The World's Largest Humanitarian Prize Just Got Larger

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has always stood out to us for two reasons: It cares about the world's poor, and it gives big. And now, the foundation has upped the ante on its giving by raising its namesake annual prize by $500,000.

The move coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Hilton Humanitarian prize. The prize is the largest humanitarian award in the world, and now at $2 million (up from $1.5 million), it’s quite the windfall for any organization lucky enough to snag it. Which brings us to this year’s winner: Landesa.

Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to develop durable, sustainable, pro-poor and gender-sensitive laws, policies, and programs that protect and strengthen land rights for the poorest people. In India, in China and in Sub-Saharan Africa, our land tenure experts work shoulder to shoulder with government officials and rural residents developing scalable and practical solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn and important problems – food insecurity, conflict, climate change, women’s lack of empowerment.

IP readers will know that Landesa, and everything it stands for, is right up Hilton’s alley. Its priority funding areas, while varied, all fall under the same thematic umbrella of relief for the disadvantaged and vulnerable, both domestically and globally. And the Hilton Prize is no different.

First awarded in 1996 with a $1 million gift to Operation Smile, the Hilton Prize brings both funding and distinguished recognition to organizations doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. Unlike traditional grantmaking, in which organizations are asked to submit proposals for future work to be funded, the Hilton Prize is awarded based on achievements—like a Nobel Prize for nonprofits.

Organizations can nominate themselves, provided someone not on the payroll is doing the nominating—like a board member—and those organizations are invited to submit a letter of nomination focused on what they have accomplished. Organizations can work anywhere in the world, provided their work presents a model for humanitarian work that merits visibility and replication. From Hilton:

Key areas that are evaluated include: extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering, an established record of achievement covering at least five years, innovation in program design, organizational capacity and administrative efficiency, and demonstration of long-term impact.

And if you thought I was being cheeky by comparing the Hilton Prize to the Nobel Prize, think again. The independent jury Hilton brings together every year—global humanitarian leaders from all around the world, including former prime minsters, leading academics, aid agency leaders and systems innovators—is really a testament to both the substance and prominence of this award.

In addition to increasing the prize money, the Hilton Foundation is investing $2 million to formalize a collaborative of past prizewinners. The Hilton Prize Coalition, launched as an “independent alliance of the 19 recipients of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize working together to advance their unique missions and collective impact globally.” And the group already has two projects in the hopper, including a fellowship program (smart move!) and a pilot project to develop a model for collaborative disaster response—an area particularly dear to Hilton.

RelatedConrad N. Hilton Foundation: Grants for Disasters and Refugees

Hilton is one of the biggest funders in the United States, with $2.5 billion in assets and over $1 billion contributed since inception. Last year, Hilton paid out over $100 million in grants in its six priority areas: clean water, ending homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting youth in foster care, and spiritual human development through the work of Catholic Sisters.