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Six Lessons on Designing Public Prizes for Impact

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“Six Lessons on Designing Public Prizes for Impact” looks at how foundations can use contests as a powerful tool to advance their work. The report therefore offers a valuable starting point for …

“Six Lessons on Designing Public Prizes for Impact” looks at how foundations can use contests as a powerful tool to advance their work. The report therefore offers a valuable starting point for foundations and other organizations to leverage the benefits of contests.

It outlines Knight Foundation’s history and experiences with hosting challenges across all its program areas—media innovation and journalism, arts and communities. Readers can take advantage of six lessons, along with practical examples and tips, on designing public prizes for impact and running an effective contest. Also included are examples of work with specific grantees.

Find out more at www.knightfoundation.org/opencontests.

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  • 1. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy Six lessons on designing public prizes for impact Written by Mayur Patel, July 2013 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License
  • 2. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 2  Knight Arts Challenge Knight Community Information Challenge 2008–PRESENT Knight News Challenge Community Arts Journalism Challenge PitchIt Challenge SXSW Accelerator Competition: News-related technology track Knight Neighborhood Challenge Apps for Communities Challenge TEDxCity2.0Civic Data Challenge. Contests for innovation go back hundreds of years— many have even changed history. Learning from the best, Knight has supported a wide range of contests— from media innovation challenges to community building. Here’s a brief look at our seven year history of contests: 2007–PRESENT 2008–PRESENT 2009–PRESENT 2011 2012–2013 Black Male Engagement Challenge 2012–PRESENT 2010–2013 2011–2012 20122012
  • 3. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 3  OVER 24,000APPLICANTS OVER 1080WINNERS OVER $112,000,000AWARDED Knight Community Information Challenge $39 million awarded to 104 winners from over 650 applicants Knight Neighborhood Challenge $1.5 million Awarded to date to 88 winners from over 190 applicants Civic Data Challenge 60 applicants $25,000 awarded Community Arts Journalism Challenge 230 applicants $57,500 awarded to three winners TEDxCity2.0 $10,000 to fund 10 ideas to date PitchIt Challenge $225,000 to four winners Black Male Engagement Challenge 150 applicants $443,000 awarded to 20 winners OVER Knight Arts Challenge 13,300 applicants $26.8 million awarded to 257 winners OVER Knight News Challenge 12,400 applicants $32.5 million awarded to 97 winners OVER SXSW Accelerator Competition – News-related technology track 700 applicants OVER Two winners Apps for Communities Challenge $100,000 Awarded to three winners from over 70 applicants
  • 4. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 4  lesson Contests bring in new blood, new ideas
  • 5. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 5  Useful Tips: lesson Keep the entry process simple so people not schooled in how foundations work can apply. Invest in marketing to help you reach out widely to your target community. Ensure that the contest review cycle allows applicants to respond to market opportunities. When it comes to innovation faster is better. Contests bring in new blood, new ideas Tapping the wisdom of the crowd with a contest means opening a foundation up to new kinds of applicants.
  • 6. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 6  lesson Contests create Value beyond the winners
  • 7. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 7  Useful Tips: lesson Contests create Value beyond the winners Promote contest finalists to help strengthen their brand and credibility. Think of marketing as more than just a way to attract new entrants. Include other funders in your reviewer pool to help share the information collected from a particular contest. A good contest is more a megaphone for a cause than just a funnel for spitting out a handful of winning ideas.
  • 8. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 8  lesson Contests Help you spot emerging trends
  • 9. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 9  Useful Tips: lesson Open contests give you a good sense of what people are thinking about and what’s going on beneath the surface. Contests Help you spot emerging trends Make it one of your judging panel’s jobs to identify patterns in the applicant pool. Look for trends in the entries at large as well as in the finalists. Treat your applicants as problem identifiers not just solution providers. Even entries that don’t offer a feasible project idea can still provide useful feedback.
  • 10. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 10  lesson Contests Will change your routine
  • 11. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 11  Useful Tips: lesson Contests Will change your routine Embrace a contest’s signaling effect in broadcasting your foundation’s focus. Experiment with an open brand in using the web and social media to draw in and interact with applicants. Review your contest processes frequently and include successful practices in your traditional programs. Contests help create a “safe zone” for experimentation in a foundation that, if successful, may spill over onto your regular grant-making.
  • 12. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 12  lesson Contests Go hand in glove with existing program strategies
  • 13. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 13  Useful Tips: lesson Contests Go hand in glove with existing program strategies Piggyback where appropriate on community priorities. Identify market areas within your portfolio that have stalled. Spotlight leading practices to help motivate and influence potential contest entrants. Contests represent a different way to tackle a foundation’s key focus areas.
  • 14. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 14  Contests should Thoughtfully engage the communitylesson
  • 15. Why Contests Improve Philanthropy  knightfoundation.org  #opencontests 15  Useful Tips: lesson Contests should Thoughtfully engage the community Set clear expectations for what it means to comment or “vote” on a project so there’s no confusion in community participation. Use external review panels to help reach out to your target community. Make it the default option that applicants post their entries publicly. Get the most out of your contest by tapping into the wisdom of the crowd.