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You'd Better Recognize! Writing Winning Award Nominations Prepared by the Awards & Professional Development Committee November 2011
Before You Start Writing…Tips from NASA! • What makes a “winning” nomination? It begins with nominators who take the time to write down what great things they or their colleagues are doing – and describe the positive impact these individuals are having on the organization’s business or mission goals. • When you write a nomination, being specific in how the nominee met the award criteria can make your nomination a winner. Explaining detailed behaviors and giving specific examples will clearly paint the picture of why someone deserves to be recognized. • If uncertain about the criteria being used for an award, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. • Remember, it’s not the quantity of the nomination. It’s the quality!
Follow the directions! • Remember, the selection committee is relying on your words and examples to “see” your nominee’s attributes and contributions. Speak from your heart! • Remember, your audience does not know anything about the nominee; thorough explanations are key. • Address all parts of each question completely to assure the review committee has all the information it needs to know about your nominee. • Cite specific examples—use descriptive language and then give a situation or example that shows the attribute. • Avoid the use of too many pronouns and run-on sentences. The narrative should be clear and easy to read.
To make your nomination strong, consider the following questions in your write-up: • What is the individual or team being nominated for? Be specific. • How did the individual or team achieve this? • What measurable outcomes resulted from the nominee’s achievement? • Did you identify one or more of the award criteria that the nominee(s) exemplified, and then explain how the achievement was outstanding in that regard? • Is there supplemental information you can solicit from colleagues to strengthen the nomination? • In providing results, is the contribution an activity or project that is still being developed or in the early stages of use? If so, consider waiting to submit the nomination until after the impact can be documented.
Make sure you proofread your statements. Grammatical errors and misspelled words detract from the quality of the nomination. • Say it like it is. • Don’t worry about using fancy words. • Use concrete examples. • Communicate sincerity and personal commitment. • Avoid sweeping generalities and make every sentence count. • Successful nominations have enough detail to make the case for the nominee’s achievement. • Your nominee may be provided with your comments. Use this as a professional development activity for yourself as well!
Identify the person you want to nominate and start the process months ahead of time. • Read and make sure you understand the criteria for judging who receives the award. • Get a copy of the nominee’s c.v./resume and identify ways in which he/she meets the criteria. • Try to identify something that you can use as a theme in the letter, or write a kind of “thesis statement” that sums up the person’s qualifications at the beginning. • Organize the letter effectively, using specific details—numbers, facts, examples, anecdotes—to illustrate your generalizations. • If possible, show early drafts of the letter to trusted readers to get feedback on how to improve it. • Solicit letters of support from others whose reputations will help the nominee be considered favorably. Supply helpful information to the writers of supporting letters. • Have someone check the final draft for typos and other mistakes before you print it and submit it. • If at first you don’t succeed, revise the letter as needed and nominate the person again at the next opportunity! And, if you DO succeed, you can re-use the nomination for other organizations as well (with some alterations).
Talk with your nominee and those who work with the individual to identify specifics about their leadership. What organizations do they belong to? What leadership positions have they assumed, both within their organization and within the larger community? What projects have they taken on/accomplished that demonstrate leadership, whether they were officially in a leadership role or not? If you are nominating a professional colleague, think about how this person promotes volunteer administration as a profession - through personal as well as professional actions. What patterns of professional growth do you see? How have they sought to increase their personal/professional knowledge and skills in this field? • Share how your nominee reflects core values and beliefs regarding service. Ask your nominee to talk about his/her personal philosophy of service and then provide examples. • Share examples of how your nominee has served as a role model and/or mentor for others. It is often very helpful to talk with co-workers (paid and non-paid) to gather this information. Ask co-workers to write a letter of support that details a particular quality or aspect you are writing about. This may be more effective than a general letter that says your nominee is a great person.
Describe unique characteristics that are more than just what a great or nice person this nominee is. Choose one or two qualities that make this person truly outstanding and then give specific examples. Talk about difficulties the nominee may have faced and how the applicant dealt with them. Share personal skills such as listening, teambuilding, collaboration, creativity, and professionalism. • If you are nominating a volunteer manger for excellence in the profession, this is your chance to say how you think the colleague performs his/her work in a manner that exemplifies all that we value. Why should this person be held up as an example for all of us? Years of service, being a nice, caring person or always being willing to help are not in themselves outstanding. These characteristics should be one part of a bigger picture of someone who exemplifies excellence.
Remember, It Begins with YOU! • Nominators play a critical role in the nominating process. Here are some tips/strategies to help you as you move forward: • Read the nomination form very carefully. Be sure you have adequately answered all the questions. It is especially sad to see a candidate eliminated because critical, required information has been overlooked or omitted. Go back through each question after you have written your response and be sure you have answered the question. • Always assume that the judge/reviewer does not know your candidate. Also assume that the judge is reading multiple nominations and is looking carefully for the information required. Too much information can be as harmful as too little information. Don't make the judge read through wonderful, glowing language to find the real heart of the answer. Be direct and then support what you have to say with observation and fact. • Don't think you have to keep your nomination a secret or do it by yourself. Most people are highly flattered that a colleague thinks enough of them to nominate them for an award. Talk to your nominee. Ask them the questions and listen for information you can use to support your own thoughts and ideas. Call other colleagues and discuss the nominee with them. Call people who work for and with the nominee. Gather as much information and background as possible. Be accurate. Don't guess or generalize. Give specific examples to reinforce what you are saying. Give several examples to show patterns or professional growth over time.
Organize your thoughts carefully and follow the nomination form. Personalize. Focus on key questions on the nomination form: Detail accomplishments and their impact; describe leadership abilities; and, describe how the nominee has made a difference in the community through and with volunteerism. • Don't just talk about what the person is/has done. Share what stands out. What makes this person outstanding? How have these accomplishments had an impact - on people, the community, and the profession? Create a unique picture of your applicant. What makes him/her stand out from all the rest? Remember, longevity is often not part of the criteria. Consider how your nominee has taken the position and made an impact, for the organization, the volunteers, and/or the community.
Theme/Thesis Statement Examples 1. _______’s contributions to general and professional education could well be summed up as building bridges. In ten years as a full-time professional faculty member with a joint appointment in _______ and the _______ , she has worked on bridges related to courses, programs, departments, and professions. 2. ____________ has taught and administered programs at Brigham Young University for more than 25 years, most of that time as a part-time teacher. She exhibits the kind of work ethic and professionalism that one wishes were characteristic of all full-time faculty. To find such constant striving to improve in a part-time faculty member—when there are virtually no extrinsic motivations or rewards for doing so—is truly admirable. I believe the time has arrived to formally and materially acknowledge __________’s significant contributions to the university.
Supporting Details… Too general: I am the lobbyist for the ___________ Association and was hired when [nominee] was the _____-elect in 1994. ________ didn’t stop working hard when she stepped down from being the _______. She continues to be one of the most effective members at the grassroots level. More specific: I have been very impressed by ________’s work in the political arena. As ________-Elect, she worked tirelessly to identify state issues of importance to [the organization], then took action to deal with those issues. She spent hours at legislative meetings, both to get to know legislators better and to keep on top of the issues. She participated in party fund-raising events to elevate the visibility of the Association and got other members involved. She also helped develop the role of the lobbyist hired by the Association.
Examples, continued… Even more specific by use of an anecdote: When __________ became ________, her focus changed to national issues. She set up the state grassroots liaison structure, which enabled the organization to develop relationships with Utah’s senators and representatives. She was always very enthusiastic about _____’s public policy issues. I attended the ____ Legislative Symposium with _______ in March 1997 in Washington, D.C. She arranged for us to visit every single senator and representative from Utah in one day while we were in Washington. We had students with us and had to travel to different buildings in the rain. She kept us all together and guided the discussions we had with each office. The visits were a great success because we were able to educate the representatives about _______________. Every member of Congress, especially Senator Hatch, was surprised and impressed by the education of ___________ and our contribution to the health care team.
Examples, continued… Specific through use of numbers: The best reflection of Dr. ___________’s skills lies in her student outcome. During the last four years, BYU has placed 83% of the didactic graduates who apply for internships. Much of this is due to the extensive time and preparation ___________ puts into their learning experiences and professional application procedures. The pass rate on the last ten Registration Examinations has been 100% for the didactic graduates and 96% for the Coordinated Program graduates. Graduate evaluations of the program, following internships or job placements, have consistently been positive.
Examples, continued… To set __________’s achievements in context, I would first like to outline the remarkable range of courses she has taught since 1976, when she joined the part-time faculty in the BYU _______ Department. She has taught mainly in the general education curriculum, including ________ as well as five of the six advanced _______ courses offered in that department: ______ 252 (now 314), 312, 313, 315, and 316. She has also taught numerous sections of an introductory course for _______ majors, _____________. Her desire to diversify and become proficient in teaching various courses no doubt led to her selection as a temporary full-time lecturer in the ________ Department from 1994-97. Since she became coordinator of the ______________ program in 1998, ___________ has repeatedly taught sections of Honors 303R and supervised her associates in the teaching of Honors 214R, focusing on the theory and practice of __________. As a consultant for __________ since 1998, she has also co-taught six professional development seminars for faculty on ____________. Altogether, in the last 25 years, she has taught 107 sections of courses that involve as many as 7-8 papers per student. A conservative estimate is that she has taught well over 2,000 students how to ________ or how to teach/tutor _________, and she has read and graded some 75,000 pages of student writing. She has done all this not only cheerfully but enthusiastically.
References • http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/awards/winning_nominations.htm • http://fwa.byu.edu/nomination_letters.doc • http://www.merrillassociates.com/topic/2003/10/writing-award-winning-nominations/ • http://www.docstoc.com/docs/22235977/How-to-write-an-award-nomination