The Vanguard Group of Malvern, Pa., won seven of 12 possible awards given this year by the Mutual Fund Education Alliance of Kansas City, Mo., for excellence in shareholder communications.

Vanguard won an award for overall communications effort because of its marketing materials' effectiveness in educating shareholders, said Michelle Smith, managing director of the organization.

Vanguard won the overall communications award for large companies with over $20 billion in assets under management. The Montgomery Funds of San Francisco won the overall communications award for medium-sized companies with assets of $3 billion to $20 billion and Ariel Funds of Chicago took the award for the second year in a row for small companies with $3 billion or less under management.

The awards are given out to no-load firms and are designed to acknowledge companies with excellent shareholder communication programs, Smith said.

"No-load mutual fund companies who often do business directly with the shareholder - usually without face to face contact - have an awesome responsibility to communicate effectively," she said in a statement. "This industry deserves to pat itself on the back when that job is done at a superior level."

The organization gives awards for 12 different categories, four of which are new this year, Smith said. The organization added awards for websites that help investors with retirement and financial planning issues, online shareholder services and online innovation, Smith said.

Fund companies enter their shareholder communication materials for each of the twelve categories that are judged by a panel of between five to seven judges, she said. Members of the association serve as judges and evaluate the work of their colleagues, which is what makes the awards an honor, said Howard Schneider, the chairman of the alliance's board of directors and managing director at Scudder Kemper Investments of Boston.

To be fairly evaluated by your colleagues, who are your competitors, provides a great sense of achievement," he said in a statement.

In addition to the overall communications award, Vanguard won STAR awards for its investor fulfillment and prospectus kits, shareholder newsletter, annual report to shareholders, educational brochure and in the special communication and company website categories.

Strong Investments of Menomonee Falls, Wis., was Vanguard's next closest competition, winning four awards in the online retirement center, online planning center, online shareholder services and company website categories.

Ariel Funds won six awards, a majority of the awards for a smaller company. The firm deserves special recognition because of its size, Smith said.

"What's outstanding is they are small and they do an incredible job with their

shareholder communications," she said. "Sometimes, expectations for smaller companies aren't as high."

The Montgomery Funds captured the most awards for medium-sized companies, capturing five awards in the categories

of overall communications effort, ira brochure/kit, online planning center, online innovation and company website.

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