Award-Writing Tips for Social Entrepreneurs
Earlier this year, I was honoured to be selected to join the judging panel for the Social Entrepreneur Index 2020. These awards celebrate the success of the UK’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs, producing a yearly list of the social entrepreneurs making a vitally important difference in our society with the best socially-aimed businesses in the UK.
As I was reflecting on my judging comments, I thought about how useful these could be in helping more social entrepreneurs win awards and be recognised for the work they do to make a difference in the world. So often, judges comments are not made visible and yet there’s so much example and learning to be found in them. With permission from the Social Entrepreneur Index team, I have created these top 6 tips for writing a memorable and stand-out award entry, sharing some of my real-life judge's comments from this year’s awards.
Congratulations to the 2020 Index Finalists and the “Ones to watch” — Learn more about them and their projects here.
Wishing you much award-winning success.
Top 6 Tips for Writing a Stand-Out Award Entry
When judging for the Social Entrepreneur Index, I was looking for applications that could demonstrate a clear vision and Theory of Change. The entries which I said ‘YES’ to did a great job of telling an impressive impact story, sharing why they were different and the difference they had made. They focused on where they were going and how they were going to get there and talked about success to date. Entries which were simple and easy to understand were more enjoyable to read and much more memorable.
Tip 1: Tell a great story — be clear on the key points/most impressive social impact story you want to communicate in your entry
Remember that judges will read numerous entries — This year I judged over 30 applications. Consider what makes you worthy of the award and make use of the below Angle, Innovation, Impact framework as a focus for your application. Talk about what you do, how you do it, who you do it for and share your rationale to explain.
Find focus with these three pillars:
Angle: What’s the most impressive story?
Innovation: What makes your story unique?
Impact: What impact have you achieved?
✍️. Judges comment: “The application is very well-written and I understand exactly what X do; how they do it, why they do it and who they do it for. I am impressed with their clarity of mission, vision and greater impact to alleviate the £2.3bn funding gap in the UK and to work with 10,000 schools in helping them generate income from their underutilized facilities”
Tip 2: Be memorable — use examples, numbers and research to tell a better and more interesting story
Quantitative examples help paint a visual picture: Give examples, share research, numbers, stories, testimonials and statistics to tell better stories
✍️. Judges comment: “There was no mention of the number of clients, of revenue, of profit or growth. The applicant mentioned that turnover had trebled in the past 5 years but did not give any numbers to depict this”
Tip 3: Show clever thinking — don’t forget to talk about your Theory of Change
Give words to your model/Theory of Change and offer up a rationale to explain why this model is the best model to drive your impact. Share how your projects monetise, who funds it, who your customer is (who pays) and how this is having a direct impact on your social impact
✍️. Judges comments: “Excellent application — Very clear business model and I loved reading how their pivot from households to schools increased readership to 20,000. I appreciated the amount of detail regarding funding, the contents of the magazine and the business strategy. It was very clear that X exists for social good. They are doing incredibly meaningful and purposeful work and creating a very big impact with an interesting and creative solution. Well done”
✍️. Judges comments: “Fantastic initiative and extremely impressive founder story. There is not enough detail about their social impact. I would like to know how their business model operates and about their pricing. How do they remain accessible? Where does their funding come from? Without knowing this information I can’t judge their social impact although I note they are registered CIC”
Tip 4: Communicate your uniqueness — talk about why you’re different and what unmet needs your project serves
When writing your application it’s important to talk about how you are different and what you’re doing to meet the unmet needs of your audience/customer base
✍️. Judges comment: “Not enough examples of creativity, innovation and differentiation which made this application less interesting”
Tip 5: Mission first — when talking about your project — its success and impact — always relate this to how this serves your larger social purpose/mission
Answer all questions from a mission-focused perspective. Link back to your bigger social mission. Talk about where you are now and where you want to go
✍️. Judges comment: “An excellent application full of detail and an exciting proposition. It is really clear that X is the means-goal, not the end-goal and that social impact comes first. This is evidenced by the huge amount of work they have done with communities across different cultures and in the way they have answered the questions always leading with social impact first. Very impressive”
✍️. Judges comment: “Too much focus on the product, the product features and not enough focus on the social impact, the bigger mission & vision. When asked about impact, the applicant talked about the features of the product and shared only one line about the social impact saying a % of the profits are donated to X but not stating how much. Also no mention of sales, of growth, customers and ambitions. I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to sharing more about how the product supports the social mission”
Tip 6: Attention test — have someone not in your industry read your application
Make sure your application is easily understood, that it flows well and that it holds attention. A well-written, structured application that’s easily understood holds the judge's attention. Ask someone not in your sector to read your application and look out for confusion. If you are together in person, ask the other to read your application out loud
✍️. Judges comment: “In the biography, the applicant talked about X as being an X manufacturer and further down the application spoke about several other product projects and about the impact these projects were making not referencing the core business detailed in the biography. This felt confusing to judge”