How to nominate someone for an MBE or honour

Howard Lake | 31 August 2017 | Blogs

I’m sure you know someone who deserves an MBE or honour; maybe a local volunteer, a school governor, or a fundraiser?
There are so many wonderful people in our communities who could be nominated you’ve probably wondered why they haven’t been recognised already.

Why does that happen?

The days of a civil servant in some dingy office trawling lists to decide who is nominated are long gone. There aren’t official lists where names are added and eventually recognised when the person gets to the top. It’s not the choice of your local council or MP.
If that’s the case then who nominates the hundreds of people recognised each year?
The answer is simple. People like you and me.
If you don’t nominate someone, the chances are no one will.
I started encouraging people to make more nominations after my friend Robin was nominated and sadly died before the process completed. Don’t make the mistake I did. If you know a great person nominate them.
The only person you can’t nominate for recognition in the UK honours system is – yourself!

How does it work?

Nominating someone is much easier than you think. The government helpfully publishes all the necessary forms online. You can submit all the details via email.
There is also lots of advice from various government departments how to fill in the forms to maximise the potential of your nomination. I’ve collected all this advice into one “how to” guide.
There are no deadlines for applications and people can submit their nomination at any time of year. Awards are announced at New Year (end of December) and for the Queen’s Birthday (mid-June). It usually takes 12 to 18 months to process a nomination because of the background work undertaken by Cabinet Office officials (yes, they do make both HMRC and police checks). Initially a nomination is assessed by a committee from the area the person volunteers, then by a Cabinet Office committee that reviews all nominations.
You don’t nominate a person for a specific award. You make the nomination and the process decides on the level of award.
Ideally nominations should be made while the nominee is still in service and at least 12 months before they retire or step down. A person nominated after retirement is not likely to be successful.

Two stage process

Nominating someone has two parts:
• the citation written by the person making the nomination
•  supporting letters; written by people to confirm why you are nominating that person.
The citation is the only evidence that most people involved in the process will see about your nominee.
You need to take the following into consideration:
• There is considerable competition for honours. Each nomination faces stiff evaluation and decisions are based on the information on the citation form. Write the very best one you can and remember to say why you are nominating them now.
•  It should be clear in the first few lines why a nomination is being made, and the rest of the text should be used to prove this.
• A citation should not be an extended CV, a list of educational achievements, appointments, awards or posts, or a job description showing what the person has done. Think about the person and how you would describe what they have done.
• A frequent complaint is that poor citations often list these things, and that the person recommended is “doing no more than their paid job”.  You may know the person well and forget they are a volunteer – remember to mention that.
• Your citation should describe what is special about your nominee’s achievements and show memorably and persuasively how and where they have made a difference. There is even a word list in the “How to” guide.
• Honours committees actively look for evidence of nominees who have gone above and beyond. Committees look for evidence that the nominee is giving back to society. This will strengthen your case.
• You must make it clear where someone’s activities are extra to the “standard” role – if the committee is unsure they will assume that what is being described is paid activity. Be clear.
Interested in more detailed help in how to nominate someone? The full “How to” guide its available as text, PDF or Word here.
Martin Matthews is a National Leader of Governance and was the first person to graduate with an MA (Ed) in governance. He has been a governor for nearly 50 years, has contributed to House of Commons inquiries and encourages more balance in the honours system.
Image: Member of the Order of the British Empire MBE. Crown copyright – used under Open Government License

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