What the judges look for in a winning submission

Judges in last year’s Legacy of Play contest offer tips for submitting a winning entry. Here’s what they look for in a winning submission for the Kiwanis International–Landscape Structures Inc. contest:  

Bob Broderick, chief financial officer, Kiwanis International

Bob Broderick, chief financial officer, Kiwanis InternationalThe two most significant elements I looked for were the need for the equipment and how the club addressed that need before entering the contest—did the club have a design, had the club worked with a community partner, had it begun fundraising? The work accomplished before the submission provides evidence that the club has the resources to take on the project.

Clubs that started fundraising, had a plan that included design and installation, and had community support had an edge from the beginning. I also looked for planning related to long-term maintenance, because Kiwanis will be known for this project in the community and it’s important to always give a good impression.

Red flags for me would be a submission of a project in the preliminary stages, where a club has not performed its due diligence and is unaware of the time, resources and commitment it takes to complete a playground project. Green flags would be complete designs, supporting organizations such as a city or county parks department and fundraising.  

Dillon Kalkhurst, co-founder & CMO (chief motivation officer) D. Knight Marketing & Consulting Group, Inc, Member Kiwanis Club of Ormond Beach

Dillon Kalkhurst, Co-Founder & CMO (Chief Motivation  Officer) D. Knight Marketing & Consulting GroupWinning entries should demonstrate that they can work with multiple community partners and have a site that offers the most impact for the most kids. I also look for locations that don’t have a lot of other options. Partners, fundraising and space are the top three things I look for.  

Also, it’s important that clubs have a plan for long-term maintenance. Too many clubs build things, do the ribbon cutting and never go back. I want to know how clubs plan to use the playground to build membership and to help the community long after the build and ribbon cutting.  

Red flags would be the lack of a long-term plan for engagement in the project and going it alone, without a partner. Green flags are strong community partnerships, the impact on the community and a plan that lasts long after the construction is complete. Partnerships are important because clubs can’t do it alone—it takes a village. The more partners, the more volunteers, promotion and community impact.  

Winning entries offer a convenient location where other similar structures are unavailable, and should provide access for all with nice visuals.

Jim Roberts, member of the Kiwanis Club of Napa, California

Jim Roberts, member of the Kiwanis Club of Napa, CaliforniaI look for sincerity in an entry, and a plan for making it happen.

I also want to see a plan for maintenance, because without that component, the playground could become unsafe. It’s also important that there’s something for children with special needs. 

We have had great luck with attaining new members in our club as we have done these projects for the school districts, parks and recreation and churches. When we are building a playground, everyone knows about it.  

A good entry should offer a variety of safe fun for kids, it’s great to have options like slides and things that allow kids to stretch, and have things for kids without skills or coordination. 

June Steder, CEO, AO Tech Inc.

June Steder, CEO, AO Tech Inc.Clubs with thorough planning are winners – I look for a good committee, land acquisition that is complete, and active fundraising. If you’re going to spend a lot of money, you also need a plan for maintenance. Why spend all that money to have it become unusable or an eyesore in a few years.

A red flag for me would be no real plans or no real idea of the cost; and a green flag for me would be detailed planning by a good committee that has already started raising money. It’s important to have partners for support, too, as they can take a sense of ownership and help the project succeed.

Kiwanis is about serving children, and the playgrounds are a way to show that service locally, in a place that is fun and safe. Lastly, I also look for need – does the community need the playground.