There are many exciting ways to engage the members of your association, whether it’s by involving them as volunteers or engaging them at events. Creating an award program for the members of your association – regardless of their professional field or industry – can be very beneficial. Everyone wants to be recognized for all the great work they do!

This article will discuss the foundation for creating an awards program which is a huge undertaking, so it’s important to plan precisely and far in advance.

To read more in depth on engaging your members please read my colleague’s blog: Ways to Recognize Association Members

The Five W’s

First, you must consider the five W’s for your association’s awards: who, what, where, when, and why.

  • Who will receive the awards?
  • What do the awards signify?
  • When and where will the awards be presented?
  • Why do the winners win these awards?

The answers to these questions will vary from association to association. Creating a committee to iron out the details may be the best way to begin this process without overwhelming your board of directors.

Who Will Receive the Award?

First, consider what members should be winning an award. What qualifies them for this award? Specify what type of member qualifies, whether that be all members or members from a specific category of the membership. Set judging templates for the awards. Various categories can also be created to cater to specific members your association. For example, you could have categories separated by region, membership category, specific product types provided by members, and different achievements your association would like to recognize.

How Will You Manage the Awards?

Once you have decided the categories and stipulations for the awards, you must manage them meticulously, as well as your judges. You can get help with this by utilizing online platforms such as Award Force. Award Force helps you create award application forms that applicants can fill out online. It also allows you to assign judges to different categories, with controls over specific judging criteria. A well-organized awards management system, whether it’s an excel spreadsheet, or a complex platform, will elevate the prestige of your awards.

What Do the Awards Signify?

This brings me to my next point; what do the awards signify? When creating the awards and deciding what category breakdowns you would like to include, you must consider how they would best apply to your association’s professional field. Based on the ventures of your members and what the committee and board deem to be an achievement, you can begin to break down different categories of awards and create policy around how they will each be judged.

When and Where Will the Awards be Presented?

You will want to consider where you would like to host an award ceremony. As a result of COVID-19, virtual events have become rather normalized. This gives you the option of hosting the awards ceremony online, especially if your association does not hold any events or large conferences. If this is not the case for your association, the ceremony could be held at your biggest event/conference, or it could be hosted at one of your smaller scale events to draw more people in. Both options are viable for an association of any size. This should be a main discussion point for the committee in the early planning stages of the awards.

Why do the Winners Win This Award?

The final part of this new endeavor will be judging. Based on the categories of awards decided by the committee or board, you will need to find appropriate and unbiased judges. They could be the committee itself, professionals in the field, or members judging other members. One major thing to consider is whether there will be a conflict of interest for any judges. Next will be deciding, based again on the categories, what the judges will be judging. This can vary from members actions, humanitarian awards, to products, product quality awards, all the way to general achievements, hall of fame awards.

Association members in many fields are doing great work and deserve to be recognized. Not only does an award ceremony show members that they are appreciated, but it also engages members with one another and with the association. These first steps will help you create a plan with which you will be able to start a foundation for your associations first awards.

Read Ready, Willing, and Able – The Return of Association Events to learn more about what to expect when hosting your award ceremony at post-pandemic in-person events.