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En españolYou live. You learn. You give back. No one knows this better than people ages 50 and older, who have spent decades accumulating a wealth of knowledge that only life experience can bring. Armed with this wisdom, they are a powerhouse of innovation tackling some of the greatest societal challenges of our time and inspiring others to do the same. Through their diverse organizations, programs, and initiatives, they give back to their communities with a generosity of spirit that is at once impossible to match and irresistibly contagious. They are living their lives to the fullest so we can live ours.

Through this important annual award, AARP celebrates a new story of aging—one full of meaningful impact and limitless possibilities.

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment.

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.

One of the 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations that each of the five winners have founded will receive $50,000 in celebration of the winner’s  achievements and to broaden the scope of the work of their organizations. 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. Based on the jury’s recommendations, the AARP CEO selects the final Winners.

In addition, AARP recognizes other outstanding applicants by designating up to 10 fellows.  One of the 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations, founded by the fellows will receive $5,000 each and the fellows will have access to a number of supports and resources.

If you are 50 or older and are using your life experience to make your community or world a better place, we encourage you to learn more about the AARP Purpose Prize award. Below are answers to important questions about how to apply and what makes a strong applicant. 

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 and have started your work at the age of 40 or later to qualify. 

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 and created a solution. 

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

  • Impact (30%): Clearly documented impact of the population you serve, this could be through external evaluation and/or internal efforts to track success.

  • Execution (30%): How your organization is structured, staffed, and funded. What strategies are in place to successfully implement and sustain the work that you do?

  • Personal Story (25%): Is there a connection in your own life that drew you to this work and compelled you to make a difference.

  • Innovation (15%): New approach to an old or emerging problem, or a creative way of building on an existing idea so that it reaches more people.

Some applicants get paid a salary for their current work, some donate their time, while others receive a nominal stipend.  

Yes. Presently people who have founded 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations and continue to work for the nonprofits they founded are eligible, as long as the work leads to positive change and has had a significant impact at the local, regional, national or global level.

Yes, but each person in the partnership must meet all the criteria and they must demonstrate how they’ve each contributed significantly to the work.

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

We strongly consider applicants working in the following issue areas:

  • 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)
  • Healthy living (food and nutrition, brain health, physical fitness, mental 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 (isolation among vulnerable community members)
  • Civic engagement and community development (helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities)
  • Environmental issues (combatting the challenges facing the planet)
  • Children and youth (helping kids and young people reach their full potential, in school settings and elsewhere)
  • 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 homeless populations)
  • Veterans (providing services for veterans, advocating for veterans’ rights, empowering veterans)
  • Animal protection (ensuring animal welfare, promoting animal companionship with vulnerable populations)

Yes, but in general we are looking for people who haven’t been widely recognized outside of their local communities or their field of work within the nonprofit sector.

  • We cannot evaluate the merit of certain types of scientific or technological innovations, academic research, or fine art. If you are an academic researcher, fine artist, or inventor you need to demonstrate the social impact of your research, art, or invention. Otherwise, your application will not be considered.

  • You should also not be involved in work that is exclusively religious or sectarian.  However, people working in faith-based settings that have a broader social mission are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Anyone who meets the criteria listed above is eligible, regardless of their AARP membership status. 

Because we believe that life experience can change the world, you must be at least 50 to apply and have started your work 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.    

As noted above, applicants need to be at least 50 at the time of the application deadline and have started the work at age 40 or older.  The work needs to be taking place at the time of the application.

The following categories of people are not eligible:

  • AARP staff
  • AARP Board Members
  • AARP consultants and vendors who have received remuneration during the 12-month period preceding the application deadline
  • Individuals who work at organizations that share a board member with AARP
  • Members of the AARP Purpose Prize award jury
  • AARP-appointed volunteers
  • Family members (including domestic partners) and business associates of any individuals in the categories listed above
  • Current AARP or AARP Foundation grantees
  • Elected officials
  • Previous AARP Purpose Prize Award Winners
  • Individuals that were selected as an AARP Purpose Prize Fellow within the last two years.

NOTE: Applicants selected for consideration as finalists must disclose any current or prior financial relationship or other support they have received from AARP, AARP Foundation, AARP Services, Inc., or members of the AARP Purpose Prize award jury.  Other support includes but is not limited to: technical assistance, promotion and advocacy.  A current or prior relationship, financial or otherwise, does not immediately disqualify an applicant, but such factors will be considered in finalizing a diverse pool of Winners.  Similarly, AARP Purpose Prize reviewers and jurors as well as staff and Board Members of all AARP affiliated entities are required to disclose any current or prior relationship to any AARP Purpose Prize candidates.  AARP-appointed volunteers and staff are not allowed to apply. AARP reserves the right to disqualify any applicant at any time and for any reason should AARP determine that the application does not properly represent the organization/program’s mission, goals, and policies.

An independent panel of jurors recommends a final slate of Winners.  Jurors are distinguished national leaders selected for their experience and thought leadership.  Based on the jury’s recommendations, the AARP CEO determines the final Winners.

Due to the volume of high-caliber applicants, AARP recognizes up to 10 Fellows to complete each year’s class. The founded 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations of the Fellows will receive $5,000 each and will also have access to a number of supports and resources. 

Awards and Commitments

Each AARP Purpose Prize Winner’s founded  501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations will receive $50,000.  Each AARP Purpose Prize Fellow’s founded 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization will receive $5,000. Our hope is that the funds will be used for future work towards the greater social good.

Note: All taxes associated with the acceptance and/or uses of cash awarded are the sole responsibility of individual Winners’ designated organizations. Cash awarded will be reported by AARP to the IRS. It is further the policy of AARP: That all AARP Purpose Prize Winners’ and Fellows’ designated organizations that will receive the cash awards are advised to consult with their own tax professionals and/or legal counsel to ascertain the tax impact of receiving such cash awards.    

The individual Winners and Fellows receive:

  • The opportunity for their stories and work to be promoted across a variety of media channels
  • Membership in the 2021 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 alumni network

NOTE: Fellows are eligible to reapply to the AARP Purpose Prize award after a two-year period

  • Willingness to share your personal story with others is critical. We’re looking for individuals who will make compelling ambassadors of the AARP Purpose Prize award and who can be inspiring role models for others who are using their life experience to make a difference.
  • Participation at the 2021 AARP Purpose Prize celebration event.
  • Participation in a midyear convening at AARP’s National Office in Washington, DC