In this phase you'll determine the appropriate channels for announcing your winners. You'll work with internal teams to expedite payment and document your processes. You'll also explore important non-monetary incentives for all participants. These include detailed feedback, recognition and information about follow-on funding opportunities.
Making an award isn't always as simple as handing over a giant-size check. In this step, you will capitalize on your earlier resource planning to quickly and legally pay your winners. Work with your resource management office and budget office well in advance to establish the information you'll need from winners and the process you'll need to follow to make a payment. Often times agencies will need to adapt current accounting practices to be able to make a cash transfer to an individual prize winner, and this may require some pre-coordination with your budget office.
1. Who cuts the check and how funds are paid depends on how you're administering the challenge and who has the money.
You can administer your challenge in a variety of ways. You can work with an external, nonprofit or third-party partner to help, or you can do it all in-house at your agency. For each of these options, the process you follow to pay winners will vary.
In-house: Funds provided by your agency are paid directly to the prize/challenge and winners. You treat the payout as an invoice. Work with your accounting department to structure your payment form so that it can be treated as a typical invoice.
Challenge partner: You may be working with a nonprofit or foreign government not using federally appropriated funds. Depending on your legal authority and your agency's specific policies, your partner organization may be free to follow its own internal payout policies. And then your agency would pay your portion of the prize money, if any.
Third-party contractor: You may be working with a partner using federally appropriated funding. If so, there may be rules for your agency's payout policies. One option is to include prize money as part of the contract and include prize disbursement in the contractor's roles and responsibilities.
Document your winner selection and payment dispersion.
Get contact information for your winners and top participants so you can keep in touch and monitor their progress beyond the challenge. The biggest impact from a challenge may not come for months or years after winners are announced.
At a minimum, document for your records the following information:
- Challenge title
- Challenge dates
- Challenge location
- Prize amount
- Winner contact information
If your agency sends payments directly to winners, their personal information should be collected only by your financial officer. This means Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and the like.
Send your financial officer contact information for the winners so your agency can gather the information it needs to distribute prize money. But only request and retain this information for the purposes of awarding funds.
This serves as a reminder to be careful about collecting personal information earlier in the challenge process as well, such as during the registration or competition phases.
Consult your agency's privacy officer to make sure you follow privacy laws with all information.
Consider working with your resource management office and chief financial officer to process prize awards the way you would pay a vendor for services, materials or support.
Use the money you obligated when you announced the challenge to make the payment. Make sure your funding doesn't expire before you, your partner or contractor can make the prize payment.
There's a perception that government is slow to get things done. Crush this stereotype by paying out prize money as soon as possible.
The adrenaline rush of winning wears off quickly if participants have to wait too long for their money. Pay winners less than 60 days from the time you announce them. A quick payment turnaround is even more crucial for incremental awards, because participants may need this money to continue in the competition.
Set expectations early by stating in the challenge rules how long it will take to pay winners.