Now that the Mom Central Grants Program is over & the shock of being a winner has ebbed to a pleasant buzz, it’s high time that I wrote some sort of recap. This contest, after all, was a 2 1/2 month journey not only for me as an entrant, but for many of YOU, who took the time to vote not just once or twice, but often DAILY for The Daily Dish. It’s thanks to your generosity and support as much as my own work that this website was rewarded with a grant. I can’t thank each of you enough.
So how did this whole journey begin? With a two-sentence email from my friend, Tracy. She sent a link to the Grants Program with a simple “I think you’d be perfect for this.” I’d never heard of Mom Central before, but I clicked the link and read through the rules. I certainly fit the criteria, and there didn’t seem to be any reason NOT to apply. So I dashed through the forms as quickly as I could, mostly because I needed to get off the computer to make dinner! Sort of funny to think something so momentous began with such little forethought, but I’ve been running The Daily Dish for so many years the mission must be indelibly inked on my brain. It’s actually good that the entry was so spontaneous. I think if I’d realized then what exactly I was getting into, I would have agonized over the forms. And who knows? Maybe even talked myself out of entering altogether.
Once my grant application was accepted, I began spreading word of the contest via blog posts here, as well as on my personal blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter. All of the websites were competing to win as much public support as possible via votes (one vote per person per day) for the next month & a half. I emailed all of my contacts, mostly family and friends, to let them know what the contest was about, what it could do for my website, and ask for their continued daily support via votes over that 6-week period. I posted daily reminders on my FB page, which became sort of a running joke — “Hey, another annoying reminder to ask you to VOTE FOR ME.. Did you get your vote on today??” etc. People were very obliging and many said they actually LIKED the reminders! So I kept it up. Shortly before open voting ended, I created a Daily Dish Facebook page to further encourage readers to ‘Like’ the site and show support via daily voting. I didn’t miss in-person opportunities either! My closest neighbors I asked face-to-face and everyone was just so supportive. After voting ended, several people remarked how much they actually MISSED voting for me daily (!!!) it had become such a part of their routine.
Though Alexa ranked The Daily Dish in the lowest of the 3 traffic-based tiers, your support kept this website not only in the Top 5 throughout open voting, but just 8 votes shy of FIRST PLACE at the end!! To come in second out of 650 websites, many of whom have a far larger audience, was absolutely amazing. It’s also proof positive that it doesn’t matter how many ‘Likes’ a website has on Facebook nor how many followers on Twitter, it’s the CONNECTION an audience feels that truly matters. My readers, friends and family showed the world their love and loyalty for me and my work. You did the (perceived) impossible. I am still reeling from that alone.
Following the open voting period, the top 45 websites in terms of votes moved onto panel judging. The websites were divided into three tiers, based on Alexa rankings, 15 websites in each. Two of the 15 websites from the top traffic tier, two from the middle 15, and ONE from the lowest 15 would be awarded grants. You know where The Daily Dish placed. The lowest. Regardless of voting, I had one chance out of 15 to win the grant. During this time I tried to think about the contest as little as possible. Panel judging would be based on website need (40%) as well as aspiration & vision (60%). I felt my site had clearly defined needs, goals & objectives, but the decision was out of my hands.
Winners were announced May 2, 2011. I woke that morning with my stomach in knots. I kept checking the Mom Central Facebook page for word of the announcement. Reload – reload – Nothing! Finally around 10 am Mom Central sent me a “hush-hush” Twitter DM saying they needed my phone number. Oh my gooodnesssss!!!! Still, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. We made arrangements to speak after noon & I WAS ON PINS & NEEDLES after that!!!!! So excited and nervous I couldn’t eat, until finally around 2 pm I spoke with Eileen from Mom Central & was told I had won.
Shock, then ELATION!! Though I’d remained in the Top 5 throughout open voting, the contest is far more than that. When it came to panel judging I was competing against wonderful sites, many of whom fit the traditional “mommy blogger” mold. Compared to these The Daily Dish is a completely different animal. Sure, I’m a mother of two, I’m doing my site from home, fitting it in around my family’s schedule, tight finances, etc. But I just didn’t know what Mom Central was looking for. Would they want a PR-savvy site primed for launch into the stratosphere, or were they simply seeking a quality website they would be proud to support & in some small way call their own? All of my friends, family & readers declared “THE DAILY DISH is a SHOO-IN!” But me? I just wasn’t sure. I don’t lack self-confidence, but I didn’t want to prime myself for disappointment either. I wanted to be selected, I felt The Daily Dish deserved it, but I had in NO WAY taken it as a given. Hearing I’d won was truly a dream come true!!
The grant money will be spent on three main objectives. First, upgrading The Daily Dish site to include easily printable recipes and complete nutritional information, a splashier, more photo-centric layout, and hopefully the ability for users to join to share recipes and build community. Second, grant money will be used to self-publish a cookbook of original recipes, available for purchase here through the website. Finally, money will be spent on a CSA share in a local, organic farm for the upcoming season, providing ample produce for recipe building now through mid-October, as well as allowing me to promote said farm (or potentially farms) in weekly posts. A wonderful way to build community both on and offline! Now that the check is on its way, I’ve begun the process of all three things – outlining ideas for the look and feel of the website, making plans to use the summer to write the book, and contacting a local farm for collaboration. I’ll be keeping you posted with progress reports as things move forward.
This contest gave voice to many people, not only my readers, but friends and family too, allowing them to connect to me in a much deeper and more meaningful way; becoming in essence my cheerleading section. It brought out the best in so many of us, myself included, giving us the confidence to pursue a collective goal for the greater good. I cannot thank Mom Central enough for allowing us the opportunity to compete for such a windfall, and for the windfall itself, which will finance goals that would never have been otherwise possible. I would like to personally thank each and every person who voted for me, left a comment, said or prayer or otherwise showed support not only for The Daily Dish, but for me as an individual. All of this kindness was exceptional and will not be forgotten.