The ever-wonderful ValaSedai posted an article about Individually Hosted Contests this morning. It covered a lot of important stuff like gathering prizes and organizing your entries. This guide is going to cover much of the same stuff, but from a group admin's point of view.
Prepare and Organize
The Summer Contest that myself, SilverInkblot, and spoems hosted through DailyLitDeviations literally took months of planning. We wrote and revised the prompt, rules, entry guidelines, prizes, judging guidelines, and more. Then when the contest was announced, people had questions and the questions most frequently asked were added to an FAQ section in the article. Then there was collecting and finalizing the judge's scores before the final announcement. Running a big contest can feel like a full-time job.
When you're hosting a contest through a group, it is usually a good idea to have at least two people in on it so you can split up the responsibilities. One person can be in charge of gathering prizes and accepting submissions. Someone else can put together the announcements and advertise. Dividing the responsibilities not only helps you retain your sanity, but it streamlines the process.
How long your planning stages take will depend on how big and complicated you want your contest to be and how many heads are being brought together. I recommend at least a couple of hours of planning, even for the smallest contests, and answering these questions to be sure you've covered all your bases:
What medium(s) is my contest open to?
When does the contest open? When will it close?
How should contestants submit their entries?
How should contestants ask questions about the contest?
What are the rules of the contest?
What is the goal of the contest?
Who are the judges?
What is the judging criteria?
Is there a submission cap?
How many winners will there be? What are the prizes?
How will I gather/keep track of prize donations?
Will I feature prize donors somehow?
How will I advertise the contest?
When will results be announced?
When will prizes be distributed?
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into a well organized contest. Believe me though, a well organized contest is usually a very successful one.
Gather Prizes First
This is true for contests with big prizes, especially. You'll want to start noting your supportive dA friends and group affiliates for prize and points donations as soon as you have the rough outline for your contest worked out. Start some hype right away by putting teasers in your blogs or in forums/chats. If you get interviewed, sneak your need for donations in there. Put it in your signature. Post it on facebook and twitter. Use whatever outlets you can think of to spark some intrigue and support.
And remember to keep it organized. Do not rely on the prize donors to remember what they donated. If someone says they'll donate a feature, either save that note somewhere or write it down in a place it won't get lost. If you want to have a big thank-you to donors, keep track of who donates points as well. Start sorting which prizes will be awarded to which winners as soon as you can. Having that sort of information in your first announcement is very important because people usually enter contests with the most appealing prizes.
Clarity Above All Else
The top reason for a contest failing is lack of clarity in the announcement. If you've got a magnificent prompt and amazing prizes but unclear rules or entry procedures, your contest will likely flop. Follow this checklist for making sure you've covered all the usual guidelines:
Contest start and end date (and time if applicable)
Mediums allowed (Lit, Photography, Traditional/Digital Art, etc)
Size/word count restrictions
Any requirements in artist's comment (word/line count; resources links; link to contest article; etc)
Old deviations allowed, or new only?
Who can enter the contest? (Group members only? New deviants only? Anybody?)
How many entries per contestant? Are collaborations allowed?
Mature content allowed?
Guidelines for entry (note, comment, submit to group, etc)
Depending on your contest, you may need to cover even more areas. For instance, if you allow more than one medium, can contestants enter a piece which combines the mediums? You may also need to adjust your rules as feedback from potential contestants comes in. Clarify what is unclear, add what you did not think of, and always keep the communication open.
I recommend that if you make a rule, you stick to it unless the argument for changing it is reasonable. For instance, say you've made the rule that only deviations created specifically for your contest will be allowed. If one of your friends tries to enter a piece that was clearly submitted to dA before your contest was open, don't allow it in. No matter who your friend may be, you need to make sure all contestants follow the same rules. On the other hand, if you've set some kind of restriction that many people feel is unfair (say, no water marks allowed on photography entries), you may want to consider changing it so more people will be comfortable entering your contest.
Advertise Until the Bitter End
There are a lot of avenues for spreading the word about your contest. First, make sure you've submitted the contest announcement to the journal portal in the Journals>Culture>Contests category. If the announcement gets enough faves/comments, it could end up in the footer which is visible to anyone who visits dA. Second, the minute you post the article, send a note to people and groups who are willing to advertise for you. Moonbeam13's "Pimps and Whoas" articles are a great place to start. Also note the CVs that cover the type of art your contest allows. You can find a list of all the CVs, including Chat and Forum Volunteers right here: communityrelations.deviantart.…
Polls, journal announcements, and forums are other great areas to advertise. Keep your original contest announcement up to date with any new rules or prizes, even if you post a brand new journal about it. This ensures that if someone stumbles on the original journal, they still have all the correct information. If your group has a super subscription, set the Countdown widget to your contest's end date. Nothing gets people motivated like a ticking clock.
I hope this information has been helpful! If you have other tips or comments to add, leave them on this blog. I'm always looking for suggestions for improvement myself.