Beyond the Recognition
The pages of Milton Academy’s magazine are filled with alumni stories and striking visuals—and in 2022, Milton Magazine became the first independent school magazine to win CASE’s Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year Award, part of the Circle of Excellence Awards.
“I think I read the email [announcing the award] about 50 times before I shared it with the team,” says Marisa Donelan, Associate Director of Communication at the Massachusetts, U.S., school and Associate Editor of the magazine. “It was really phenomenal, and it made us feel validated in the work that we’re doing.”
Milton Magazine was one of the more than 600 projects volunteer judges selected for 2022 COE recognition. The awards offer advancement professionals around the globe, at institutions of many sizes and shapes, the opportunity to showcase and celebrate their work.
Beyond the pride of recognition, though, the COE Awards and entry process can offer unexpected benefits and opportunities. Here, winners share what they found.
Sharing Lessons Learned
In December 2021, the University of Melbourne concluded its Believe Campaign. COE judges recognized the AUD $1.165 billion campaign with a gold award for Multi-Year Campaigns (More Than 25 Staff).
The award capped off many years of staff work, says Rachael Dalton, Deputy Director, Operations, Advancement, at the Australia university. It was also a chance to explain what worked well, she says.
“The process of entering [COE] alone is a really great exercise as you articulate for an external audience what the campaign meant and the difference it made,” she said. “One of the main judging criteria was what others can learn from your submission. So we looked critically at what we got right and what we learned for the future.”
For Nicole Knoll, whose team at the University of Iowa’s Center for Advancement won a 2022 award for Targeted Community Engagement, a benefit of the award is this sharing process. It’s an opportunity “for people to see something that was successful and that could be easily repeatable for them,” she says.
At Brown University, assembling award entries is a team effort, explains Joe Zappala in the latest issue of Currents.
The advancement team at the Rhode Island, U.S., institution created a working group to select pieces to enter and prepare COE entries. It was an opportunity, Zappala explains, for leadership to “see the amazing talent and skill of some staff members that we might not otherwise have close working interactions with on a day-to-day basis. And likewise, it was a nice opportunity for these staff members to work closely with other division leaders.”
Brown went on to win six 2022 awards.
“For our team, the awards are a morale booster. And the process of submission alone is recognition for staff because as a group we are saying their work is worthy of entry," he says.
Pride for Donors and Partners
In 2021, Florida International University’s Foundation delivered a gift proposal to a coffee brand in an actual coffee cannister. It even smelled like espresso! COE judges called the U.S. university’s successful project “fun, creative, and effective,” awarding it a silver award for Fundraising Case Statements and General Cultivation Publications.
The FIU team was thrilled about the award—but so was the donor, said Lili Betancourt Space, Development Officer and Interim Executive Director of FIU CasaCuba.
“When we told them that we had won, they were so excited about that,” she says. “It wasn’t just us—the donor too [said], ‘Thank you for sharing that with us. We’re so glad to have been a part of that.’”
Big Opportunity for Smaller Shops
In 2021, The Fessenden School created an interactive, family-friendly experience around baking a treasured school treat. The donor recognition project (pictured at right) won a 2022 silver COE award for Donor Relations and Stewardship Activities.
“Putting together the submission, I felt very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” says Rachael Singmaster, Director of Annual Giving at the Massachusetts, U.S., school. “Being a smaller school, it’s nice to be recognized on a global stage and know that we are capable of having a creative idea and executing it well.”
At Franklin College, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, U.S., Adam Dunigan and his team also received COE recognition in 2022. Dunigan, Senior Director of Advancement Services and Analytics, and his colleagues created in 2021 an interactive, real-time dashboard that went on to win gold in the Alumni Services/Data and Analytics category and was highlighted in Currents.
“The award is definitely a source of pride,” says Dunigan. “We are a small college with under 1,000 enrolled and just 10,000 living alumni. When I saw our award out there … I thought, ‘Wow, look at our small school playing with the big guys!’”
The 2023 Circle of Excellence Awards are now open. Submit by Feb. 15 to take advantage of the early-bird rate. Entries are due March 15, 2023. Recipients will be announced in June 2023. Learn more about how to celebrate your team’s accomplishments, meet past winners, and find inspiration.