AASLH likes to give awards. The awards committee members who review and vote on nominations love to vote yes and award good history. That said, sometimes we see nominations that might represent great history work, but are poor nominations. In that case, the committee gets crabby about the fact they have to vote no.
To keep the committee happy, I wanted to give a few tips to help you submit a successful nomination for the Leadership in History Awards program. While I cannot guarantee you will get an award, I can say that paying attention to these tips will improve your chances.
- Contact your State Team Leader at the beginning of the nomination process. Many nominees wait until they are ready to submit their nomination to contact their state team leader. Instead, contact them at the beginning of the process. They can provide guidance to make sure you submit in the right category, read drafts of your narrative and provide feedback, and answer any questions you have if you contact them early in the process instead of the day of the submission deadline.
- Letters of Critical Review are extremely important. This is the part of the process that trips up most of the nominations that get turned down for awards. One of the main criteria for a Leadership in History Award is that the project presents “good history.” Since the awards committee is unable to visit every organization that submits an award, we rely on the review writers to confirm that the history presented in your project is good (or even great). This is not a letter of support, but a true critical review of your project. “I liked it” will not suffice. There are loads of examples and helpful tips for writing letters available on our website.
- Less is more, be concise. The awards committee has two and a half days to review, debate, and vote on all the awards nominated. You need to make your case without distracting them with a lot of extraneous information. Make sure all the information you include in your nomination supports your case for an award and is not just white noise. In other words, leave all those form letters from the Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor touting the greatness of your organization at home.
- Follow the directions. Don’t miss out on an award because you did not include something in your nomination that was required. Be sure to read all of the nomination instructions before submitting your nomination. Read them twice, maybe even three times. You don’t want to get turned down because you left out a budget sheet or resume.
- Pay attention to dates. Meet the deadline. It is March 1. Put it on your calendar. Also, the time frame for projects for the 2016 award cycle is October 1, 2014-February 29, 2015. Contact your state team leader to discuss questions about date eligibility.
- Finally, sell it. This nomination is for your project. Use the narrative section to convince the committee that you believe your project represents exceptional and meritorious work; or is a new and promising idea, approach, or innovation that will serve as a model for the field. You obviously believe in this project or you wouldn’t take the time to submit the nomination, so be sure your narrative puts the best possible spin on the project.
I hope these tips are helpful and look forward to reviewing your excellent nominations.
Bethany L. Hawkins is Program Manager for AASLH and is the primary staff person for the Leadership in History Awards program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-320-3203.