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Learning Series: Entry Deadlines and Fees

Learning Series: Entry Deadlines and Fees

Regardless of when you begin your call for entries or the countless incentives you offer to entrants, the result is always the same: you’ll receive the majority of entries in the final 3 days of the call for entry period.

While you may feel (after many years of this happening) that this result is inevitable, it isn’t. You can even use entry deadlines and fees to encourage entrants to apply sooner and to relieve this administrative hassle.

After all, if entrants know they can save money by entering just a few days or weeks earlier, you’re likely to smooth out the end of the call for entries process, even if only slightly.

3 Deadlines to Consider

Typical awards programs have 3 deadlines, all of which come with incentives.

Submission Deadline

The submission deadline is the deadline you advertise at the beginning of your program. This is the standard deadline and entrants will have no incentive (other than to avoid paying late fees) to meet this deadline.

Early Bird Deadline

The early bird deadline can run up to one week before the final deadline and offers a slight reward for those who submit before the majority of other entrants.

Aside from lessening the burden both you and your team shoulder at the end of the call for entries period, this early deadline will give you a small taste of the questions and issues you’re likely to encounter on a larger scale later in the process. This allows you to prepare before you’re slammed with questions.

Late Deadline

The late deadline helps those who are likely to be late, but are nonetheless desirable entrants, get into your program, even though they’ve missed the submission deadline. By imposing a small penalty for those who apply late, you’ll keep your program fair to those who scramble and get in their entries by the submission deadline.

How to Change the Submission and Fee Structure

You can always get more creative with your submission and fee structure. For example, you may want to have more than just three deadlines. This might look like:

  • Early bird 1
  • Early bird 2
  • Standard
  • Late submission 1
  • Late submission 2

For some programs, adding layers is beneficial. This is particularly true for larger organizations who have run their program for enough years to see the benefits of complicating the deadline structure in this way. If this is your first year running your program, it’s probably best to keep things simple and limit your deadlines to the three options mentioned above.

Special Discounts to Consider

Along with discounts for early bird entries and penalties for late entries, you may want to introduce other, special discounts to your program.

Some examples of special discounts may include:


  • Discounts to Special Groups – Special groups may include employees or members of your organization, certain businesses, or military members.
  • Multiple Entry Discount – If a person or organization is submitting in multiple categories, you may want to offer a discount to do so. This may also incentive entrants to participate in more categories, if possible.
  • Category Specific Pricing – You may want to offer more affordable pricing to individuals vs. organizations or segment category pricing depending on size and who is entering.


Consider All Deadlines and Fees to Build a Better Program

Whether you already offer deadline pricing differences or special discounts or are considering these elements for the first time, it’s important to think everything through to ensure you’re maximizing revenue and lessening the administrative hassle inherent to your program.

Once you do, you can compare the differences year after year to see what works best and to ensure your program is always improving.

Clear up any lingering confusion you have about entry deadlines and fees by downloading our free worksheet!

Ashley Surinak is the resident OpenWater expert on all things content. From the blog to guides and beyond, you'll find her at every turn in your OpenWater journey.

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