Annual Award Programs …

Are We There Yet?

Finally, the 2019 award season at conferences has come to a close, but before getting too excited for what 2020 will bring, like popular TV sitcoms, the reruns of past awardees will likely return to the center stage.  Influenced by several factors, a majority of companies and individuals seem to be recognized over, over and over again as Corporation of the Year; Business of the Year; Man of the Year; Woman of the Year; and other Yada, Yada, Yada of the Year by diverse organizations, associations, and groups.

I recently caught up with a friend who attended what I refer to as the National Hispanic Conference Trifecta; the annual conferences of UnidosUS (I’m sorry I’m “old school” they will always be the National Council of La Raza to me); the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Awards and sarcastically, stated he couldn’t wait to attend next year’s events.  Now 2020 will also be an election year, so political candidates will take turns at the main stage of luncheons or galas sharing their standard pitch.

You might wonder if he’s so bored, why he attends these events.  Like many other corporate representatives, he represents his company’s sponsorships at these conferences- yes, life can so be difficult for some.  As I’ve written in past articles he is one of these individuals which I refer to as “roadblock people” and if he’s working (I’ll be kind) a trade show, he’ll hand you a brochure, some company logo trinket, but if you might get too serious, he’ll direct you to the corporate website for information.  As long as we don’t discuss politics or corporate ethics, we get along fine.

However, my commentary is not intended to discuss corporate responsibility, but my observation of monotony, the recognition of the same individuals and corporate sponsors.

Aside from the aforementioned organizations, there are so many other Latino organizations (here comes the acronyms LULAC, NALEO, NHPA, etc., etc.) that rely on conferences to address their constituents, network and of course fundraising.

I showcase the Hispanic Sector, yet all diverse markets host annual regional, state and national events featuring trade-show, dinner programs, meetings and so much more.  I have personally attended many of these annual gatherings and recognize the importance and values they share to serve their membership.  My criticisms are that organizations miss opportunities to celebrate the contributions of so many other worthy candidates during their respective award programs.

The Selection Process

When it comes to the recognition process my perspectives come from multiple roles as a sponsor, committee member, and participant.  What I can candidly say, I’ve seen it all how recipients are selected.  Let me be clear, most companies and individuals are well deserving of their acknowledgments; and I applaud those organizations that define, ethical recognition standards for the selection of award recipients.  My disapproval is how often that organizations do so if these decision-makers ran the Oscars, the same actors would win every other year.

I’m not disputing talent or worth, but as much as I admire Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep aside from these outstanding actors, there are other talented and deserving candidates to recognize.

So when I notice especially on social media the same individuals recognized, over and over again, the system has a hiccup. Staying with this example of the Academy Awards, when a company receives repetitive recognition for primarily the writing of a sponsorship check would be like the Oscars recognizing ABC as television network of the year, as a perk for televising the program.

The Debate

As much as I talk about sharing the love, others counter with arguments “it’s all good” the way it is.  If earned; who cares if XYZ Company and their representatives are recognized each or every other year?  My curiosity would be how the organization is defining the term “earned.”  Although the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has faced their share of controversy, I do respect the policy for induction eligible candidates are required to adhere to such criteria: musicians can only be inducted once as a member of a group and if qualified, again as an individual performer.

Aside from the Nobel Peace Prize, I’m just not impressed if the same companies being a recipient of the same award, over and over again.  Come on in this day and age, groups can do a better job in recognizing the performances and contributions of others.  If not, especially those of diverse sectors fall into the same pitfalls; we criticize the general market in restrictive acknowledgment.

The Dark Side

During my career as a corporate representative, on multiple occasions depending on the amount of the contribution my company was offered prominent recognition as an incentive. I have witnessed a former colleague bragging how she influenced an organization (which she also co-chaired) to awarded the company a corporation of the year award. I recall once declining such recognition as I questioned aside from the financial contribution what else our company had accomplished to deserve what I considered prestigious acknowledgment.  So what happened next? Despite a dismal track record of less than a quarter percent in doing business with this diverse market group, a sponsorship check of 20K earned another utility Corporation of the Year award.  If this company ever reached one percent in target market spending, who knows what they’d expect – Corporation of the Century.

Despite being sanctioned, fined by regulators for widespread customer abuses that included minorities and small businesses, a financial institution with the initials WFB and their representatives have continued to be recognized by several diverse organizations, again for writing checks. This is where the color “green” supersedes all sins and faults, and – “Money Can Buy You, Love.” Unfortunately, I have and continue to see the unethical practices played from “Sea to Shining Sea.”

So as I step off my soapbox, my intent is to spread the word to share the love, as well as raise the bar in the recognition, especially those that should be acknowledged for their dedication and support. It is invaluable to showcase companies and individuals for their accomplishments and especially their support of the community. As I look forward to 2020, my hopes are that we don’t travel Back to the Future, but shine the spotlight on others, offering inspiration to the next generations, that they too might be acknowledged for their contributions and service for the betterment of others.  If not, we’ll repeat the same life experiences which will produce the same results.


Al "Skip" Solorzano
SKIP is a recognized expert in the field of diversity with keen ability to build strategic alliances, and successfully expand supplier diversity initiatives. He has consulted with multiple client sectors including pharmaceutical, insurance, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, utilities nonprofit organizations, business entities and employee groups. As a facilitator and learning consultant presents unique perspectives to develop solutions; and promote qualities to successfully work with others through diversity, team-building and leadership development. Solorzano has been featured as a presenter at conferences sponsored by such entities as: AT&T, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Social Security Administration. A former Governor appointee and member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Solorzano has been recognized by United Way as Most Influential Hispanics of the Bay Area; and a recipient of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Corporate Advocate of the Year award. Skip’s career endeavors as a corporate liaison, community leader and entrepreneur, provides the unique insight to write on an array of subject matter from learning processes; diversity; with a shared humorous perspective of life.

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