Editor's Note: Gold Awards Notes
Judging for the FS Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence has always been grueling. This year, however, was particularly tough (read: intense but fun) because our judges decided to up the ante all on their own.
In years past, entries were judged on a numerical basis by each judge on results, revenue, copy and creative. This year, they decided to rate each of the entries subjectively, carefully studying them on their own and then discussing each one as a group and naming the winners in each category.
It was a surprise, to some degree, but not totally since we have such an intrepid, dedicated group. Returning to the judging were FS Managing Editor Abny Santicola; Paul Bobnak, director of the Target Marketing Group's Who's Mailing What! Archive; and the indefatigable Steve Froehlich, senior director of direct response development at the ASPCA. New this year was Dane Grams, an FS Editorial Advisory Board member and development director at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and former online strategy director for the Human Rights Campaign.
So why would the judges opt for a more intense, subjective process?
"There were so many amazing entries — really great-looking and great-performing packages," Dane explains. "It was important for us to give each the careful consideration it deserved. In the end, we thought it was in the best interest of the competition to discuss and compare the packages, and come to consensus as a panel."
Adds Steve: "Each of the judges brought a different set of experiences to the group and had slightly different areas of focus and expertise. It was helpful to hear each other explain why we liked or disliked a package, and to lobby those preferences to the larger group."
"We decided it would be more interesting if we evaluated the campaigns based on a more diverse basket of factors, like emotional reaction or the creativity of the package design, as well as the cold, hard numbers," Paul says. "This way, we more carefully considered each one on its own merits and how it stood out (or not) in its group."
Finally, Abny explains, "As a judge, it was nice to have dialogue with the other judges and actually discuss the merits of packages. And I think that discussion really pushed the best packages to the surface more effectively rather than just basing it on number scores. The way we did it called for agreement around the top three in each category, and that made us have to look at certain elements more closely and really compare the packages side by side."
The awards, admittedly, are a work in progress, and we hope that each year brings us closer to establishing a recognition program for fundraising efforts that will serve as both a benchmark for fundraising excellence and a classroom for fundraisers looking to learn from their peers.