To begin, determine who will be participating in the contest. While essay contests are generally organised for students and young adults, there are other sectors of public whom you can open the contest to – e.g. an essay writing contest for females on Women’s Day.
Once you have decided who will be participating in the contest, come up with the topics they will be writing on. If the contest is geared at promoting a particular cause or issue, choose topics that are related to this. If it is not, you can choose from a broader range of topics. Make sure you come up with at least 4 to 5 topics which participants can choose from, and ensure that these are lucid and thought-provoking. You can either put forth a statement which writers can agree or disagree with, or a statement which they can express their thoughts on – the latter can also be a quote.
Next, set a prize for the winners. Ideally, there should be three prizes – the first, second, and third – but you can also set up consolation prizes for essays that almost made it to the top three. The best way to go about this is to search for sponsors who will be willing to donate the prizes – these can be anything from gift vouchers, trophies, and certificates, to full-fledged college scholarships.
After you have determined all this, select a panel of judges who will be reading through the essays and deciding which ones deserve to be selected as the three winners. Keep in mind that the judges need to be individuals who are highly esteemed – these can be seniors in your organisation, valued community members, or senior teachers in the school or college. Any high profile names in the judging panel will help promote the contest.
Then, proceed to lay down the rules for the contest – these need to cover everything from how long the contestants have to write the essay, to how long the essay needs to be (word limit, etc). You will also need to set up eligibility requirements – i.e. what the criteria is for entering the contest, and the rules on how to enter it.
Finally, you will need to promote the contest and generate publicity in order to attract interested participants. Put up flyers in schools and libraries, advertise in newspapers, arrange for announcements in local schools. You can also enlist the help of websites like Facebook and Twitter, to attract more contestants.