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Gardner Award Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any leniency on the January 31 deadline?

  • In order to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates, we enforce a strict deadline of January 31 for the nomination letter and form. This is when applications must be received by Independent Sector. We ask that you do your best to ensure that letters of support are also submitted by this deadline. We accept emailed nominations until 11:59 p.m. ET. No extensions are granted.

How confidential is this process? Can you send me information on a nominee?

  • Our policy is not to release nomination-related information to anyone other than the individual who submitted it. This is to protect nominators and supporters who provide this information to the Award Committee in confidence. Nominators receive a confirmation that IS has received their materials. IS does not contact the nominee during this process.

When does the committee decide on a winner? When can I expect to be notified?

  • The committee announces its decision in late spring with a press release as well as an email to all nominators regarding the selection. Nominators are then responsible for notifying others who may have submitted letters of support for their candidate.

What if my nominee isn't chosen; can that person be reconsidered in future years?

  • Committee members can choose to review nominations from past years. However, if you want to ensure that your candidate is reconsidered, it is best to re-nominate them.



Are there any restrictions on who can be nominated?

  • Yes, the nominee must be living and be an American. He or she may be any age.
  • The nominee's work must have national or international impact or, if at the regional level, has attracted wide recognition and imitation. If your nominee has local impact only, please contact your state nonprofit association, local United Way or regional volunteer center in order to get a list of local awards for which your candidate may be eligible.
  • The nominee can not be on the Independent Sector Board of Directors, but can be a member of an IS committee.
  • The nominee must be able to attend the award ceremony, which takes place at the Independent Sector National Conference.
  • Please see more criteria here.

Once I submit an electronic nomination form, is the nomination complete?

  • No, your nomination is only complete once you submit a nomination letter. This should be done via email and it has limit of 3 pages. Supplemental information is also helpful to the Award Committee. You may submit up to 5 additional letters of support and up to 10 pages of other supporting materials (see below for details).

Who should the nomination come from?

  • The nomination should come from someone who knows the candidate well and has the ability to recognize them as a strong leader. The committee values objective input. Therefore, while nominations can be board members or other staff within the same organization as the nominee, preferably, the nomination would come from a well-respected member of an unrelated organization who is very familiar with the candidate's contributions and impact. Candidates are seldom self-nominated.
  • If you submit your name as the nominator on the nomination form, the nomination letter should also be authored and signed by you. Please do not put an assistant's contact information on the nomination form.

What is the difference between a nominating letter and a letter of support?

  • Nominating letters are mandatory and come from the initial nominator -- the individual who fills out the nomination form. This letter addresses why the nominee deserves consideration for the Award (i.e. how this leader has been a builder, mobilizer, and unifier of people, institutions, or causes), and outlines the candidate's leadership record, past affiliations and achievements and rationale for being considered a transformational leader.
  • Letters of support are optional and can be submitted in addition to the nomination letter to show the depth and breadth of the nominee's impact. These letters should each add something substantive to the nominee's profile. Up to 5 letters, limited to 2 pages per letter, can be submitted via email and several perspectives can sometimes help highlight the nominee's unique achievements. However, it is better to have fewer supporters who know the candidate well and can speak to their work than many letters with little new to add.
  • Nomination letters and letters of support can be sent directly to Independent Sector. It is not necessary to send all pieces of a nomination together.

What should a nomination letter include? Is there a word/page limit?

  • Letters should be no longer than 3 pages and address why the nominee deserves consideration for the award (i.e. how this leader has been a builder, mobilizer, and unifier of people, institutions, or causes), and outline the candidate's leadership record, past affiliations and achievements and rationale for being considered a transformational leader
  • Please be sure to sign all letters before submitting them as PDF attachments. If a supporting submission is in the form of an email, we will accept electronic signatures or ask that the email come directly from the inbox of the originator, in order to ensure authenticity of the letter. Letters should be designated from an individual, not an organization.

Who should I address letters to?

  • Please address letters to the John W. Gardner Leadership Award Committee.



What additional materials are helpful for the selection committee? How much should I send?

  • Biographical information, photos, news stories, brief writings, reports, etc., are all useful items if you believe this information will add something new to the nominee's profile. Resumes/ CVs in excess of 10 pages will not be copied in their entirety.

Can I send videos, CDs, or movie clips?

  • We encourage you to send any and all supporting materials that you think best exemplify your nominee. However, multimedia materials will not be copied and distributed to each selection committee member initially. Please instead send links to these items. We will keep them in a master file and make them available upon the request of a committee member.

How should I present the supporting materials? Does visual appeal help?

  • All materials will be copied in black and white before they are disseminated to each selection committee member. Therefore, color photos or documents will not be transferable. In order to reproduce materials, they might be reordered, so please label all items clearly.
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