The Purpose Prize FAQs


Nominations are currently closed and applications are not being accepted at this time. Please sign up for the mailing list to receive future updates about The Purpose Prize. The following questions and answers pertain to The Purpose Prize 2015. 

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection

Q: Who is eligible to be nominated for The Purpose Prize®?

A: An eligible candidate: Is at least 60 years old by the application deadline. Started the work for which he or she is nominated at the age of 50 or later. Is currently doing work that addresses a major social problem. Is a legal U.S. resident or a U.S. citizen living abroad (residents of U.S. territories are also eligible). Is not an elected official. Is not involved in a project that is exclusively religious or sectarian. People working in faith-based settings that have a broader social mission are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Q: What are the characteristics of a potential Purpose Prize winner?

A: Applications are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Innovation. A new approach to an old problem, or a creative way of scaling up, or expanding, a promising approach.
  • Entrepreneurial and creative spirit. Evidence, over the last five years, of continuing personal and professional renewal, the willingness to take risk to make a positive social impact and the persistence to see through this important work.
  • Impact. Clear documentation of impact, whether through an external evaluation or ongoing internal efforts to track indicators of success.
  • Future focus. A trajectory for the applicant’s career and for his or her work that shows promise for the future  particularly focused on the next five years.

We also look for evidence that candidates are highly ethical individuals who will make an excellent representative of The Purpose Prize and who can be role models for others seeking encore careers.

Q: Can the candidate’s work be either paid or volunteer?

A: Absolutely, the candidate can be operating in a paid or unpaid capacity  working as a volunteer, receiving a stipend or paid a salary. Some Purpose Prize applicants earn an income for their current work. Others support their innovations through retirement savings or other means. Both are equally eligible, and you can see examples of both among previous years’ winners. 

Q: Does the candidate have to have started a new organization?

A: No. We strongly encourage nominations for people who are using innovative approaches and systems to substantially transform existing programs or organizations in the nonprofit, public or private sectors. However, simply applying strong management skills to improve the performance of an organization is not sufficient to be selected.

Q: Does the candidate have to be working for a nonprofit?

A: No. Candidates can be working for different kinds of organizations  nonprofits, government agencies, social purpose ventures, hybrid organizations that mix elements of nonprofit and for-profit, and profit-making ventures  so long as the work is leading to positive social change and has had a significant impact at the local, regional, national or global level.

Q: Can more than one person be nominated for a single award
if all are responsible for the accomplishments?

A: Yes, but each individual in the partnership must meet all the criteria and must share substantively in the transformation or creation of the program or organization. The application form includes the ability to add “team members” who meet all these qualifications.

Q: Can the candidate be working on issues outside the U.S.?

 A: Yes. If so, make sure to select the “international” geographic scope on the application form indicating that the candidate’s work primarily benefits people living outside U.S. borders.

Q: Are there types of innovation that cannot be considered
for The Purpose Prize?

A: In general, creative endeavors that do not include social-impact work will not be considered. We also are unable to evaluate the merit of certain types of innovations. Here are some examples of what we mean:
  • Our review team is unable to evaluate scientific or technological inventions, although we recognize that these can be important social innovations. Therefore, an inventor would need to describe how he or she has spread the use of an independently recognized invention, resulting in a measurable social impact in a particular field or for a particular population.
  • Similarly, an academic researcher or fine artist would need to demonstrate that he or she has also been involved in using research or art to address a significant social problem with demonstrated effects.

Q: Can the candidate have received recognition or honors
in his or her local community or field?

A: Yes, but in general we are looking for individuals who have not been widely recognized outside of their geographic regions or fields for the encore work described in their applications.

Q: How recent does the work need to be?

A: The Purpose Prize is not a lifetime achievement award. The work for which the person is being nominated must have been started in an encore career that began after the person’s 50th birthday, and preferably within the last 10 to 15 years. The applicant must also demonstrate recent bursts of creativity and impact. The intent of the program is to celebrate and provide role models that show that new kinds of socially significant work, built on years of experience, are possible at this stage of life. 

Q: What factors make someone INELIGIBLE for The Purpose Prize®?

A: The following categories of people are not eligible:

Members of the board of directors.
  • Individuals who work at organizations that share a board member with
  • senior fellows and key advisers.
  • consultants and vendors who have received remuneration during a 12-month period preceding the application deadline.
  • volunteers or advisers, if those individuals have been granted significant, independent decision-making authority with respect to financial or other resources of the organization or any of its programs.
  • program grantees who have received grants of cash, equipment or other assistance from during a 12-month period preceding the application deadline.
  • Members of the Purpose Prize review panel or jury
  • Staff, board members or key volunteers of corporate or foundation funders, including Intel, the John Templeton Foundation, MetLife Foundation, S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Symetra, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation and The Eisner Foundation.
  • Family members (including domestic partners) and business associates of any of the individuals in the categories listed above.
Individuals in any of these categories must terminate their relationship with the organizations and programs listed above 12 months prior to the annual application deadline in order to be eligible for a future Purpose Prize.

 Applicants selected for consideration as finalists must disclose any current or prior financial relationship or other support they have received from, its funders and members of The Purpose Prize panel of judges. Other support includes, but is not limited to, technical assistance, promotion and advocacy. A current or prior relationship, financial or other, does not immediately disqualify an applicant, but such factors will be considered in finalizing a diverse pool of winners. Similarly, Purpose Prize reviewers, judges, staff of and members of the board of directors are required to disclose any current or prior relationship to any Purpose Prize candidates. reserves the right to disqualify any applicant at any time and for any reason should the organization determine that the application does not properly represent the organization’s and program’s mission, goals and policies.

Nomination and Selection Process

Q: How do I nominate someone for The Purpose Prize?

A: Nominations are currently closed. Please sign up for the mailing list to receive future updates about The Purpose Prize.


Q: What is required in a complete application?

A: Nominees are asked to complete an online application about their work and their encore story. Selected semifinalists are required to participate in an interview with Purpose Prize staff, consent to a background check and submit additional application information, including a resume, references and a supplemental narrative.

Q: Who makes the final selection of winners?

A: An independent panel of jurors recommends a final slate of winners. Jurors are distinguished national leaders selected for their experience and judgment. The jurors’ slate is subject to the review and final approval of the board of directors.

Prize Information

Q: How often is The Purpose Prize given?

A: Cash prize winners or winning teams, along with a group of fellows, are announced each fall.

Q: What is the monetary award and how can it be used?

A: Monetary awards have ranged, during the history of The Purpose Prize, from $10,000 to $100,000. In 2015, $225,000 is being awarded to six winners of the Purpose Prize, including three special-category prizes of $25,000 each, sponsored by MetLife Foundation and The Eisner Foundation. MetLife Foundation is sponsoring The Purpose Prize for Financial Inclusion, which recognizes financial-services work that serves the less-privileged, especially in the developing world. The Eisner Foundation is supporting The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact, which recognizes work that brings multiple generations together for a better community, and The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Collaboration, which honors the creative collaboration between an encore-stage founder and younger generations. There are no restrictions on how the money may be used by winners. Our hope is that the funds are a down payment on future contributions to the greater social good. For example, some Purpose Prize winners have used the award to cover living expenses to enable them to continue innovating. Others have used it to further the work of their organizations.

Q: Is the monetary award taxable income for
the Purpose Prize winners?

A: Winners of The Purpose Prize may direct a portion or the entirety of their cash awards (if any) to an eligible 501(c)(3) organization without triggering the need for to file a 1099 form on behalf of such winners to the IRS to report potential taxable income, so long as the winners of the cash awards did not self-nominate; the elections to direct awards to designated charities are made before the cash awards have been transmitted to the applicable winners; and the recipient organizations can provide proper documentation to of their charitable status, prior to receipt of funds. reserves the right to modify this policy at its own discretion at any time and within applicable IRS guidelines.

Q: What else do winners receive?

A: Winners receive:
 Public relations and communications assistance.
 Access to a network of social innovators and organizations, institutions and funders committed to this kind of work.

Purpose Prize Fellowships

Q. What does it mean to be recognized as a Purpose Prize fellow?

 The right to use the designation as a Purpose Prize fellow in releases to the press, funders and on one’s website.
 The opportunity to participate in a learning community with other fellows to exchange ideas, resources and support.
 The inclusion of their stories on the website, and in’s outreach to media interested in encore stories.
 Other benefits that may be able to secure through third-party supporters of The Purpose Prize fellows, such as access to training, subscriptions and technology.
 Purpose Prize fellows who are not cash prize winners may reapply in future years for The Purpose Prize.