After staffing the Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award for 35 years, I’m often asked “Should I nominate my organization? What should I highlight?” Simple questions. But not a simple answer.
According to the official award criteria:
The “service” may have been a program, or it may have been a single, specific activity. It may be “outstanding” because of quality or quantity; because it was new, original, or innovative; or for any other reason the nominator deems significant. It must reflect performance that goes beyond the organization’s normal and expected activity. The award is not for excellence in performing routine tasks aimed at fulfilling the organization’s basic mission. A substantial portion of the outstanding service being recognized must have been performed during calendar year 2018.
The Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award and its $25,000 prize are given annually to a nonprofit community organization for outstanding service.
A good nomination statement describes briefly, and specifically, what outstanding service or services the organization performed…An especially suitable nomination would reflect Edith Anisfield Wolf’s abiding attention to the voices of people at the margins, and her urgency in building a more just community.
So, what does that mean in practical terms? What kinds of organizations or programs might be appropriate to nominate? A brief look at recent winners might help.
2017—May Dugan Center Trauma Recovery Center: provided immediate crisis management and ongoing support for victims of violent crime through its Trauma Recovery Center.
2016—Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank: created a culture of reading in low-income homes by distributing nearly 650,000 high-quality children’s books to families in need.
2015—EDWINS Restaurant & Leadership Initiative: helped currently and formerly incarcerated individuals learn a skilled trade while removing obstacles that may hinder their transition into society.
2014—Care Alliance Health Center: created the Central Neighborhood Clinic, significantly increasing access to quality health care while having broad impact on economic development in the community.
2013—Ohio Guidestone: created a charter school and developing Stepstone 360°, a unique and creative model of support.
2012—Seeds of Literacy, Inc.: responded immediately to state-mandated changes in the GED program, including extensive changes to curriculum, space, training and communication efforts.
2011—Esperanza: created a youth service learning program that had a direct impact in the Clark-Metro neighborhood, as well as other parts of the city.
2010—YWCA of Greater Cleveland: developed safe, secure and supportive housing and services for young adults who “age out” of the foster care system.
2009—Youth Opportunities Unlimited: found employment for 3,412 teens at 400 worksites, despite record numbers of unemployment.
2008—Cleveland Tenants Organization: developed a program to address the lack of help available for renters caught in the middle of their landlords’ mortgage crisis.
2007—Slavic Village Development Corporation: responded quickly after a tragic shooting, including gun buy-back, gang graffiti removal and job training and workforce readiness activities.
From these examples, it’s clear that the winning organization doesn’t need to be huge or even well known. It does need to showcase a program or service that had a significant impact by creatively addressing a community problem or issue.
What’s happening in your organization? Or in another organization you admire—perhaps one from which your family or friends received services? A simple, but compelling, nomination could win them a $25,000 reward.