Here is a list of tips and best practices to make your nomination insightful and persuasive. I am using some examples of the nomination of the 2021 ATHENA recipient, Jenni Marsh.
- Read the nomination criteria closely
- Be sure to include what is required, like an up-to-date resume for the nominee
- Start strong: Tell the reader (the judges) right away what makes your nomination a winner:
Under the leadership of Jenni Marsh, the local United Way emerged as ground zero for all things COVID-19, including more than $1 million in emergency relief funds, regular community conversations with area nonprofits addressing “what keeps you up at night,” and an urgent awareness campaign called Mask Up Muncie that distributed more than 10,000 masks across the city.
- Use specific examples of good work and good character
- Use anecdotes (stories within stories) to illustrate your point
- Put your main point at the beginning and come back to it at the end (full circle writing)
- Explain why the reader should care (this goes to your nominee’s impact on her circle of influence)
- Be specific! (Oh, I said that already). Examples will carry your nomination and illustrate why your nominee is deserving.
- Show, don’t tell. This is an often-used technique in persuasive writing. I could tell you the 2022 Department of Defense budget is $778 million. But you’re more likely to be interested if I could tell you about what that money paid for – like guided missiles and ships and submarines. Likewise, you can tell me that she is a powerful leader who has inspired her community. But you could “show” me that she developed a new way to reach under-served communities by starting pop-up food pantries in specific neighborhoods.
- Write short sentences and short paragraphs. We live in a world of “scanner readers.” Few have the time or inclination to read long (including judges). Assume, they’ll be scanning.
- Avoid jargon. It’s important to include all appropriate credentials that your nominee has earned but let the resume do that. Assume the reader (judges) don’t work in her discipline. Keep it simple and straightforward.
- Use hyperlinks the judges can go to that help illustrate the work of your nominee
- Pack your nomination with details about your nominee
Jenni is a friend-maker and fund-raiser. Jenni was a McGalliard before she was a Marsh, and with that family name comes deep roots in the Muncie community. Native born and educated at Ball State University, she was a self-employed consultant when she stayed at home with her young children, running her own small business. In 2006, she was named Associate Director of Miami County Community Foundation, then in 2008 was named Director of Giving at Ball State University and next Director of Development there. She joined United Way of Delaware County in 2013.
In 2014, she received the Vivian Conley Award, named for a local civil rights activist, and in recognition of exemplary civic leadership on behalf of women. Of the 13 employees under her charge, 11 are women.
Jenni also is serving a second term as president of the Muncie Action Plan Board of Directors, where she has helped give an update to a new comprehensive plan for Delaware County and has led workshops on how to create a web of support with area mentors addressing needs among Muncie’s youth, particularly girls, extending a hand up, not a hand out. Jenni also serves on BY5 Board of Directors.
- Make your ending a call to action. “My nominee has pushed boundaries
“We want to support the household, not just the programs,” Jenni says. “Helping families get on track financially and live healthy independent lives gives the whole family wrap-around resources while we work with partners to make sure their children are on track for success in school and life.”
It is my honor and privilege to nominate Jenni Marsh for an ATHENA Leadership Award.