How Awards Programs Can Advance Your Mission
Association awards programs can be an effective way to further the strategic mission of the organization and boost its visibility. The Clinical Research Forum (Forum) — which promotes understanding and support for clinical research and its impact on health and healthcare — completely revamped its awards program with these goals in mind.

Like many associations, the Forum previously handed out awards in a 10-minute ceremony during a general session at an annual meeting. “There wasn’t a lot of fanfare around it,” explained Andre Williams, executive director for the Clinical Research Forum, whose members come from academic medical centers. While it’s nice to recognize the recipients in front of their fellow members, the board wanted to extend its reach to beyond the membership. Here’s what they did.

Promote it to Influencers

The board wanted to promote the important work their members were doing to policymakers, legislators, and other influencers. Since much of the research conducted by Forum members is funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, it was important to show these audiences how these investments were improving health outcomes. For example, one of the recent award recipients developed new US guidelines on hypertension management that are now in the standard of care.

Move it to a New Venue

Two years ago, to attract these audiences, the Forum created a new awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. It was an entire evening — with dinner, speakers, and presentations — devoted solely to the recipients and their contributions to clinical care. The event was attended by family, friends, colleagues, invited special guests, and that targeted audience of influencers that the association wanted to share their achievements with. “It changed the entire dynamic as compared to what we had done in the past,” said Williams. “Members got really emotional when they accepted their awards. Some people even got choked up.”

Immediately, the association’s awards gained greater prestige in the industry. As word spread, the Forum saw a significant increase in the number of nominations. “It went from where we were working hard to get nominations to where we now have an abundance of nominations,” Williams said.

Mission: Accomplished

Most importantly, the awards program has advanced the mission of the association. “One of our goals is to make sure that there's an adequate pipeline of funding for clinical research,” said Williams. In the two years since the awards program launched, members have seen an increase in NIH funding, which is in part due to the visibility of this program, said Williams. Lawmakers who attended the ceremony recognize the important work that association members are doing and that leads to more funding, he explained.

In the past, the association took out an ad in the Washington Post to promote the awards recipients in Washington, D.C., but now they spend those dollars on the event, where they could have more of an impact. “But it’s not about the money,” Williams added, “it’s about advancing our mission.”
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