Talking Shop: Rewards Beyond Awards
Joe Zappala and the Brown University advancement team took a strategic and fresh look at the process of submitting entries to the Circle of Excellence Awards program in 2022. They started by forming an awards working group.
How did the working group come about?
At Brown and in our Advancement Division, we agree on the value of the Circle of Excellence Awards. The challenges that come into play are workload and competing priorities. Who has the time to take ownership and think through our choices for nomination?
As a solution and to reenergize this effort, my colleague Jeanne [Pecha, Vice President of Advancement Services and Development Support] and I formed a working group within advancement. The idea was to tap into the collective thinking in the division to ensure we didn’t overlook any worthy entries. We asked directors to suggest staff members who would be good at this task and formed a representative group.
We started with an exploratory process looking at entries with a wide lens—with the working group members helping us to get broad input—and then narrowed them to those that had the greatest potential based on awards criteria. We established a reasonable timeline and shared the workload of preparing the entries. It really became a group effort.
You were a first-time COE judge. How was that process?
I was a judge in a marketing category, which, to be clear, had no submissions from Brown. It was an interesting exercise. It was super helpful to our own nomination process because it gives you a sense of what the judges are looking for. I enjoyed the process of coming to consensus within our judging team. We did initial reviews on our own before coming together as a team. It was interesting to see how much similarity we had in the entries that floated to the top, and how well we worked through differences of opinion. Seeing the breadth and quality of the work produced by our profession is gratifying, and I took away some cool ideas to share with our team.
The advancement team received three awards (of the total six that went to Brown). What is the value of COE recognition?
We shared the news with Brown leadership and our division, and we also shared it more widely with the community in Brown’s internal newsletter. We highlighted that this is a prestigious competition in the advancement profession; it’s global and highly competitive. This is recognition of the value and impact of our work at a high level, especially since COE emphasizes creativity, innovation, and results. 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.
Was there anything about the process that surprised you?
Not so much a surprise, but an unexpected bonus. We have about 230 staff members in our division. It can be challenging to know them all and it’s difficult to do with any amount of quality time. This process gave Jeanne, me, and others a great opportunity 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. It was also a nice opportunity to pause, take stock, and see the big picture of the collaboration and great work produced within our division.
Will you use the model again next year?
Yes, it’s a model we plan to build on, perhaps involving even more staff next year. There are so many benefits beyond getting the entries submitted. One of my biggest takeaways was the internal relationship building. This recognition reinforces that our work has impact and is making a difference.
About the author(s)
Ellen N. Woods is a CASE content creator.
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Engaging donors, alumni, and campus communities: that’s what the 2022 Circle of Excellence Awards winners did exceptionally well. In this issue of Currents, explore award-winning projects that connected with audiences in novel, compelling, meaningful ways.