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NCAfE Award Program FAQs

What is NCAfE?

NCAfE is an awards program that presents the top state-level recognition to an organization that has demonstrated, through its practices and achievements, the highest level of performance excellence by applying the principles of the Baldrige Excellence Framework—the Criteria for Performance Excellence.


Why would I participate?

The Baldrige Excellence Framework is the key to assessing if your organization is doing as well as it could. The management framework enables leaders at businesses, hospitals, factories, schools and government bodies to examine every layer of the organization and devise strategies to reach goals, improve results, and become more competitive by aligning people, plans and processes. Recipients of the NCAfE state-level recognition are outstanding examples of high-performance organizations. They exhibit role model processes, with some being at or near “best-in-class.” The NCAfE award also satisfies a preliminary requirement for an organization that is interested in seeking recognition from the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.


What type of organizations are eligible to participate?

Any business/organizational unit or subsidiary is eligible to apply for the NCAfE award. A subsidiary means an actual subsidiary, business unit, division or district office. Eligible organizations must be recognizable as discrete entities, and must be easily distinguishable from a parent and other sub-units. They must function as business or operating entities, not as activities assembled to write an award application. The business/organizational unit must be located in North Carolina.

Organizations must be self-sufficient enough to be examined in all seven Criteria categories. For example, an organizational unit with its own administrative, human resources and other support functions is eligible; but a unit that is entirely dependent upon the parent organization for the majority of these functions is ineligible.

The following organizational units are expressly allowed:

  • Business units or larger
  • A whole manufacturing plant
  • Hospitals within systems; whole health care systems
  • State government division/department/agency
  • Stand-alone sub-units of larger organizations
  • School districts
  • Individual schools
  • Colleges within universities; whole universities


Is there a cost to participate in NCAfE?

When an organization is ready to apply for the State Excellence Award, there is a fee that is due with the Intent to Apply/Eligibility Form to cover costs associated with initial processing and eligibility determination. There is also an Application Fee that should be included when the application is submitted to NCAfE. Both the Application Fee and the Site Visit Fee are determined based on the applicant’s number of employees, as shown below.


Number of Employees Intent Fee Application Fee Site Visit Fee Total Fee
Less than 100 $250 $1,800 $3,400 $5,450
100-500 $250 $3,600 $4,600 $8,450
501-1,500 $250 $6,000 $7,000 $13,250
More than 1,500 $250 $9,000 $8,200 $17,450


How do I apply?

NCAfE accepts applications once a year. In order to be considered in the 2023 award cycle, your application documents must be postmarked by the dates below.

Step 1: Intent to Apply
April 3 – May 31, 2023 Complete the Intent to Apply/Eligibility Form. Mail one printed copy to NCAfE along with the appropriate Intent fee. North Carolina Awards for Excellence c/o Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence 2525 Perimeter Place Drive, Suite 122 Nashville, TN 37214-3773 (800) 453-5474

Step 2: Application Packet
July 15, 2023 Complete the Application Form and Organizational Profile as described in the NCAfE materials. Mail one printed copy and one electronic copy of the Application Form, Organizational Profile, and Criteria Response to NCAfE along with the appropriate application fee. North Carolina Awards for Excellence c/o Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence 2525 Perimeter Place Drive, Suite 122 Nashville, TN 37214-3773 (800) 453-5474 (

Step 3: Prepare for Site Visit
The team of examiners assigned to your organization will begin their evaluation a few weeks after you submit your application packet. Shortly after, the team leader will contact you to schedule a site visit. During the two-to-three day visit the examiner team will tour your facilities and interview your leadership team and employees to gain a greater understanding of your organization. Site visits typically occur during October. A site visit fee applies to this step of the process. You will receive an invoice for this fee after the examiner team has completed its site visit. Please see the fee schedule for details.

Step 4: Award Notification and Feedback Report
In November, a Panel of Judges will review the examiner team’s work and confirm your award. Following this meeting, NCAfE will call with your results. You will receive your feedback report by the first of January.

Step 5: Recognition
NCAfE will work with your organization to determine an appropriate event where your organization will officially receive its award and be recognized for your pursuit of performance excellence. In addition, after you have been notified of your award, NCAfE will publicize your accomplishments via press release, email blast to our database and posting on our website.


Application Timeframe

The awards process begins in January and continues throughout the calendar year.

Board of Examiners Applications Due April 15, 2023
Award Program Intent to Apply Due May 31, 2023
Online Examiner Orientation May 9,11, or 17 2023
NC Examiner Training June 27-29, 2023
Award Program Applications Due July 15, 2023


Application Evaluation

Applications are reviewed and evaluated in a five-stage process by members of a Board of Examiners. Those examiners, specially trained in the Baldrige Excellence Framework, adhere to strict rules regarding confidentiality and conflict of interest during each stage of the review process.

Stage 1 – Independent review and evaluation by a team of examiners
Stage 2 – Consensus review and evaluation by a team of examiners
Stage 3 – Site visit review by a team of examiners
Stage 4 – Final Feedback Report preparation by a team of examiners
Stage 5 – Panel of judges reviews and determines award

How long does it take to move through the Program?

April through December.


Are there any deadlines specific to the NCAfE Program?

See the awards cycle time-frame above.


Who are the examiners?

Examiners are volunteers from all industry sectors who have completed extensive training in the Baldrige Excellence Framework. An examiner team of quality-driven professionals is created for each application. This team comprises both new and experienced examiners.


Who are the judges?

An independent panel of judges is selected on a clear, standardized basis. There is representation from the following industry sectors: service, manufacturing, education, government and health care. The judges are familiar with the quality improvement operations of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, small businesses and large organizations. Judges will be familiar with the Criteria of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the processes of the state-level performance excellence award.


What’s included in the Feedback Report?

At the conclusion of the evaluation, every applicant receives a written assessment by the examiner team called a Feedback Report. Providing a pathway for improvement, the Feedback Report is one of the most valuable features of the NCAfE Award process. Each Feedback Report contains applicant-specific strengths and opportunities for improvement based on Baldrige Excellence Framework. This input is extremely helpful for strategic planning and overall performance improvement. Confidential Feedback Reports are mailed to applicants after the awards process is completed.


Why do I send my application to the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE)?

NCAfE has contracted with TNCPE to manage the evaluation/award process of the awards program.


Is there a limit to how many State Excellence Awards are presented annually?



Do State Excellence Award winners have any additional responsibilities?

Part of our mission is to inspire and influence organizations across the state, and one way we do this is by showcasing the world-class processes of our award winners. Leaders from Excellence Award winners may be asked to speak or participate in NCAfE programs throughout the year. We also ask applicant organizations to send us new and experienced examiners. This helps us to maintain a robust and active volunteer workforce of examiners. This helps you integrate the Baldrige Excellence Framework more quickly within the organization, accelerating your quest for excellence.


Who do I speak with if I have additional questions about the Program or the awards process?

Contact Kevin Grayson at, or (704) 751-9661



For more frequently asked questions about the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award, click here.