David Gibby Search for Excellence

Find your winners in each category here.
About Search for Excellence

The David Gibby Search for Excellence (SFE) Awards recognize the outstanding volunteer work of Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and South Korea. SFE includes seven categories in which EMGs can demonstrate meaningful contributions to their communities. All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place, whether by the EMGs or the general public.

All Extension Master Gardener projects are significant to their communities, but not all are SFE projects. SFE is designed to recognize outstanding group projects and not an individual who does outstanding work.

Application Timeline

  • November 7, 2022: Open SFE
  • February 6, 2023: Close SFE
  • February 21, 2023: inform winners (so winners have time to register before March 1 with early bird registration)
  • IMGC in Overland Park, Kansas June 18-22, 2023


Project submission must meet the following guidelines to qualify for the David Gibby Search for Excellence Awards:

1. Choose the single category that best fits the project. Only one project may be submitted by a group per category:

– Community Service

– Demonstration Gardens

– Innovative Projects

– Research (Applied Scientific Methodology)

– Special Needs Audiences (Senior, Disabled Audiences or horticultural therapy)

– Workshop or Presentation

– Youth Programs

2. Projects will be judged on their merit from work done between the years 2020 to 2022. Projects must have completed a full year to be entered. Program projects that have previously won a Search for Excellence Award are not eligible in any category.

3. Simple to Replicate. A goal of SFE is to share the excellent ideas and programs so they can be replicated by other MG groups. A 20-acre botanic garden would be difficult to replicate, but the project ideas within the garden might be easy to recreate at another site. A step-by-step “how to do this” is a great way to share your project.

4. Practicality. An award-winning SFE program is one that is easy to use and fits well in its intended situation. In other words, you have developed an effective and accessible program to meet a need of your community. For example: You could develop a wonderful program with a $35.00 admission fee, but if people can’t afford the cost, they won’t come.

5. Original and Creative. We are looking for unique and creative ideas that make the program your own, or that reflect the personalities of the Master Gardeners involved. Don’t recreate the wheel, just maybe parts of it so that it fits your situation.

6. Compatible with Extension and EMG Missions. Make sure to specifically link your project with the goals listed below. Do not assume that the reader knows that your project is compatible with Extension and EMG missions.

– Projects should have an educational component.

– Projects must be available to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, political beliefs, sexual orientations, national origin, and marital or family status.

– Projects should extend the resources of the University to the public wherever they live, helping them use knowledge to solve problems at work, at home, and in their communities.

– The information provided should be university research based.

7.Program Impact

– How many people were reached?

– Did you distribute an evaluation?

– Based on the evaluation, was there an increase in the knowledge level of the participants?

– Based on the evaluation, did the program result in behavioral changes of the participants?

Application Instructions:

1. The Search for Excellence project application must be written by the EMGs involved, and not by Extension staff. Provide the following information using the online application template:

a. Name of EMG Program, County, and State/Province (Name, address, phone, and email of MG volunteer contact person(s)

b. Name, title, address, phone, email of MG coordinator/staff person

c. Category: must select and submit in only ONE category

  • Community Service
  • Demonstration Gardens
  • Innovative Projects
  • Research (Applied Scientific Methodology)
  • Special Need Audiences (Senior, Disabled Audiences or Horticultural Therapy
  • Workshop or Presentation

d. Name of Project

e. Description of the project. Include target audience, goals, location, and partnerships. Be sure to address Simple to Replicate, Practicality, Original and Creative, and Compatible with Extension and EMG Missions as described in the guidelines.

f. Methods. Discuss planning, implementation, and evaluation (e.g., how results, learning, and impact were documented)

g. Results

h. Significant learning and impact

i. Budget narrative

j. Names of active EMGs only who are involved in the project and should recognized.

2. A verification form from your Extension Advisor/Coordinator is required and must be submitted by that individual. Please provide accurate email information for your Extension Advisor/Coordinator, as the SFE committee will send form information directly to their email after your proposal has been submitted. The Extension Advisor/Cooredinator online form will verify that:

  • Extension Master Gardeners involved are currently in good standing.
  • Photo releases are on file for all individuals in the photos or as required by the applicable laws of the local state or province.
  • All application documents have been reviewed.
  • The deadline for receipt of this verification is the same date as the application deadline: February 6, 2023. Any project submitted without this document will be disqualified. Please let your Extension Advisor/Coordinator know you are submitting a project and that they should expect an email from the SFE team for verification.

3. Up to six (6) digital photos in JPEG format may be submitted with the application. Maximum file size for photos is 1 GB. Use the online form to submit your photos.

4. All applications must be submitted online. No hard copy or emailed applications will be accepted. Any extra files, photos, or handouts will disqualify the application.

5. Receipt of the Extension Coordinator’s verification comments will be verified via email from the IMGC SFE Committee within two days of receiving it. If the Extension Coordinator fails to receive verification within four (4) business days of submission, contact [email protected].

Significant Learning and Impacts

Significant learning, change in attitude and practices are outcomes that Extension uses to evaluate the impact of their services and programs. Impacts from Extension Master Gardener projects should improve people’s lives. Explain how this project augmented learning, increased knowledge, or changed practices to enhance quality of life. These impacts could be economical, environmental, educational, health, community-based, etc. SFE projects should be developed to reach the most people possible from the target audience. Impact numbers are not as significant if the target audience does not learn or utilize information. Make sure you ask participants how this information helped them and record this as an impact. Depending on the nature of the project the evaluations may be very informal (i.e. casually asking questions) or formal (i.e. pre-test/post-test).

For example: Evaluation questions that ask, “How do you plan to use this information?” or “Can you share specific information that you learned today?” can help show impact—especially if you can show that 70% of the participants plan to change a gardening practice such as using fewer pesticides.


1. If you are selected as a Search for Excellence Award first place winner, you will be expected to provide a short (3-4 minute, maximum) VIDEO about your project for the 2023 International MG Conference, which will be held in Overland Park, Kansas June 18-22, 2023. The presentation must be coordinated in advance with the SFE committee and the prerecorded video (preferably an mp4) must be received no later than two weeks ahead of the conference. Second and third place winners will be acknowledged at the conference, but will not be asked to prepare a video.

2. POSTER: Each 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner will be expected to prepare a poster to be displayed at the 2023 International Master Gardener Conference.

3. There is no reimbursement for your registration fees or travel expenses to the International MG Conference. We will inform you of the outcome of your Search for Excellence application by February 21, 2023. Members of the winning projects will receive the early bird registration rate for the conference.

4. A plaque will be awarded for winning first place in each Search for Excellence category. Second and third place winners in each category will receive a certificate.

Criteria for Selection

1. All applications are judged independently by at least three Extension Faculty/Staff and three Master Gardeners. They will use the following criteria:

a. Simplicity of project (easy to replicate): 10 points

b. Practicality, usefulness or relevance of project: 10 points

c. Originality or creativity: 10 points

d. Consistent with Extension Master Gardener missions: 20 points

e. Clarity and completeness of project application: 20 points

f. Validation that significant learning occurred: 20 points

g. Number of people impacted: 10 points

TOTAL: 100 points

2. All of the judge’s scores will be totaled and divided by the number of judges.

3. Projects that do not achieve a score of 80% or better are not eligible for an SFE Award.

4. A judge will be excused from judging an application from the state in which they work or volunteer as an EMG.

5. An aggregate score sheet along with all of the judge’s comments will be returned to the applicants as soon as possible. We hope that the comments will help to strengthen your volunteer work. All decisions and scoring by the judges will be considered final.

6. In the case of a tie, duplicate prizes will be awarded.

7. We applaud all the volunteer work done by the Master Gardeners. We hope that this work is being recognized on the local, state, and regional levels. The International David Gibby Search for Excellence Award is the highest recognition level within the Master Gardener programs across the United States, Canada, and South Korea.

If you would like to review the application questions, format, and compose your answers before submitting please review the document below.