A winning Desjardins Financial Education Award entry should be...

Compelling. Tell a story. Make your case as if you were writing an article for the media. Keep the narrative—your description of your financial education efforts and why they're exemplary—separate from the supporting evidence.

Appropriate. Read the rules, and make sure you're entering the appropriate competition. The Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award focuses on teaching members and non-members under the age of 18 about personal finance and providing financial literacy leadership. The Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award focuses on teaching members and non-members age 18 and older.

Relevant. Review the entry form carefully, and respond to all applicable judging criteria. Clearly demonstrate how the program(s) is used and the impact (i.e., how many people/groups have been taught using the materials).

Focused. For each criterion, it's better to describe—and substantiate in detail—your single best program than to list many smaller activities or events. This allows you to present your best case. The Desjardins Award is not a marketing recognition program, so advertising samples and promotional PowerPoint presentations should not be included.

Original, unique and innovative. There's nothing wrong with using commercially prepared educational materials. If you did, however, be sure to show how you adapted the materials to the needs of your particular audience. Show how you went beyond the prepared materials to engage your audience more deeply. In any case, explain what makes your credit union's or chapter's efforts unique and worthy of recognition. Have you created any new and innovative partnerships? Is this a completely original program? Or is it a twist on something that's been done for a long time? Emphasize the creativity and uniqueness of your program. While monetary donations are admirable, judges will look for strong personal involvement.

Proven. What were the goals of your efforts, and how did people benefit? Provide concrete, relevant evidence of program effectiveness. What positive results did you measure, and can you document them? Judges love to read about results and success stories.

Organized. Make your entry easy to read and easy to follow. Include the name of your credit union/chapter on the front cover. Use a table of contents. Using tabbed index pages makes it easier for the judges to find what they're looking for quickly. Avoid handwritten entries and misspellings. Use standard fonts, white paper and black type. Keep your entry to a manageable size.

Content courtesy of Credit Union National Association.