The following questions and answers pertain to the 2015 Purpose Prize.

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection

Nomination and Selection Process

Prize Information

Application FAQs

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 will be 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 risks 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.
  • Encore story. A compelling encore story – one that combines an interesting personal turning point or career shift with demonstrated impact in a chosen field or on a particular issue.
  • 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 a candidate is a highly ethical individual who will make an excellent representative of The Purpose Prize and who can be a role model for others seeking encore careers.

Q: Can the candidate be either paid or a 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 innovation 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 for The Prize.

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 already had a major impact at the local, regional, or national level.

Q: Can the candidate be an organization?
A: No, The Purpose Prize recognizes an individual or a team composed of two or more eligible members who share substantively in the transformation or creation of the program or organization.

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, you must select the "international" geographic scope on the application form indicating that the candidate’s work primarily benefits people living outside the 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: Can more than one nomination be submitted for a single individual?
A. Yes. A person can be nominated by multiple people, though this will not increase their chances of winning the prize. If you know that someone else is nominating the same person that you wish to nominate, the best approach is simply to work on a nomination form together with the other nominator(s) and submit one consolidated nomination.

Q: What if the person to be nominated is involved in more than one organization or cause?
A: Although the form only allows one primary organization to be entered for each nominee, you can use the space provided in the essay questions to elaborate on the nominee's affiliations and accomplishments.

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: I nominated someone or applied myself for The Purpose Prize® last year and was not selected for recognition. Can you tell me how to improve my chances
A: Encore.org does not generally have the staff capacity to offer individual counseling on nominations or applications. Please review the information on our website and in the application materials for further guidance.

Q: Can Purpose Prize honorees from prior years apply again?
A: Past winners of The Purpose Prize® are no longer eligible for a future prize. Purpose Prize fellows who have not received a cash award (see Purpose Prize Fellowships FAQ below) may reapply and several have been selected as winners.

Q: What factors would make someone INELIGIBLE for The Purpose Prize®?
A: The following categories of people are not eligible:

  • Employees of Encore.org (Civic Ventures), its programs and affiliates.
  • Members of the Encore.org board of directors.
  • Individuals who work at organizations that share a board member with Encore.org.
  • Encore.org senior fellows and key advisers.
  • Encore.org consultants and vendors who have received remuneration during a 12-month period preceding the application deadline.
  • Encore.org 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.
  • Encore.org program grantees who have received grants of cash, equipment or other assistance from Encore.org 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 Encore.org 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.

Note: Applicants selected for consideration as finalists must disclose any current or prior financial relationship or other support they have received from Encore.org, its funders and members of The Purpose Prize jury. 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, jurors, staff of Encore.org and members of the Encore.org board of directors are required to disclose any current or prior relationship to any Purpose Prize candidates.

Encore.org 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: Must the nomination be in English?
A: Yes.

Q: What do I need to do to nominate someone?
A: Nominators will be asked to provide their own contact information, including telephone and email. They will also need to explain the context in which they know the people they are nominating. If not self-nominating, the nominator will need to provide the name and email address of the person being nominated, along with a short explanation of why the person being nominated would make a good Purpose Prize candidate.

Q: Do all questions have to be answered?
A: Yes. Incomplete nominations will not be reviewed.

Q: Who can submit nominations?
A: Nominations are welcome from any individual with knowledge of a potential candidate. You can nominate someone from your own organization or you can nominate yourself.

Note: 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 Encore.org 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 Encore.org of their charitable status, prior to receipt of funds.

Encore.org reserves the right to modify this policy at its own discretion at any time and within applicable IRS guidelines.

Q: Are there eligibility requirements for nominators?
A: All nominators must be well-acquainted with their candidate's qualifications, and they should be available for possible follow-up questions throughout the selection process.

Q: Can I nominate more than one person?
A: We encourage you to nominate as many individuals as you feel would be strong candidates for The Purpose Prize®. The fact that one person nominates more than one candidate will have no bearing on our evaluation of the candidates.

Q: Do nominators have to inform candidates that they are being nominated?
A: No, this is not required - but it is recommended, because as soon as a nomination is submitted, the nominee will be notified via email and will be invited to apply. Please contact a nominee directly to inform him or her about the nomination and to look for the email invitation to complete the application for The Purpose Prize®. Encore.org does not share the nominator's name or contact information with the nominee or with the general public.

Q: What happens after I nominate someone?
A: The individual being nominated is automatically informed by email that he or she has been nominated and is invited to submit a complete application by the application due date.

Q: What is required in a complete application?
A: The nominee who is applying for The Purpose Prize® will be asked to complete an online application form and application narrative (links are provided in the nomination email). Please note that these forms are different. For the online application form, the nominee is required to provide additional personal information including complete contact information, date of birth, level of educational attainment, information about the issue the work addresses, the population served, the geographic areas affected and a brief project description. The application narrative is a two-step process. Part 1 of the narrative, which must be uploaded to the online application form, requires the nominee to provide additional information about the work and their encore story. Additional information (including completion of Part 2) will be required if the nominee is selected as a semifinalist and invited to continue in the application process. The application narrative template is available for downloading by clicking on the link provided in the instructions at the top of the online application form, and includes all the questions the narrative needs to address..

Q: What happens after an application is submitted?
A: See the information on the selection process for the complete set of steps that follow the submission of the application.

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 Encore.org board of directors.

Q: What is the timetable for nominations and selection of winners?
A: As a courtesy for planning purposes, we request that nominations are submitted by January 15, 2015, 11:59 pm, Eastern Standard Time. However, complete applications will continue to be accepted until the formal application deadline on January 30, 2015, 11:59 pm, Eastern Standard Time. Late applications will not be reviewed. Semifinalists will be contacted in March, with requests for additional material and a time for an individual telephone or video conference interview. Winners will be notified in the summer and will receive their prizes at an awards event to be held in fall 2015.

Q: What additional material and/or steps will be required if a nominee is selected as a semifinalist?
A: If a nominee is selected as a semifinalist, he or she will be required to:

  • Submit a resume
  • Submit written clarifications, as requested, expanding on the information submitted in the original application form and narrative, with a particular focus on the impact and future potential of the nominee’s work.
  • Provide references to support the application
  • Participate in a phone or video conference interview with Purpose Prize staff
  • Consent to a background check
  • Keep his or her status in the selection process confidential

Note: Encore.org may conduct criminal and background checks in addition to contacting references and leaders in the communities of applicants selected for consideration as Prize finalists. Misrepresentation of qualifications by any candidate will disqualify him or her for further consideration.

Q: How will I know if my nomination or application has been received?
A: Please note that a nomination is different from an application. For nominations, you will receive an email acknowledgment upon your submission and your nominee will receive a nomination email. You can no longer edit your nomination once submitted. For applications, we have received your application if the top page of the nominee's online application form says "Your information has been completed and saved successfully. Your application is now ready to be reviewed by The Purpose Prize® team, no further work or action is required on your part." You will also receive a submission confirmation e-mail. However, please be advised that you will only receive a confirmation e-mail once, you will no longer receive any e-mailed acknowledgments to any changes you make to your completed application before the deadline. If you do not receive this e-mail, please check your spam folder. An application remains open for editing until the application deadline.

Q: Can I check on the status of my application?
A: Yes. However, because of the small size of our staff, a response to individual inquiries may be slow during peak times in the review process. If you have questions about how to complete and submit your application narrative, please refer to the instructions provided in the nomination email. Thank you for your understanding. If you have other concerns, please contact us at info@purposeprize.org.

Q: Can I set up an appointment to discuss my application?
A: We regret that our staff cannot meet or speak individually with all nominees or nominators. However, semifinalists will be contacted for a telephone interview in spring.

Q: Whom should I contact if I have questions?
A: Please submit your questions to info@purposeprize.org. Be advised that our staff generally cannot handle individual phone calls during peak times in the review process. If you do not receive an individual reply to your question, please check the FAQ section of the guidelines on the website. We will update them to reflect the questions we receive.

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 2014, $300,000 was awarded to six winners of the Purpose Prize. In 2015 we expect to give at least two $100,000 cash prizes directly to individual winners. 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 Encore.org 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 Encore.org of their charitable status, prior to receipt of funds.

Encore.org 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?
A: In addition to people selected for cash prizes as Purpose Prize winners, Encore.org may recognize a group of individuals as Purpose Prize fellows. Although fellows do not receive cash prizes, they are offered other benefits of association with The Purpose Prize. These include:

  • 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 Encore.org website, and in Encore.org’s outreach to media interested in encore stories.
  • Other benefits that Encore.org 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®.

Application FAQs

Q: What kind of software/hardware do I need to access the online application?
A: Please make sure you have one of the following browsers, with cookies and JavaScript enabled:

  • Internet Explorer 8.0, or higher
  • Mozilla Firefox 8.0, or higher
  • Safari
  • Chrome

Q: If I start an application and save it to finish later, does Encore.org have access to my work-in-progress application?
A: Encore.org can access incomplete applications in order to help users who may be having trouble locating their application. Encore.org only reviews applications once the narrative application has been completed and uploaded.

Q: I would like a paper copy of my completed application. How can I print my completed application?
A: There is a button on the application page that will allow you to print out or save a PDF of the parts of the application submitted on the web. You should retain copy of the application narrative that you uploaded as part of the application process for your own reference.