By Keith A. Crabtree, CCC, Co-administrator for the Spotlight on Excellence Awards Program

The Spotlight on Excellence Awards Program recognizes a body of outstanding work produced by electric co-op communication and marketing professionals across the network. Winning a Spotlight award positions you as the best in the field.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to win a Spotlight on Excellence Award, the devil is in the details. Many times the difference in winning a Spotlight award is determined by one or two points. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Read the Call for Entries thoroughly. Pay attention to “what to submit” with your entry. Not including a required item will usually knock your entry down a point or more. If you have a question, please contact the administrators at

  • Fill out your Entry Form completely. This is part of the judging criteria; not doing so means a deduction in points. Think back to second grade when you forgot to put your name on your test. It cost you then, and it costs you now.

  • Document the results of your entry. Judges use the RACE model– Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation– in evaluating entries. A truly outstanding entry will show the results of the program and what it meant to the cooperative in a quantifiable manner. The more details of what made your program a success, you can include, the better including the budget figures and results. Budget figures don’t have to be exact but guestimate what it took in time, effort and cash outlay.

  • Make sure your writing is crisp, both in the entry and in your submission form. For the writing categories, make sure your entries have a clear lead, the copy flows and you follow all basic rules of grammar. Edit the daylights out of that sucker and proofread ruthlessly!

  • Make it easy for the judges! Make sure to include any necessary links or passwords and keep them active until the CONNECT conference in May. Arrange support materials in a manner that follows the required fields. Don’t make judges search for things within your supporting items. Provide them all the required information. Present it in a way that wows them and shows off your work to its best advantage.

Common misconceptions about the Spotlight on Excellence Awards include:

Only co-ops with big budgets and large staffs can win.
I’m from a small co-op; I can’t compete with that. While there are several hundred entries in the Spotlight on Excellence program each year, you compete with co-ops of the same size in all but a few categories. Cooperatives are divided into five classifications, based on the number of meters served, and whether a cooperative is a distribution co-op or another type as follows:

  • Distribution Cooperative: 1-20,000 meters
  • Distribution Cooperative: 20,001-50,000 meters
  • Distribution Cooperative: 50,001-90,000 meters
  • Distribution Cooperative: more than 90,000 meters
  • Statewide Association, G&T or Service Member

Only co-ops that have had a crisis win a Chesnutt Award.
Not true. In fact, only four Chesnutt Awards have been awarded for crisis campaigns. And co-ops of all sizes have won awards.

The same co-ops win every year. Why should I try?
Again, not entirely true. While there are some cooperatives that do take home an award or two most years, in the 2019 cycle, of the 25 new cooperatives that entered for the first time, more than a dozen won a Gold or Silver award. And to encourage new entrants, we offer a BOGO price for entries. If your cooperative hasn’t entered the Spotlight on Excellence Awards in more than five years, you can pay for one entry and get to enter a second one for free.

The Spotlight on Excellence Awards program gives you an opportunity to showcase the work you do, get recognition from your peers and maybe make your bosses happy, too. The 2020 Spotlight on Excellence Awards program, sponsored by the Council of Rural Electric Communicators and NRECA, has opened the Call for Entries. The deadline to enter is Friday, Dec. 6. Get your entries submitted soon, and this year just might see you in the Spotlight.