By Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw

Major corporations, foundations, politicians and community stakeholders are constantly showered with awards and honors because of their influence, power, and wealth. Often it is the same people getting awards, to the point that the awards can lose their luster and meaning. It’s not only the general public who notices what’s going on, but the awards can lose meaning for the honorees themselves. Perhaps now is the time to look at awards ceremonies and refocus them to include unsung heroes that change the quality of life within our communities and across the country. 

Before we go too far out on a limb, we want to lift up the importance of honoring those who provide vital financial support to nonprofits. Its critical to say thank you to those who work to ensure quality of life, food on the table, the opportunity to vote, and so much more. Individual philanthropists, foundation leaders, corporate leaders, politicians, and civic and faith leaders are critical to American life and to the furthering of the American dream. At the same time, a cynicism can emerge amongst those who don’t have the opportunity or ability to impact life at the level these individuals can. If we believe that “we are all in this together,” we can alter our award ceremonies so they have a dual focus.

Here’s what we mean. As we recognize corporate, philanthropic, political, faith, and community leaders we can ask each to select someone who they want to recognize. This provides an opportunity to bring an “unknown” to the attention of the community. Both the awardee and their selected honoree would be equally honored and promoted for their work and impact. At the ceremony both should come to the stage for public honor. For example, an individual philanthropist who is being honored might select an activist who she admires for his dedication and tenacity. A corporate leader might select a representative from a nonprofit organization they partner with. A foundation CEO might select a grantee. 

This approach benefits your nonprofit, the awardee, and community. For example, the awardee can increase their impact by promoting someone they believe in and telling their story. This encourages the awardee to think about why they believe in your organization, why they do the work they do, and who else is working towards similar goals. With a dual award approach you recognize that you are part of a community full of organizations who contribute to the good of mankind. You demonstrate your generosity by shining a spotlight on those who support your vision and offering them the opportunity to radiate even more light by highlighting others who are lesser known.  Other benefits include increased opportunities for exposure and publicity for your organization and those being honored; a stronger partnership with your honorees; and importantly something new for those who attend your awards ceremony. You increase community knowledge of what is going on and everyone benefits. Just remember to keep the list of awards short: you want everyone to stay awake and engaged!