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Entering charity awards – 5 lessons learned

I’ve had the privilege of sitting on various awards judging panels recently, including the Digital Fundraising Awards and the Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards. Third Sector Lab are also sponsoring the Campaigner of the Year category in The Herald Society Awards 2012. My involvement in these and other awards has taught me a few things I’d like to share:

  1. You have to be in it to win it. Cliched but true. While some categories are incredibly tough with lots of competition you’d be amazed at how few entries come in for some of the more niche categories. 
  2. Avoid sector-speak. Nothing is more of a turn off than reading the seventeenth award application that mentions a “commitment to community development perspectives” or some other form of third sector jargon. Use plain english to tell your story. Remember the people judging your award category won’t always be from the charity sector.
  3. Always think ‘so what?’. It’s not good enough to simply say what you did, you need to spell out the difference you made to people’s lives. That seems incredibly obvious but lots of awards nominations I’ve seen are entirely about process and mention little, if anything at all, about impact.
  4. Funders love awards. It’s not that they’re interested in your shiny trinket, funders like third-party ratification of what you do. Your project is much more likely to secure future funding if it has won an award judged by experts in your field. It’s a great big stamp of approval for your work.
  5. Awards mean publicity. Most awards will have a media partner, if you get shortlisted or, better still, if you win then chances are your charity will get some much-needed exposure online and in print. 

So what are you waiting for? Go and hunt out some upcoming awards and enter them. If you’re a Scottish organisation working in the mental health field then why not enter the Principles in to Practice Awards 2012. The winner gets a lovely film made about the work they do!



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  1. Fantastic advice Ross and a great post.

  2. If you’re eager to follow Ross’s great advice, then THE Charity Awards open for nominations on 3rd Dec. We’re having a free seminar on 13 Nov for anyone who’s thinking of entering.