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Top Tips for Writing Award Nominations

Posted on 4 Nov 2015

With just over 5 weeks to go until Student Volunteer of the Year Award nominations close, Rachel from the SVW Team shares her top tips for writing a great nomination.


Last year, I read every single Student Volunteer of the Year Award nomination and facilitated the judging panel who selected our shortlist and winner. It was clear that while we had a huge range of nominations, there were common patterns in the nominations that made it onto our long list of 17 and short list of 5!

Last year's Award short list with Toni Pearce, Julian Huppert and Sara Fernandez

Here are my top 10 tips for writing nominations…

1. Follow the criteria

We are clear about who is eligible and what the judges are looking for, so read our criteria carefully and tailor your nomination accordingly. We’re looking for evidence of commitment, impact and leadership and these are all described on our nomination page. We score our nominations on a points system, awarding up to 3 points for each criteria, and weighting all three criteria equally.

2. Be specific

Phrases like “lots of money”, “a huge number of volunteers” or “excellent feedback” make it hard for us to really understand your nominee's contributions. So use specific examples (e.g. “he delivered training to 30 students” or “90% of children agreed that the project had taught them more about engineering”), tell stories or include quotes.

3. Balance the project and the person

The Award is for an individual volunteer but we know the importance of teamwork in volunteering. So while it’s helpful to write about what their project/team has been able to achieve overall, it’s crucial to be very clear about what your nominee’s contribution was.

4. Don’t rely on previous Awards

If a student has already won another Award for their volunteering achievements, that’s a great indicator, but ultimately the judges will be more interested in what they did to win that Award rather than the Award itself. So don’t let previous Awards speak for themselves, tell us the story behind it!

5. Avoid using too many adjectives and superlatives

It can be tempting to say things like “Sam is the most inspiring person I’ve ever met”, or “Holly is extremely committed”, but these sorts of statements on their own aren’t enough. Make sure you illustrate how that person demonstrates that quality (e.g. Holly has shown her commitment to the project by taking on the role of project leader and organising twice as many activity sessions as last year).

6. Use the word count

If we’ve given you 250 words for an answer, then we would really love to read up to 250 words! Make the most of the space given to you and include as much detail as possible.

7. Tell us what makes them unique

Hone in on what makes your nominee stand out and make sure that message comes across loud and clear in your nomination. Imagine describing that person to a friend over coffee… the tone of your writing should match that kind of energy, praise and conviction.

8. Show the double benefit

We all know that volunteering has a double benefit, on both the groups that volunteers work with, and the volunteers themselves. We specifically ask two separate questions to cover this: “How has your nominee benefited from their involvement with volunteering projects?” and “How did the community benefit from any of your nominee’s volunteering activities?” and we give equal weighting to each.

9. Spell check.

Spelling and grammar mistakes distract from your nominee’s story. Write your nomination in a Word document first, proof-read it carefully, then transfer it to our online form.

10. Use this opportunity to recognise as many people as you like

We know that technically the Award is a competition, but we would love to be able to recognise as many students as possible through this process. You can nominate as many people as you like, and we contact everyone who’s been nominated to let them know that they’ve been nominated for the national Award by a volunteer manager or peer. This is a wonderful achievement for them regardless of whether or not they are selected for the long list or short list.


So what are you waiting for!?

Some of last year's judges deliberating

Rachel, SVW Team

Rachel is the Volunteering & Incubation Manager at Student Hubs. This is her second year coordinating Student Volunteering Week and she's looking forward to reading this year's nominations!

Categories: Advice, Award