or ground-breaking: the consistent and sustained application of techniques known to work to improve results is commendable also. 

 2.      Which of your candidate entries can you substantiate?

Next, consider which of these candidate projects or initiatives you have – or may be able to find – results for.  A clear demonstration of impact is critical, and if you do not have this to hand, can you locate the evidence?  Think laterally – whilst support for improving the return on fundraising investment is often the central goal, consider what other merits your project may have in increasing income or saving resources, for example:

  • Increased response rates
  • Improvement in net income
  • Increased supporter retention or reduced attrition rates
  • Conversion rates to committed giving
  • Cross-organisation support e.g. increased spend in trading
  • Internal efficiencies, reduced costs
  • Utilisation of insights/findings across organisation

3.      Select which projects or initiatives you feel are worthy of entering and begin the process of bringing together the right information needed.

Two key documents usually provide the majority of the information required for an award entry:

a)      The original activity proposal or brief

b)      The results presentation

 If you feel comfortable that you can readily access the core project details and results, then filter your selection based on whether you feel it could meet at least one of the following criteria:

¨  Strong impact on fundraising performance i.e. good results

¨  Insight that guided major strategy decisions or changed thinking or delivery/implementation processes

¨  Improved supporter experience

¨  Innovative approach

¨  Created efficiencies or synergies, either in budget or other organisational resources

¨  Widespread utilisation within the organisation

¨  Delivered increased ROI for the organisation

¨  Fact based decision making

¨  Early warning of issues that were addressed and actions developed to resolve

This is not an exhaustive list.  If your project has helped the organisation make progress in other ways, then, as long as you are clear about the impact of these on fundraising performance, then this can be recognised.

You should now have a clear view of which projects are worthwhile developing an entry for.  Prioritise your strongest, and begin the process of crafting your entry in earnest.

 4.      Stand back and create the context for the merit of your entry

Think about what the situation was like BEFORE the project.  What were the organisation’s key challenges and needs?  What was previously stopping these from being overcome or fulfilled?  What problems has this project helped to solve or opportunities unlocked?

Also think about how the organisation and individuals within it have benefitted from the project’s success.  AFTER the project was successfully completed what can stakeholders do now that they couldn’t before?  How pervasive within the organisation have the project’s outcomes been embraced and for what purpose?  Think about some of the soundbites from colleagues and partners – how has this project influenced and equipped them?

Your project plan will provide a view on the mechanical aspects of your project approach, but consider:

  • What did you do that was smart or special? . . . or different to usual?
  • What choices did you have and why did you choose the approach taken?
  • What did you/your team/your supplier bring to the project to make it a success?
  • What was needed for success that was particularly challenging to get in place? (e.g. senior level/IT support, budget, resources etc.)
  • Why are you particularly proud of what was accomplished?

 Note these first 4 activities need not be carried out in isolation.  How about organising a brainstorm for colleagues and suppliers involved in your candidate projects to help you develop your list of candidate entries and establish their merits?

5.      Develop the full story in bullet points  . . . before trying to squeeze this into the award entry form.

A good award entry is not wordy but clear in why it deserves to win, with succinct supporting information.  You can use supporting evidence in an appendix, so focus first on creating a robust story for the judges to follow in the entry form.

 6.      Complete a copy of the entry form, taking care to follow the instructions provided and the strict word counts requested. Do NOT go over these word counts as your entry will not be counted. Each category entry form contains bespoke questions so be sure to answer specific questions.  If you are entering the same piece of work for more than one category, pay careful attention to the difference in the questions across the entry forms.

It is also important to provide visual supporting materials, logos, campaign imagery and generic organisation imagery. These can all be uploaded when submitting your entry.

7.      Review and hone your entry

Once you have drafted your entry it is a good idea to ask a few colleagues or associates to review the entry document to check for coherence and strength.  Welcome comments for improvement and edit your entry as you see fit.

 8.      Seek relevant supporting evidence

Be creative in this task.  What diagrams, charts or summaries best illustrate the great work undertaken? How can you dramatise results? 

 Note that if you are concerned about the confidentiality of your results,  just mark sensitive information “for judges eyes only”.  Alternatively, a good way to mask actuals is to portray your results in the form of % uplifts or ‘white out’ axis labels in results charts so that actual levels are protected.

 9.      Secure any necessary permissions required

Please check that these are in place. Don’t forget to remind senior stakeholders about the benefits of entering, namely:

  • Industry recognition.  An award win will be a credit to your organisation, underlining the value delivered from investments in fundraising, database management capabilities and insight. 
  • Bolster internal profile.  Even the process of crafting an award entry will help you reflect upon your team’s intelligent approach, helping you to articulate why you have been successful and how you have contributed significantly to fundraising performance.
  • Increase team morale and loyalty.  Winning an award will ensure your organisation’s diligence and wisdom is celebrated.  Success breeds success and you will find it easier to retain key staff and attract talent into your team and the organisation.
  • Best practice case studies for the industry.  The fundraising community is crying out for more examples of what constitutes best practice.  Your work can help educate and inspire others, continuing to raise standards within the sector and our discipline.

 10.  SUBMIT your award nomination form by 5pm on 13th April 2018

Now that you’re ready, transfer your drafted copy to the online entry form found on the online nominations page.  Make sure you have everything you need as the forms may time out if left for too long and you may have to start over.

Finally, try not to leave it to the very last minute before the 5pm deadline, the system is bound to be busy, this may slow things down and you don’t want to miss the deadline when the system is closed. 

We look forward to seeing your entries and we wish you GOOD LUCK!