How to grow your awards program – when it isn’t active

by | Apr 17, 2020 | Articles

For everything, there is a season.

And that includes the lifecycle of an awards program. When your program is in the off-season, or perhaps even paused due to global uncertainties, it doesn’t mean your program has to stop completely. In fact, the off-season for your awards program is an important season in its own right.

It’s an ideal time to pause, examine your program, study the analytical data, make entry form and judging decisions, and most importantly, continue to engage and communicate with your awards community – judges, participants, your team, and the public. 

Your planning and coordination activity during the off-season can sow seeds of even greater success during the busy entry and judging seasons of your awards program.

Here are some steps to grow your program during its off-season.

Dive into your data

Award Force data insightsAward Force provides detailed data for you to study during any season of your program. The dashboard is very helpful when your program is in full swing, providing you a quick, bird’s-eye view of all the most important stats, such as entry submissions, judged entries and payments.

But it’s also an in-depth tool you can take full advantage of during your program’s off-season. In conjunction with information available in your Manage Entries view and several data export options, you can readily grab information on:

  • Award Force data exportsEntry submission rate
  • Entries by category
  • Entries by chapter
  • Total orders completed and entry fees in progress 
  • Scores and comments

To export data from your program, go to your Dashboard > Entries by Category > Full Report > and click Export in the top right corner. You can also export the Entries report on the Manage entries view or the Scores + comments from the Leaderboard.

Through the data, explore what’s working for your program, and what’s not. What are your most popular chapters? Categories? How many entries were started, but not finished? Dig through the data and gather what insights you can, all to help you plan for your next open season.

Engage your community

Engage your awards communityTo keep your awards program front-of-mind and relevant to your community, even in the off-season, it’s important to keep them engaged. Create a marketing and communications plan that sends updates to your community, without spamming them. 

Need some ideas? 

Tip! First, build a digital library with assets submitted from your entrants. This could be artwork from submissions, photos of entrants or judges, snapshots of winning entries, video highlights of finalists and winners, and more!

Then, share the user-generated content. This could be:

  • A feature on your judges, with a bio or profile, photo, or even a video-recorded Q&A about their favorite entries. This not only gives your judges visibility and positive spotlight, but also helps your entrants prepare for next season.
  • Snapshots of winners, with a way for them to share the recognition across social media. This will not only place them in the spotlight, but also your awards program.
  • A link to your program’s Award Force gallery – a beautiful way to showcase the breadth of visual entries in your program to the community.
  • A “thank you” to your sponsors, putting them front and center of your community, with easy access to their products or services.

Another fantastic way to engage your community in the off-season is to ask for program feedback. Touch base with your entrants, judges, and program managers. What worked? What didn’t? What could be improved? Create a survey, and use the off-season to gather the data and insights you need to improve your program next season.

And, lastly, when communicating with your participants, be sure to send regular emails about upcoming dates, events and news about your awards program. Snag a high-profile judge or sponsor for the program? Let your participants know! And be sure to advise when your program will open for entries again.

Participate in program outreach

Awards program outreachIt’s no secret – the more VIPs you have connected to your awards program, the more credibility you’ll enjoy. And the off-season is the perfect time to reach out to your industry and community for partnerships.

  • Sponsors – Put together a sponsorship package. Showcase how easily you can provide high visibility across the Award Force platform to get their brand in front of all your participants.
  • Judges – Need more judges for your program? Show them just how easy it is to make great decisions in the platform. You value their time. And with Award Force, the judging process is easy and streamlined. No training is needed. They can simply log on and judge the entries assigned to them.
  • Media – The off-season is great for putting together a press release about your program. Mention your sponsors and judges. The number of submissions you get. And let your community know just how your awards program moves the industry forward.

Update and improve your program

Now that you’ve examined your program data and collected participant feedback, it’s time to sit down and plan next season’s awards program. 

Awards program maintenanceDig into the feedback – what worked for participants? What didn’t? How can you improve the entry form to make it easier for entrants and more helpful for judges? (Here are some ideas on how to think about your entry form from a judge’s perspective.)

It’s now easier than ever to edit your entry form in Award Force. With a new drag-and-drop interface, you can simply move things around, delete, or re-order your entry form. 

Create a plan for your team to easily manage and run your awards program, helping it grow and prosper even before your program re-opens for entries. 

The season for growth

Grow your awards program

The off-season is the time to plant, water and help your program grow. And, in the coming season, as your entries open and your community buzzes, your program will surely reap the benefits. 


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