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The AARP Purpose Prize award is a national award in the United States that celebrates people 50 and older who are using their life experience to make a difference. Through the Purpose Prize award, AARP celebrates the creativity, innovation, and inspiration that life experience brings. Up to seven Winners who have founded a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organization will win $50,000 for their organization to honor the Winner’s achievements. They will also have access to a number of technical assistance supports and resources to help broaden their organizations’ impact.

Applications go through a formal, structured review process, including review by a prestigious jury of national leaders who have used their life experience for good.

All selected Winners will be subject to the final approval of an AARP Executive.

Below are answers to additional questions about the AARP Purpose Prize award.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

We are looking for people who have founded 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations doing extraordinary things by tapping their life experience to make a better future for people of any age. Your organization doesn’t have to have a big budget or a large team to be a strong candidate.

Because we believe that life experience can change the world, you must be at least 50 years old as of February 29, 2024, and have founded your organization at the age of 40 or later to apply. See official rules for more details.

We are not looking for people who have simply applied strong management skills to improve an organization’s performance, i.e. doing the job they were hired to do and doing it very well. This should also not be viewed as a lifetime achievement award. We are looking for people who saw a problem, created a solution and are still actively engaged in their work.

Here are the review criteria we use to assess the applicants’ organizations:

Impact (30 points): Clearly documenting your Founded Non-Profit’s impact on the population it serves.

Implementation (25 points): Detailing how your Founded Non-Profit is structured, staffed, funded, and positioned to grow.

Innovation (15 points): Demonstrating a unique approach, tactic or strategy to address a social issue.

Personal Story (20 points): Showing a connection between your work and your own lived experience.

Effect of the Purpose Prize Award (10 points): Demonstrating your Founded Non-Profit’s ability to meaningfully utilize the cash prize and organizational supports provided to Winners.

In the event of a tie, tied applications will be re-judged based on the same criteria listed above and the Round Winner will be determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Applicants agree to the Official Rules and to the decisions of the AARP Reviewers and Jurors and an AARP Executive, which shall be final and binding in all respects. Award of a prize to any Round Winner will be subject to verification of that Round Winner’s eligibility and compliance with these Official Rules.

Yes, but both cofounders must meet all the criteria and they must demonstrate how they have each contributed significantly to the work. No more than two (2) individuals may apply and a primary and secondary applicant must be designated within the one (1) application submission.

Yes, we do accept applications from people whose work primarily benefits people living outside U.S. borders, but you must be a legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia and the 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organization you founded must have its principal place of business in the United States or the District of Columbia.

We do not limit the types of social impact issues that will be considered. Below are examples of relevant topics/issues:

  • Intergenerational work (opportunities for different generations to come together to share their experience, knowledge, and skills)
  • Rethinking the workplace (jobs, work environments, alternative approaches)
  • Caregiving and caregiver resources (support for vulnerable populations and the people who care for them)
  • Public health (protecting and improving the health of people and their communities by addressing healthy lifestyles, nutrition, disease prevention, mental health, addiction, maternal health, etc.)
  • Financial health (financial stability, resilience, economic opportunity, etc.)
  • Hunger (food insecurity, waste, distribution, etc.)
  • Affordable housing (safe, well-managed, and affordable housing and services)
  • Social connections (reducing isolation among vulnerable community members)
  • Civic engagement and community development (helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities)
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (improving the representation, fair treatment and experiences of underserved populations)
  • Environmental issues (combatting the challenges facing the planet)
  • Education (school- or community-based programs that help children attain educational goals)
  • Youth development (programs that are not school-based that serve the needs of vulnerable children and teens)
  • Arts and culture (using art and culture as tools to engage communities in positive change)
  • Peace and security rights (establishing or preserving justice and equality by peaceful means)
  • Homelessness (addressing the needs of the homeless population)
  • Veterans (providing services for veterans, advocating for veterans' rights, empowering veterans)
  • Animal protection (ensuring animal welfare, promoting animal companionship with vulnerable populations)

Organizations that are exclusively religious will not be considered. However, applicants working in faith-based settings that have a broader social mission are eligible and encouraged to apply. See official rules for additional details.

AARP Membership is not required to apply. Being an AARP member will not increase your chance or odds of winning.

Because we believe that life experience can change the world, you must be at least 50 to apply and have founded your organization at the age of 40 or later to qualify. Important note: The AARP Purpose Prize award is not a lifetime achievement award. It celebrates people who are currently using their life experience and creativity to make a difference on important social issues.    

An applicant must still have an active role in the organization for which they are applying (e.g., paid or volunteer staff member, board member, trustee, etc.).

The following categories of people are not eligible:

Officers, directors, and employees of Sponsor, its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising/promotion agencies, and/or their affiliates, assigns, agents, vendors or representatives (hereinafter referred to collectively as “Sponsor & Others”), and all other persons or entities associated with the development, administration, judging, promotion, execution of this Purpose Prize Contest are not eligible to apply. AARP-appointed volunteers and staff and their immediate family members are not allowed to apply. Former AARP-appointed volunteers and staff and their immediate family members may apply only after a seven (7) year grace period. Additionally, past Purpose Prize and AARP Purpose Prize winners, past fellows from the previous two (2) years of AARP Purpose Prize classes, current AARP or AARP Foundation grantees, elected officials, individuals whose Founded Non-Profit is exclusively religious or sectarian, individuals that work for organizations that share a board member with AARP and members of the same household and immediate families (e.g. parents, children, spouse, siblings) are not eligible.

An independent panel of jurors selects the final Winners subject to the final approval of an AARP Executive. Jurors are distinguished national leaders selected for their experience and thought leadership.

Applicants must have founded a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organization with its principal place of business located in the United States that is in good standing in its state of formation and exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) the Internal Revenue Code at the time of Applicant’s submission and throughout the Purpose Prize Contest selection process.

Awards and Commitment

Each AARP Purpose Prize Winner’s founded  501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations will receive $50,000. Our hope is that the funds will be used for future work towards the greater social good.

Winners and their organizations also receive a year of supports and resources to help broaden their impact. Current supports may include one-on-one leadership coaching for founders, data and evaluation consulting, succession planning, prospectus development, social media and branding support, and more.

Note: All taxes associated with the acceptance and/or uses of cash awarded are the sole responsibility of individual Winners and their Founded Non-Profits. Cash awarded will be reported by AARP to the IRS as AARP deems necessary according to applicable law. It is further the policy of AARP that all AARP Purpose Prize Winners and Founded Non-profits be advised to consult with their own tax professionals and/or legal counsel to ascertain the tax impact of the Founded Non-Profits receiving the cash awards.

The individual Winners receive:

  • Membership in the AARP Purpose Prize “class” of honorees -- a peer community of learning
  • Yearlong individualized support to help further organizational goals
  • Inclusion in the full AARP Purpose Prize community network
  • Participation in the annual AARP Purpose Prize celebration event held online or in Washington, DC
  • Participation in a midyear convening held online or at AARP’s National Office in Washington, DC
  • Participation in interviews, photos, and videos to promote the award and its winners

More Information

References should be:

  • Written specifically for the AARP Purpose Prize application
  • Focus on the applicant’s expertise, commitment and engagement with their organization’s work
  • Be relevant to the applicant’s work as it relates to the AARP Purpose Prize award

Reference letters from staff, family members, and volunteers, etc., are not acceptable. No more than one reference letter from a Board Member of the Applicant’s organization is allowed.

In the case of co-founders, each co-founder is required to submit three letters. A letter of reference that identifies both co-founders may be submitted by both co-founders.