Applying for Awards

Your approach

Getting your responsible business programme recognised

Is your business making a difference through its responsible business programme? Have you thought about applying for an award to recognise contributors and celebrate your achievements?

Winning awards, or even being shortlisted, can be a great way to gain internal and external support and recognition for your responsible business activities. However, crafting a winning entry can feel overwhelming and it’s often difficult to know where to begin. As awards season approaches, we’re sharing some top tips and things to consider before applying.

Benefits of applying for awards 

Submitting award entries can be time consuming, but there are lots of benefits to applying:

  • Entering awards is a way of celebrating achievements in responsible business and highlighting how your business is making an impact
  • The process can help showcase best practice in responsible business and inspire others to take action
  • Being nominated for an award can help to increase your brand awareness
  • Entering an award is a great way to benchmark against other businesses and gain feedback on your progress from expert panels
  • Being nominated for / winning an award is a great engagement tool to share with your clients, customers and employees

What to consider before you apply:

Have you got a stand out project?

For most awards, judges are looking for projects that stand out – something that’s engaging your workforce, is innovative, creating impact and addressing a real social need. Before you apply you’ll need to be able to evidence the impact you’ve had through a project. Have a go at drafting your project in bullet points. Can you succinctly outline the problem, the key steps to addressing this and the impact you’ve had?

Have you researched the right award for you? 

There are lots of different awards you could apply for, and we’ve made a helpful table of awards and highlighted categories that could be relevant. When you’re deciding which to apply for, start by thinking about what kind of projects you have – do they fall into community investment? Charity partnerships? Environmental issues? Diversity and inclusion? Could you think about entering an industry specific award? For example, the legal and insurance industries have some of their own awards.

Set aside some money 

There can often be an entry fee to apply for awards, and if you’re shortlisted there might be an additional cost to attend the ceremony. Do your research on this first, and check you have the budget to cover it. Entry fees can be as much as £500 +VAT, but there are some awards that are free to enter, such as the Dragon Awards, who are keen to remove barriers to entering.

Our top tips for applying 

  • Plan ahead and read the small print. Take the time to read through the guidance notes for the awards you’re entering. Make sure you read the entry criteria and understand the structure of questions and word limits.
  • Be concise. Judges read loads of applications, so make sure yours is succinct. Limit your descriptions of context and think about using headings and bullet points to highlight key points.
  • Focus on the difference you’ve made. This is your opportunity to share the impact your project has had, who has benefited and how. Talk about the benefits to community partners, beneficiaries and your own organisation.
  • Show evidence of your impact. You’ll probably be asked to demonstrate your project’s impact. Think about tangible stats you can include to back up your submission as well as information, quotes and testimonials.
  • Demonstrate innovation. Judges are often looking for projects which take new approaches to problems. Think about your project’s USP and highlight key innovation examples where you can.
  • Have robust monitoring systems. Think about the systems you have in place to measure your project’s outcome. You’ll need to be able to show the targets you had and how they were measured.
  • Choose supporting materials carefully. Choose the most relevant stats, videos, images and testimonials to support your case. Are there any endorsements you can get from stakeholders who were involved in the project?
  • Show the business case and social benefits. Focus on the what the key business benefits have been for you. Has this project engaged your entire workforce? Make sure you comment on this as well as the benefits to society.
  • Share your successes and failures. Be honest about things that haven’t gone to plan, challenges you’ve experienced and talk about ways you overcame them.
  • Talk about your future plans. Include a brief overview of your plans for the next stage of your project.

This was updated in March 2022 by Heart of the City. We’ve created these resources for individual SMEs to use. None of our content is to be adapted, reused or repurposed for commercial use.