Q&A with Awards Agency’s Melinda Leyshon

Posted on: October 16th, 2017  |  No Comments

Award writing for not-for-profits

Mel was recently interviewed for the UK’s MissionBox, a not-for-profit global network that connects nonprofits with expert nonprofit knowledge. Here is a snippet of her Q&A with Author Kellie Smith.



What are the key items/points charities/nonprofits should include in their award entries to give them a real chance of success? 

So while there is no guaranteed formula to win, there are definitely some best practice principles that will improve your chances of success. The first is facts – facts are your best friend. Because you can tell me how awesome you are until you’re red in the face but, as a judge, I’m not convinced until I have evidence. It’s like saying “Awards Agency develops awesome submissions” compared to “Awards Agency has over a 90% success rate”. One is opinion, the other is fact – and undisputable.

Case studies are another brilliant way of talking the judges through a problem, solution and result. Again, they need to be fact-based to provide evidence of success. And if it’s something that isn’t measurable, customer testimonials are a brilliant tool in this space!

But possibly the most important thing I think every charity/not-for-profit should include is your story – you need a narrative that resonates. You guys are doing what you do because you love it – you’re changing lives and effectively changing the world little by little. So tell your story. What are your struggles with doing this? Are they emotional, are they financial, are they resource-driven? What are your successes? Think of a theme and roll with it!


What writing style/tone of voice should charities be using in their award entries?

I talk to a lot of people who think that they need write in an incredibly formal manner, much like a job application. Nothing could be further from the truth! Let your personality shine through. Be conversational and talk to the judges.

And one of the biggest tips I can share here is to write in the first person. ALWAYS write in the first person! As soon as you write in the third person you’re putting distance between yourselves and the judge. After all – what connects with you? “Melinda Leyshon is happy to be an award-winning writer” or “I’m absolutely over the moon to be an award-winning writer”?

The key is emotional connection. Once they can relate to you they’ll lean in – which is where you want them to be.

How should charities prepare to write an award entry? For example, have a brainstorming session with colleagues, storyboarding or speak to their beneficiaries to understand the impact of their work.

Yes! All of the above.

The challenge we find is that many charities leave their entries to the last minute because they don’t have the same urgency as the day-to-day responsibilities of everyone on the team. But this both adds pressure and limits the quality of the submission. If you take the time to break it down into bite-sized chunks, you’ll find that you’ll work through it far more effectively.

At Awards Agency, we often take large organisations through a strategy session followed by storyboarding. Because even the largest organisations lose their message and don’t know exactly how to tell their story.

Storyboarding also ensures that you work through each question closely, developing a response and evidence that is relevant.

Understanding what they judges are looking for, and providing the right information and testimony to guide them, is critical. And no waffle!


As lots of small charities have limited resources, they probably don’t have the time to apply for every award scheme going. How can they pick the ones that are right for them?

The best approach is to look at your business plan or organisational strategy – the business awards you choose should be those that best align with your goals.

If you get a lot of support from local businesses, then you may look at local awards. If you’re looking to really leverage your brand to generate research or other kinds of funding nationally or internationally, then you need to look a little bit more widely. Awards are a brilliant way to measure the impact of your initiatives, provided you choose wisely.

If you need help, Awards Agency is currently developing an Awards Finder database that spits out all of the charity/not for profit awards we’ve found across the world. We’re still populating, so feel free to email for details!


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