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Contest Rules

Carefully read and understand the following rules before submitting contest entries.

If you have questions on how to prepare an entry, contact Contest managers and judges will have the discretion of disqualifying entries if applications are incomplete or are inconsistent with the contest rules.

Submitting an Entry

All entrants are required to complete the online entry form. 

The cost per entry for MAGC and MACTA members is $65 per entry. The cost for nonmembers is $95 per entry. There is no discount for multiple entries. 

Please make a careful choice about which category or categories you choose when submitting your entries. Entries will be judged in the category in which they are submitted. They will not be moved into other categories, regardless of whether judges deem them more appropriate for another category. 

Refer to the contest categories list for a list of available categories and information about which type of submission is allowed for each category.

Electronic Submissions: For categories that require an electronic submission of the materials to be judged, you'll need to upload a PDF and/or submit URLs when you fill out the online entry form.

Hard Copy Submissions: For categories that require a hard copy submission of the materials to be judged, you'll still need to fill out and submit the online entry form. You should also print out four (4) copies of the entry form and attach them to four (4) copies of the project you're entering. Send the entry forms and projects by postal mail to the address indicated on the entry form.

Hard-copy entries postmarked after the contest deadline will be disqualified without refund.

Electronic/Hard Copy Submissions: Some categories allow entrants to choose whether to submit their projects electronically or by hard copy. After choosing how you will submit your entry, follow the directions for electronic and/or hard copy submissions above.

General Rules


The Northern Lights Awards competition is open to communicators in the public sector (including federal, state, regional and local government agencies; nonprofit agencies and school districts) and to producers in the private sector who have completed work for Minnesota nonprofit or government communicators.

Projects are eligible for entry if they represent work published or substantially completed in 2016.

You do not need to be a MAGC member to enter the contest.


The contest deadline for 2017 is 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Hard copy submissions must be postmarked on or before the date of the contest deadline.

Payments must be submitted by the contest deadline. Failure to pay by the contest deadline may result in disqualification of the entry.

Entries received after the contest deadline will not be considered.

If an entry submitted on or before the contest deadline is found to be incomplete, the entrant will be notified and given an opportunity to complete the entry prior to the contest deadline. However, there is no guarantee that an incomplete entry will be noted in time to allow for the changes.

Entries that are found to be incomplete after the contest deadline will not be considered. 

Use and Publication of Entries

MAGC reserves the right to use and/or refer to Northern Lights Awards Contest submissions in its communications and publications on all media platforms in all publication realms. Examples of areas in which MAGC may use contest entries are:

  • As examples of entries in that category.
  • On the MAGC website as examples of outstanding work by its members.
  • At workshops, seminars, the MAGC Fall Conference, etc.  
  • On display at the Northern Lights Awards Contest ceremony, to show examples of award winners.
  • In future promotions of MAGC and the Northern Lights Awards Contest.
  • In other areas of publication at the discretion of the MAGC board and its volunteers.

Faulty URLs in Entries

It is the responsibility of the entrant to ensure that all URLs submitted as part of the entry are working and active from the date of entry submission through the end of May. An entry whose link URL does not provide proper access to the expected asset may be taken out of consideration for an award during the judging process.

Trophy Corrections

MAGC will purchase a corrected trophy upon request, at no cost to a contest entrant, if the trophy contains an error introduced by MAGC's processes.

The contest entrant may purchase a corrected trophy at their own expense if the text of a trophy matches the information provided by the entrant on the contest entry form.

No Refund Policy

Entry fees are non-refundable. MAGC reserves the right to refuse a refund in the case of an incomplete entry, an entry with one or more components submitted or postmarked after the deadline for entries, an entry with faulty or incorrect information including one or more faulty URLs, an entry that has been rejected due to other shortcomings identified by the contest organizers, or any other situation that MAGC, in its sole determination, deems to be a sufficient reason to refuse a refund. 

Determination of Awards 

Northern Lights, Silver and Bronze awards: Each judge gives each entry a score of 0 - 100. The entry's final score is the average of the scores from all of its judges. Entries are then ranked using standard competition ranking (see below) to determine which entries receive an award. No entry receiving a final score of 70 or lower is eligible for an award, regardless of ranking.

Awards of Excellence: The Award of Excellence honors entries scoring 85 or higher that do not qualify for a Northern Lights, Silver or Bronze award. Zero, one or multiple Awards of Excellence may be given out in any category depending on how many entries score 85 or higher.

Best of Show: The MAGC board or its designees select a single Best of Show winner from the nominated entries. No person with a conflict of interest (see below) may participate in the Best of Show selection process.

Nominations for Best of Show are made by the contest's judges. Each judge may nominate at most one entry for Best of Show. Judges are not required to nominate any entry for Best of Show. A nomination for Best of Show will only be considered if the entry also receives a Northern Lights Award, which is granted based on the combined scores of all the judges for that category.

Communicator of the Year and Lifetime Achievement: Awardees are chosen by the MAGC board or its designees. These awards are not necessarily awarded each year. See Special Achievement Awards for more information about these awards. 

Standard Competition Ranking

Standard competition ranking is used to determine which awards are granted in each category. This ranking system may be familiar to you due to its use in many athletic competitions including the Olympics.

Under this system, the award for each entry is determined by the number of entries scoring higher than it. This means that first place is granted to an entry if no other entry has scored higher than it; second place is awarded to an entry if one entry has scored higher than it; and third place is awarded to an entry if two entries have scored higher than it.

Here are some examples to show how standard competition ranking handles tie scores.

There is a tie for high score. 

  • 1-1-3. Two first-place awards are granted. The next entry receives a third-place award because there are two entries (the two tying for first place) that scored higher.

There is a single high score and a tie for second-highest score.

  • 1-2-2. A first-place award is granted and two second-place awards are granted. The next-ranked entry does not receive a third-place award because there are three entries (the ones receiving the awards) that scored higher.

There is a tie score for third place.

  • 1-2-3-3. One first-place award, one second-place award, and two third-place awards are granted. Each entry involved in the tie receives a third-place award because there are two entries that scored higher.

To everyone's surprise, two entries tie for highest score, and three entries tie for the next-highest score. 

  • 1-1-3-3-3. Two first-place awards are granted. Each entry involved in the second tie receives a third-place award because there are two entries that scored higher.

To our universal amazement, four entries tie for highest score. 

  • 1-1-1-1. Four first-place awards are granted. No other ranked awards are granted. 

Rules Regarding Judges

Conflicts of Interest

Judges must recuse themselves if asked to judge a category in which they have a conflict of interest. For example, it is a conflict of interest when a judge scores an entry that is from an organization employing the judge or an organization contracting services from the judge.

Anonymity of Judges

MAGC does not disclose the names of the judges who provide scores and comments for a specific entry. A list of all judges may be included in the awards program.