A national fundraising award programme sets the bar for fundraising excellence, encouraging the industry to strive ever higher, recognising and celebrating extraordinary achievements. The Institute of Fundraising’s National Awards programme in the UK is now in its 21st year. Ruth Moore, Head of Training and Events at the IoF shares her tips for running a highly successful awards programme.
The IOF NATIONAL AWARDS
The IoF’s National Awards ceremony is held in London alongside the IoF’s flagship event, the National Convention, in July each year. Awards are made within 20 or so categories reflecting the different fundraising techniques as well as achievement on an organisational, team and individual basis over the previous year. A high profile event, it is attended by 800 people who enjoy a glamorous, highly charged and for many, a very emotional evening.
In the UK, there are many national award schemes for the charity sector and related professions (marketing, advertising etc), many of which are hosted by charity trade publications.
Ruth Moore says: “The challenge for us is to ensure that the IoF National Awards is and remains to be one of the most significant sector events that continues to attract a large number of nominations in advance and attendees on the night. The main advantage we have as Awards organisers is that, due to our position as a professional membership body, we are highly credible and well placed to recognise and reward success in the sector.”
On the back of the successful National Awards, the IoF is now introducing its Partners in Fundraising Awards. The IoF also runs a number of regional and specialist sector Awards across the UK.
BENEFITS OF RUNNING AN AWARDS PROGRAMME
Moore cites a number of benefits of hosting awards, including awareness-raising, celebration of the profession and, of course, generating funds to help the IoF fulfil its role in supporting and representing fundraising in the UK.
“One of the benefits we derive from holding the Awards,” says Moore, “is being able to showcase our organisation with our brand being reinforced not only to attendees, who leave having had a very positive experience, but also to the wider sector through promotion and coverage of the event, the shortlist and the winners.”
“Also, hosting the Awards enables us to source fresh examples of success and innovation for inclusion in our training and events programme as case studies, to identify up-and-coming individuals in the sector and of course, the fact that well-run Awards programmes are profitable for their organisers.”
Before getting started, it is important to recognise that there will always be an element of risk.
“Many awards programmes don’t break even in the first year and careful financial modelling is key,” says Moore. “You need to know how certain you are of gaining sponsorship and how much, what are your expected table sales, plus of course your ability to source a suitable venue at a suitable rate and with a minimum numbers commitment that you are confident of meeting.”
At the time of writing this, the IoF is about to announce the shortlist to its first annual Awards for suppliers to the sector, the IoF Partners in Fundraising Awards. Moore adds, “It’s with some relief that we’ve reached this stage, as launching new Awards can be challenging.”
“Although the IoF National Awards achieves a good mix of support from sponsors and shortlisted nominees hosting tables, we don’t anticipate that our new Partners in Fundraising Awards, which is targeted at the type of companies who would sponsor IoF National Awards, will attract significant sponsorship yet. But the new Awards scheme should receive good support from shortlisted nominees hosting tables for their teams and customers.”
“The most critical stage is ensuring (or creating!) the need for your Awards and the target audience’s desire to win them,” says Moore.
“Your marketing campaign should communicate the concept behind the Awards, the awards categories, prestige-building details such as your sector-leading judging panel and the interesting/aspirational venue you’ve selected plus a very strong and wide reaching call for nominations.”
“Without adequate nominations you simply can’t proceed and it is important to attract enough nominations within each category for the judges to be able to shortlist credibly. If not, award categories may have to be dropped, having a directly proportionate effect on the size and revenue of your Awards.
“Then it is all down to good, well thought out delivery of your major event!”
The success of an awards programme is measured by a number of factors. “The number and quality of nominations received across the categories indicates the effectiveness of the marketing and communications campaign”, Moore explains. “It also shows the strength of the concept behind a new Awards event or the health of a more established Awards’ reputation.”
“The amount of sponsorship (assuming this is part of your model) and table sales demonstrate financial success. And, of course, media coverage of the event and feedback from attendees is a clear indicator of how well we managed the event, giving us ideas for continual improvement and indicating what actions are needed to ensure the continued success of the programme.”
-Make sure there is demand and a market for your awards.
-Ensure your concept is unique and will be clearly articulated to partners, sponsors, and nominees alike.
-Develop a clear financial model. Awards can be very profitable for an association, but to do this you will need to understand the costs, have a realistic idea of likely sponsors and how much they would be willing to spend. Both sponsorship and table sales are highly dependent on the number of shortlisted nominations and table sales are reliant on the nominees’ ability to afford to host a table themselves or have a for-profit partner host them. So, think carefully about your award categories and shortlisting for the event.
-Think through the processes for marketing & communications, nominations, judging and event management. You must get these right and consider your resources to be able to deliver well on the project. Moore adds: “A poorly received or badly executed Awards programme can be a high profile mistake.”