Tips For Entering the CMAs

IABC asked some of our CMA award-winning chapters to share their tips on entering the awards. Here is what they told us…

IABC/Washington
“The CMAs are really not that hard to enter if board members report regularly (so there’s a paper trail of developments over the year), and if the person doing the CMAs engages the rest of the board for help.”

—Daria Steigman, past president, IABC/Washington

IABC/Minnesota, 2008 International Chapter of the Year
“Entries are prepared by the past president, since that’s the person who led the board for the period you’re reporting on. The past president prepares the draft, which is reviewed by the president, president-elect and whichever other board members are relevant (PD, etc.). They’re not reviewed by the entire board.

“Think of them like doing any other award entry you’d do for your company—they take just as much time and just as much preparation (8–10 hours each).

Start off by setting yourself up for success during your board planning at the start of a board year. Have a plan that has goals and measurable objectives, have the actual plan document be something that you can track results right in, and keep it updated throughout the year. Then, hold your board accountable or designate someone to update it with results throughout the year. Nothing sucks more than having to track down all the info when you’re trying to do CMAs. To that end, monthly board reports where portfolios report on the success of events/activities are a great way to capture results.
Don’t forget to update the plan with tactical things that come up during the year that weren’t in the original plan, but still contribute to the chapter. For instance, we had a student group reach out to us for assistance in setting up company tours—we helped them, and were able to do a session with them about the value of IABC membership. Not in our original plan, but definitely evidence of student chapter support.

Write to the requirements. Look at the awards summaries on site, look at the judging forms to see what judges will be evaluating, look at the samples out on site. There are lots of ways to format things, so see what other chapters have done and decide the right way for you.
Just start. Don’t worry about grammar, copy length, etc. when you start. Get the info down on paper, then you can refine, edit, add, format etc. That’s also when it’s helpful to go back and look at the category summaries and judging forms—when you’re in the editing mode. Plus, remember that things you do can often be used between categories—things you did for membership recruitment might also work in community involvement or PD. Saves you time writing if you can ‘share’ copy.
Think simple. Like any award entry, you’re trying to tell someone who knows nothing about your chapter why you did what you did, why that approach was right, etc. Paint the picture so they can evaluate your results.

“Start early. Our goal was to do 2 a month Sept–Dec, rather than trying to get them all done during December, the busiest month of the year.

“Start small. If you haven’t entered, decide on a category or two you feel good about and try it. Then, next year, you can use the entry as a basis to be updated from judges’ comments, and tackle one or two more new ones. Each entry does not have to be totally reworked from year to year. Finance is a good example of that—if you’ve got the finance system in place, how you budget, report results, etc., you can simply update the language, not start over (assuming you’ve got a good entry.)

“And for us, the big thing any chapter has to decide is ‘why enter the CMAs.’ I’d say it’s a great way to give some additional recognition and validation to your board. We’ve seen that here—when a portfolio wins a CMA, you can see that the team feels good about the efforts they put forth. It’s validation for what they do from an outside party, and complements the support and thanks the president and others have given them.

“And, it’s a great way to force yourself to be strategic and measurable. If you want to tout what you did, you have to have a plan in place and measure what happened. Otherwise, you won’t have success in the CMAs—so it encourages you from the get-go to ask, ‘how will we measure if this activity we’re doing is a success?’”

—Sue Kraus, past president, IABC/Minnesota

Newfoundland and Labrador, 2008 Small Chapter of the Year
“In New Foundland and Labrador, what we have done is asked the outgoing director/portfolio holder to prepare the submission for the board. Sometimes this person is continuing in that role for another year, sometimes they’ve moved into a new role, and sometimes they’ve left the board. In any case, we’ve not had too much trouble in securing that person to prep the submission for us. In our minds, it is an ideal set-up as who better to prepare the submission on professional development than the individual(s) who held the PD director/assistant positions on the board for the year in question. Same for branding, who better than the brand champion to prep a brand submission.

“The process is spearheaded by one person, usually president, who assigns timelines for completion and collects all entries for a review. For example, this year I took the lead, was able to review all entries for consistency and submit in one lump rather than have inconsistent entries go ad-hoc to you.

“Tips I’ve learned along the way:

Refer to the previous years’ judging forms, as often the advice given then is accounted for in the coming year, though it may not be thought to reference that. Which of course results in similar feedback in the next year. Reviewing the judging forms in advance also ensures that the top points are addressed. For example, this year our chapter received low scores on a couple of areas, not because we don’t do the work or didn’t do it well, but only because we never thought to include it in the submission (a little sad when I reviewed our feedback, cause it may have actually meant a win for us—lesson learned).
Ask that the submission be prepared as close to the year end as possible—it’s easier to capture everything when memories are fresh and clear. The submission can then be reviewed against the CMA criteria when it’s released and updated where necessary (i.e. if criteria have changed over the previous year).
Have one person be responsible for collection and submission.
Have a couple of people proof read and check the information for accuracy, potential omissions, spelling etc.

“As a small chapter, we are fortunate to have a good bunch of volunteers who value the program.

“For the chapter, the award has raised our credibility amongst members and nonmembers alike; it’s great to say you are the small chapter of year—of all chapters in IABC! Or to announce that you’ve won an award for professional development when you’re at a successful PD event. It has also given us chance to recognize our chapter leaders and board members and volunteers for all the work they do, with evidence that it means something, and that their contributions are valued, at the chapter and international level. And reading about other chapters winning work is a great source of inspiration and idea generation for future programs, as is the feedback received as it guides your work for the coming years.”

IABC/Victoria
“For IABC/Victoria, preparing submissions for the Chapter Management Awards is a year-long process, even though the actual drafting is done in November/December before the Christmas break in readiness for dispatch in early January.

“We kick off the year with a strategy day attended by our board members, in which we determine our strategy for the year in each area, e.g. Membership, Finance, Leadership, Communication, Branding.

“We remain conscious throughout the year of the need to implement these strategies. Our award submissions basically consist of describing the strategy, stating how it was implemented and providing an assessment of how successful the implementation was. Sometimes we realize along the way that the strategy was over-ambitious or not totally achievable for very valid reasons and these need to be described in the award submission.

“Attachments to each award submission consist of the strategy document, a description of results and attachments indicative of the work done in that area, e.g. a screen grab of the new web site for the Branding Award; a sample of our member newsletter for the Communication Award; financial statements for the Financial Award; promotional materials prepared for membership Month for the Membership Award.

“The relevant VP on our board is assigned to draft the award in his/her area, and the draft is then reviewed by the president and president-elect to ensure consistency of style and that attention is paid to overlapping areas between the various submissions e.g. Branding/Communication; Events/Membership; Finance/Events.”

—Wendy Hughes Chuck, president, IABC/Victoria

IABC/Phoenix
“What was most helpful for me was that I had all board members do board reports each month through our board year. I had templates for each board report, which tracked a lot of our measurable goals, like attendance at events, ratings from programs, revenue from events, membership stats, etc. This made it much easier to remember everything we did throughout the year. Ideally, it would be great if the VPs responsible for the area put together the entries, so it is not that much for one person to do. Also, we looked at the judging sheets prior to the start of our board year to help us set goals that matched up with the judging criteria. The best piece of advice is it is never too early to start putting together the entries. It is much more work than you would think, so you will want extra time to have people review it before sending it in. Work on it in short time periods so it isn’t as overwhelming. I also read previous winning entries to help in preparing the entry. Sometimes that reminded me of things we did that I just thought were basic, but should be included in the entry.”
—Heidi Frei, director of marketing & membership, IABC/Phoenix

IABC/San Diego
“The chapter past president coordinates and submits the chapter’s CMA entries. This is written in their job description.

“The past president presents recommendations on which categories to enter to the chapter board. Alignment and buy-in on categories is important since board members will need to share information and work together to produce award-winning entries.

“The past president develops a CMA entry ‘production’ schedule to ensure there is enough time for first submissions, rewrites, final submissions, etc. The production schedule is shared with the entire board at a chapter board meeting. CMA work on entries should begin about two months before the submission date.

“To get the board members started with writing their submissions, the past president gathers all the templates, guidelines and resource information from the IABC International web site and sends the information in an e-mail. This ensures everyone uses the right entry template, includes the right information in their entry and more.

“The current VP of the functional area (membership, finance, etc) is responsible for the writing up the entry in their respective category.

“To ensure cross-functional collaboration and learning, the VP works with another board ‘partner’ to gather ideas, draft the entry, review the entry before it’s sent to the past president, etc. Last year, we paired one VP that had already gone through the CMA entry process with a new board member.

“The past president edits the entries. If there are substantial revisions and information gaps, the entry is sent back to the owner for additional work.

“The past president submits the final entries to the chapter president for final review and approval.

“The past president handles the submission and coordination to IABC International.

“It’s also important for the chapter to keep good records, electronic copies and general information throughout the board year in order to provide compelling exhibits along with the entries. While this should be standard practice, things get lost in the shuffle during board transitions, when members resign from the board, etc.”

—Suzanne Hatcher, past president, IABC/San Diego

IABC/Austin
“First, have an excellent board retreat at the beginning of the year and set doable and measurable goals. Also, make everyone aware at this point that the chapter will be considering entering CMAs, and a chapter could even work the retreat around CMAs.

“Second, periodically review and evaluate these goals. Ideally, the president or past president should drive this process unless the VPs over the particular area are really, really not busy in the real jobs.

“Third, have one person in charge of making sure the chapter enters with board members agreeing to help in their respective areas, and know that someone will not come through, so if you really want to enter in that area, be prepared to write the entry yourself.

“Fourth, plan to work on the entry(s) nights and weekends before they are due. Have others review the entries before turning them in.

“Other advice: Really use the information provided from previous winners to set the chapter’s goals and for ideas on how to achieve these. (There are also useful buzz words in these that can be ‘borrowed,’ and these can serve to jog your memory about things a chapter did but have been forgotten.)

“Measure, measure, measure!”

—Lynne Lightsey, past president, IABC/Austin