Fundraising for APS Honors

Revised January 2024

Thank you for expressing interest in establishing a new Award or Prize. The American Physical Society (APS) is largely dependent upon and grateful for donations received from individuals (members and non-members), foundations, laboratories, corporations, and other institutions that fund APS-level honors and unit-level awards. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of physicists in different stages of their careers. It’s a great privilege to have many of these named after physicists who have made a difference in their field.

Establishment of a new APS Honor

  1. Before a fundraising campaign is launched, APS Honors staff can assist with evaluating whether a unit’s proposal meets the current criteria for establishing a new honor. Each APS unit can have one (1) prize, one (1) award and one (1) early career award. Units that exceeded the limit were grandfathered in as exceptions, and the Committee can entertain requests for exceptions to the rule with proper justification.

  2. Get buy-in and approval from the Unit Executive Committee

  3. Decide if you are starting a new Prize or Award
    A Prize or Award ensures the ongoing financial health of an honor, in perpetuity, by generating interest to pay for honor expenses. Currently, APS has established this formula to ensure that an endowed fund has sufficient corpus to support the honor in perpetuity:

    30 x Stipend = Endowment Fund

    Example: A stipend of $10,000 would require an endowment of $300,000. Presuming an average annual earning rate of at least 5%, the endowment would yield sufficient funds to support the award, travel, certificate and any other direct costs associated with the honor expenses.

    Types of APS-level Honors Minimum Annual Stipend Per Recipient Minimum Endowment Requirement
    Prize $10,000 $300,000
    Award $5,000 $150,000
    Early-career $3,000 $90,000
    Dissertation $1,500 $45,000


    • These minimums are required to establish endowments.
    • *Early Career Awards are currently under review for an anticipated increase to raise the minimum annual stipend from $3,000 to $5,000.

    Based on these guidelines, and in line with current APS practices, unit-level awards with stipends of less than $1,500 per recipient will be funded from unit operating revenue generated by APS meetings, dues allocations and/or accumulated unit earnings. Unit level awards are not endowed but may be supplemented by annual philanthropic support. The APS Development staff will provide fundraising counsel to all units. However, given the increasing cost of administration, record-keeping and compliance, the APS Development Department will provide minimal support for unit level awards and reserve the bulk of their time and connections (with foundations and corporations) for Society-level awards.

  4. Write proposal (official form)
  5. Submit proposal to the Prize and Award Committee
  6. Submit to Council

For more information about the establishment of an honor and the approval process, please email

Fundraising for an Honor

Once approved by the Council; the APS Development Team can guide volunteers through the steps below.

  1. Non-Endowed Honors - The sum of the stipend, certificate, and/or travel expenses is paid in full annually or biennially by donors (in some instances, the sponsoring unit may contribute a portion of the expenses); external donors are generally billI aed by the Development Office and unit funds are transferred internally by APS Finance.

    Note: There is no “corpus” that creates annual income to fund these.

  2. Endowed Honors - Restricted donations are secured to establish an endowment that will fund an honor (including the stipend, certificate, travel expenses, as well as other direct honors costs) in perpetuity with investment income (see Endowments); the process entails Development staff coordinating with volunteers to:

    1. Set a total fundraising goal equal to at least 30 x stipend to support the total honor in perpetuity
    2. Develop a fundraising strategy (prospects, amounts, approaches, timeline)
    3. Research prospects and determine their capacity and inclination to give
    4. Collaborate with APS Communications to establish a web presence and create/distribute email solicitations to unit members and other relevant prospects
    5. Collaborate with Communications staff to design printed materials, if needed (campaign letterhead, brochures, etc.)
    6. Provide a draft announcement when a unit achieves its goal
    7. Maintain prospect and donor records (pledges, outright gifts, revenue, contact information)
    8. Process gifts together with APS Finance
    9. Recognize donors (creating and sending acknowledgements, thank you notes, tax receipts; listing donors on the campaign webpage)

The annual or biennial honor will be funded through endowment earnings on the endowed corpus.

Timeframe for Awarding an Endowed Honor

Considering the timetable required for implementation, a new honor may be awarded within 12-18 months from the time the sum of outright gifts and pledges equals the full amount required for endowment. Before fundraising can begin, APS Council must have approved the new honor’s proposal.

Donors will be advised in the unusual circumstance of a funding initiative falling short. If the fundraising goal is not reached within three years or pledge payments are not received within five years from the campaign launch (the date on which either the first outright gift or pledge is received by the Development Department), the respective unit, in consultation with the donor(s) and the APS Committee on Prizes & Awards, shall have the discretion to direct the use of the funds, either to fund an already existing prize or award and/or a related activity — until the funds are fully utilized.

Donor Recognition

All donors — individuals (members and non-members) and sponsoring foundations, laboratories, and corporations — will be listed on the campaign webpage and in the APS Annual Report. Those contributing ≥$50,000 will be recognized as follows:

  • Name listed on the Honors webpage, to include, for foundations, laboratories, and corporations, a hyperlink to the sponsor’s homepage.
  • Co-presenting at a Meeting: A co-presenter will assist the APS CEO and President in recognizing the recipient(s) of an honor at the Prize and Award Ceremony. The co-presenter is introduced by the APS CEO or President, invited to stand on stage during the presentation of the honor, and is photographed co-presenting the certificate to the recipient(s).
    • A newly endowed APS Society honor will have an inaugural opportunity for a co-sponsor presentation at the appropriate corresponding American Physical Society award ceremony based on the donor agreement, funding level, and other eligibility criteria set by APS.
    • Unit honors will remain un-eligible for co-presenting at an APS Society event. Co-presenting opportunities will remain at the discretion of the Unit Leadership during Unit meetings.
    • Joint honors with sister societies for which the sister society manages recipient selection or shares the responsibility for recipient selection are eligible for co-presenting the honor at an APS meeting.
  • Invitation to the President’s Reception at the March or April meeting. This reception is an invite-only event. In attendance are the Senior Leadership Team, Board of Directors, Selection Committee Members and Honorees.

Retiring or Repurposing an Existing Honor

If either the endowment level for an existing honor falls below the accepted minimum or its sponsorship is not renewed, the home unit(s) or committee(s) will be asked to work with the APS Development Staff to raise additional funds, or to identify new sponsor(s). If efforts are not successful, the related funds will be redirected or spent down in accordance with the donor(s)’ wishes. Moreover, as the field of physics continues to evolve and some APS awards are no longer serving their purpose, APS, in consultation with internal stakeholders and with consent from the donor(s), may consider retiring or repurposing existing honors.

Forming an APS Unit Fundraising Committee

Reasons that a unit may need to establish an endowment campaign:

  • A new honor has been approved and/or has a zero balance
  • An existing honor requires additional funding

After obtaining the proper approval, the Unit Executive Committee will appoint a Fundraising Chair and recruit 4-6 Fundraising Committee members. The Fundraising Chair might be a member of the Executive Committee or a well-known and respected individual in the physics community who lends their name to the campaign to inspire donors.

Development staff will assist these volunteers by working together to develop and implement a campaign strategy, including: setting the goal and a timeline, identifying prospects, and drafting and distributing solicitations, acknowledgements, and/or stewardship reports.

Phases of a Fundraising Campaign

  1. Pre-campaign and Prospect Identification

    Identify lead prospects - Decide which prospects will be asked to make the largest gifts, and assign them to members of the Fundraising Committee. Members should know and be well-connected to their prospect/s.

    Generally, the majority of the revenue (typically 80% of the goal) will be from approximately 20% of the donors, and the majority of gifts will equal the least amount of revenue.

  2. The Quiet Phase

    Essentially, the Campaign begins during this phase. The objective is to raise 60%-80% of the goal at this time, and to give the Campaign the momentum it needs before a public launch. The Fundraising Committee solicits the top 3-10 lead gifts. This phase often takes 6-9 months.

  3. The Middle Launch and Public Phase

    From “The middle phase is the MOST difficult part of the campaign. First of all, your biggest donors generally don't want to give right now. They either want to be first, or help put you over the top at the end of the campaign. You can imagine saying, "We'd like you to set the pace" and, "Your gift would mean a successful end to the campaign," or, "Your gift will put us over the top," but it is the rare person who is excited by, "Your gift will bring up the middle." Hence, more of a reason why we recommend that the Committee achieve 60% - 80% of the goal before going public.”

  4. Achieving Goal

    This is the time to celebrate: the goal has been achieved or surpassed! Please start by taking a moment and congratulating yourself and your committee; this was no easy feat. The Development staff can provide a draft message to share with the unit(s) benefitting from this award. We also recommend highlighting this accomplishment in the unit’s newsletter, with details about a call for nominations and the first awarding.

    The APS Development Office has created this overview to provide APS members with an understanding of the Society’s fundraising process. If you have any questions, please contact:

    Nikki Natoli
    Campaign and Donor Relations Manager
    (301) 209-3610