5 Best Practices for Running an Online Award Program

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Best practices to running an online award program

Here at Reviewr, we have had the wonderful privilege to work with organizations of all types, sizes, and goals. In this journey, we have seen literally every imaginable type of online award program -both the good and bad. We think of all our clients as partners, and it’s on us to share the best practices we’ve gathered in running online award programs.

Many organizations store computer documents online without fully using online capabilities — they just as well be running a manual program! Take full advantage of the power of the Internet and specialized online award management software using these five best practices to make your program the best it can be.

1 – Running an online award program: Make the nominators life easy.

Everything begins with nominations. Without them, reviewers have nothing to review and you would be sitting in a room full of unused plaques and trophies. However, nominations can be hard to get, because people often don’t think they have the time or are uncertain how to do it. The easier you can make the nomination process, the more nominations you’ll get and the more energy and excitement you’ll create to keep your program dynamic—or at least alive.

Try to think of it from the nominators’ point of view. They don’t know everything there is to know about the nominee and they often don’t have everything they need for submission, such as CVs and letters of recommendation. The last thing you need to do is expect them to share a lot of information — and do it perfectly accurately!

So, how can you make it easier? Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t make the nominator submit everything. If you do, they might rush the process, causing confusion and inaccuracies, which is unfair to the nominee. If a different person from the nominator is writing the letter of recommendation, why not let them submit it themselves? Why not let the nominee submit their own CV? Have you heard that Reviewr has an automated process that allows multiple, anonymous people, collaborate on a nomination together? Cool huh?
  •  Keep it short. Don’t require lengthy tomes or time-consuming processes. Short nominations make for better nominating experiences, anyway. It also allows nominators to submit multiple nominations, which means more participation.
  • Dumb-proof the process. Make it easy for nominators by allowing them to nominate in a brief and easy online form and then upload supporting documents in the same place, rather than depositing them into Dropbox or attaching to email. Online application management software can be customized to make it all very simple. Remember, nominators are doing this because they care about the nominee, not because they have to.
2 – Running an online award program: Gather, manage, and crunch data.

One of the beauties of online award programs is automatic crunching of data. Don’t miss out on this potentially life-changing feature of award management software. For best results, customize your software to gather, compile and track exactly what you need. Here are a few examples:

  • File uploads. Online application management software can collect and automatically organize supporting documents, such as CVs and letters of recommendation, as well as multimedia documents (photos, videos, PowerPoints) for marketing use later. Backend data structures ensure documents are always associated with the correct submission. Even better, Reviewr allows you to access and view these documents embedded within the software itself. This means no more spreadsheets, no more powerpoint, and no more PDF viewer… how great does that sound?
  • Multi-person participation. In a similar way, award management software can permanently associate materials from more than one person with a single submission. This allows multiple people to participate in one effort. For example, the transcript office might provide a transcript for a nomination, while a colleague provides a letter of recommendation. The nominee can actually submit the final draft, which could mean a more robust entry and better accuracy.
  • Participant surveys. Software can be programmed to automatically distribute surveys and help you collect key insights about the program, including participant satisfaction with deadlines, ease of participation and other positives and negatives they would like to see in the future.
  • Conversion tracking. How successful is your nomination process? In addition to participant surveys, you can measure page traffic, numbers of started-but-not-completed nominations, total completed nominations and other important conversion-related actions.
  • Year-over-year metrics. To provide justification for your program and support for funding, measure important metrics, such as overall participation, number of nominations, multi-year award recipients, multi-year nominees, and repeat nominators.
3 – Managing an online award program: Promote beyond the gala.

Online award management software tools make it possible to promote the program throughout your award process. In fact, it’s essential to toot your horn from beginning to end in order to perpetuate the life of your award program. The more people know and the more excited they are about the program, the more likely you will reach your objectives.

For most award programs, online marketing occurs during three stages:

Pre-award marketing

Marketing is used first to create awareness and inspire participation. Pre-award marketing pushes participants toward landing pages, where they learn more about the program — and you learn more about them. Landing pages collect contact information, so you can reach out to them. Include useful information to educate potential participants: dates, deadlines, expectations, review processes, and highlights of previous award recipients.

During-award marketing

Keep the momentum going by promoting your program as it happens. This means updating participants with information such as the number of nominations and applications received, the average length of nominations, participation by category, etc. A newsletter for participants can contain all of this, plus deadline and completion reminders. Keep up inspiration for participation with exciting stories of past award recipients and interesting facts.

Post-award marketing

Finally, in the interest of continuing your award program in coming years, be sure to engage with participants and the public after awards are given. This might begin with public online recognition of finalists and recipients. You can drip out bios of recipients in monthly newsletters and create a post award landing page with a save the date message for your next award cycle. Keep a list of nominators and make sure they receive a copy of the newsletter. Send follow-up thank-yous and surveys, and don’t forget to capture important data.

4 – Running an online award program: Don’t overwhelm your review committee.

Just as you don’t want to scare away nominators, it’s worth your efforts to make your review committee’s lives easier. Reviewers are often volunteers, and the more streamlined you can make the process of reviewing, the more likely they are to keep working with you to execute the program—and do a good job. Online reviewing can be quick, easy and well-organized, thanks to online award management technology!

Here are a few best practices to keep your review committee happy:

  • Limit the number of nominations each reviewer must process by splitting the work and breaking it into categories or award types.
  • Avoid bombarding reviewers with separate spreadsheets, emails, and links to Dropbox and YouTube. Give them one place to access everything. Hint: Use Reviewr 🙂
  •  Keep evaluation metrics simple. There’s usually no need for advanced scoring algorithms. We suggest using an actual ranking/scoring tool versus complicated spreadsheets, and ranking based on information submitted rather than purely subjective assessments.
  • Virtualize the process, so reviewers don’t have to spend a weekend in a room together in deliberation. Provide virtual access to all nominee materials, including mobile access.

5 – Running an online award program: Work smarter, not harder. 

Unless you are running a robust national awards program with full-time staff, you have other things to do. The health of your awards program depends on your ability to consolidate your efforts, while avoiding watering down the richness of your program.

Here are four ways to work smarter not harder:

  • Consolidate administrative tasks. Establish one online location for workflows, communication, submissions and evaluations. This helps eliminate the unnecessary clutter of spreadsheets, email inboxes, cloud storage software and hardcopy paperwork.
  • Create auto tabulations of reviewer evaluations. This not only ensures data accuracy, but provides immediate results in easy-to-understand reports.
  • Keep communication centralized, so messages aren’t lost and discussions can flow easily toward timely conclusions. Centralizing communication also helps ensure documentation.
  • Make data reports easily accessible. The ability to access insights through automatic tabulations and measurements of your award program helps fine tune the process midstream, as well as plan for future cycles.

American Society of Association Executives says about using tools like Reviewr. “Associations that focus on leveraging data, improving processes, and investing in new technologies, the hard work will likely pay off in more engaged and satisfied members”.

Installing award management software doesn’t mean you’re making the award process more complex. Nor does it mean it is completely changing what you have done for years. The purpose of online application management software is to simplify things and make your teams life a bit easier. When you set up the software the way it works best for your program, you can trim time, increase accuracy, boost participation, provide deeper participant engagement—and build a reputation that draws nominations and reviewers.

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