Here's How One Campground Won Big
Editor's note: This column by Shawna Fakhouri, program coordinator for Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, was published by the California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (CalARVC) in a newsletter following Santee Lakes' awards from the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC). Santee Lakes was featured in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management. The original CalARVC column can be found here.
Opening your inbox to “Congratulations!” is always a glorious feeling especially for those of us that spend much of our time working to hear it. One portion of my job is as a technical writer for Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, and congratulatory words are one of the goals for my efforts! Many times the opposite is true; “We regret to inform you…” appears all too often. Take heart, there are many more of us that hear the latter than the former.
The ARVC “Park of the Year” award was not only a little daunting but exciting to apply for. We knew our park and campground were worthy of recognition and had seen several awards in the past, but this award would be an exceptional achievement we hoped to obtain. We knew municipalities did not have a track record of winning this award but we knew it was definitely worth a great effort. We also applied for “Plan‐it Green” because we had also been working very hard on our green initiatives at the park. To be honored with both awards was far beyond our expectations!
If I could give some useful advice as to writing an application for any award it would be; do not attempt to do it singlehandedly and start early. Get as much insights and perspectives from others as you can in order to get your story across and paint a picture for your audience. Starting early will give you the ability to take your time and be thorough.
TIPS: Something I do before starting any writing project is to create file folders on my computer. One will contain a word document, which will be used for answers to criteria questions. The others will be folders for photos and pdfs, so as I write I can place attachments that come to mind in the folders and upload later. Usually the application is electronic so working on a word document separately and then copying and pasting into the electronic application when finished writing, makes it much easier. It may also be a good idea to keep a folder with original documents in case you need to go back to originals after making changes. Also photos and attachments are found more quickly if already organized in a folder. Photos may have size requirements, so be mindful of those.
After thoughtfully creating a list of questions you feel would adequately cover all required criteria; recruit the most knowledgeable staff member for each topic to give their input and suggestions, you then have generous amounts of material to pull from when you are putting everything together. For example, when asked about Santee Lakes’ operations, I interviewed the boat dock attendant, volunteers, front desk representatives, supervisors and the park director.
Just start writing. Once you have answers to your questions, start putting them together and add to them as you go. If you don’t finish a topic, move on and come back to it later. I like to highlight in yellow, the areas I know need another look or re‐write or additions. There have been several times I have “drawn a blank” at questions and eventually it comes to me or I ask someone else for help and they breathe a whole new life into my answer, I repeat, do not work alone!
Once you have carefully answered all criteria questions, read it as though you have never been to the facility and make changes as you see fit. While reading, make sure you are also answering the question thoroughly. Next, those people you used to help you write, use them again to read your application, and be prepared for suggestions and any necessary changes.
Finally, when uploading your submission items to a website; give yourself plenty of time, because something most likely will go wrong or take longer than expected. If you are mailing in your application be sure to make a copy and allow plenty of time for the application to reach its destination; it is also a good idea to request a return receipt.
When you hear the news whether good or bad, contact the organization and thank them. If your application was not chosen to be awarded, find out what could have made your submission better and use the information for your next entry, they are usually happy to help.
If you are selected to receive the award you applied for, take time to celebrate your achievement; we are still celebrating Large Park of the Year and Plan‐it Green awards, and plan to for the entire year!
My hopes are that these ideas will help you and your organization write an award winning application, unless we are also applying; in that case forget everything I just told you.