I have had the opportunity to sit on the NRPA Awards Committee for several years, including the past two as Chair. In 2016 we had 100 applicants and I scored 716 questions. In 2017 we had 129 applicants and I scored 831 questions. That is a lot of questions to score!
I have scored some applications where I wonder if anyone else reviewed the application, to ones that knock it out of the park. It is usually pretty easy to tell the difference between when an agency has committed itself to applying for one award and sending in a top-notch application and some that hope the “apply for many” technique will help the odds of receiving one. By the way, it doesn’t. What matters is a top-notch application.
Applications that really stick out are the ones that clearly answer the question we have asked you to answer. We aren’t left trying to read between the lines on how the response fits the question. If the questions ask about community impact then it is perfectly wonderful to get a response that starts with “We measured community impact by….” A response such as that one quickly gets me to a score based on the tool we have been given rather than scratching my head trying to see how the response fits the measuring tool.
Other applications that have shined are ones that have attachments that tell the story with a short perusal through them. I try to scroll through the attachments to get a sense of the application before I start scoring. If your attachments are a series of links that take me to other places it won’t tell me the full story. I’ll click on maybe two of the links with that perusal, but no more. If one link is a 10-minute video, I’ll likely watch a minute but that is about it. The ones that shine tell a story through what is attached, not what I need to click through on hyperlinks. If you do have a short video that you think is powerful, make sure to note, “Watch this two-minute video,” so that the awards committee realizes that it is a short one. We do appreciate the short ones!
Do you have something you really want me to see? In your application, you can write that something is in an attachment (picture, link, etc.), but make sure you fully answer the question. The “more information” should just be bonus material that you think will help complete the story. Do this only once, though — if you do it for every question I am convinced you will easily fall back on trying to have your attachments/links answer the question rather than your text.
Are you applying for a Fellowship/Scholarship? Don’t hide your passion! We want to see that parks and recreation is not just a job, but a career. Are you involved at the state, regional or national level? Make sure to touch on your involvement in our field outside of your daily work. This shows that you are committed to furthering the work of those before you. Please don’t mention finances. If you are applying for the scholarship for the sole reason that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to attend the NRPA Annual Conference, then you aren’t the right candidate. The chance for a mentor and better connection to NRPA needs to be part of the answer, along with what you can bring back home and share with your colleagues. Want to build your network? Tell us!
In short, make that application shine by answering the questions, keeping your attachments concise and letting your passions come through!
Apply today for one of our NRPA Awards and show off all of that hard work that your agency does. Our new Innovation Awards showcase the inspiring park and recreation agencies that have improved and empowered their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation and social equity, and the Spotlight Awards are presented to individuals to honor their efforts — both professional and personal — in the field of parks and recreation. The deadline for applications is March 23, 2018.
Cindi Wight, MR, CPRE, is the NRPA Awards Committee Chair and the Director of Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront.