F. M. Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact

The F. M. Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact is an annual global prize of USD $150,000 in unrestricted funds that amplifies and accelerates the work of an enterprise working to scale its impact on social or environmental problems around the world.

The Kirby Prize recognizes enterprises pursuing strategic pathways to impact at scale, who are close to the challenges at hand, who center the voice and experience of the populations they serve, who have demonstrated traction, and who embody courageous and collaborative leadership.  This prize is open to any legal form, geographic location, and any social or environmental impact area. 

The 2024 application is now closed. If you would like to be notified when the 2025 application cycle opens, please share your information through the link below.

Named after early entrepreneur Fred Morgan Kirby, this award is made possible through the generous partnership of the F.M. Kirby Foundation.

Past Winners

CASE and the F. M. Kirby Foundation has recognized four outstanding enterprises with the F. M. Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact. Learn more about our previous winners and finalists.

2024: Semilla Nueva, Guatemala

2023: Essmart, India

2022: Math Corps, Minnesota, USA

2021: Healthy Learners, Zambia

Application Process & Timeline

INFORMATION SESSION

October 18, 2023 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT
Virtual Information Session
View the recording or slide presentation.

PHASE 1 APPLICATION

November 1, 2023
Phase 1 application opens for all eligible enterprises
Confirm your eligibility before applying and review the application questions. Check our FAQs and submit any additional questions here.

January 8, 2024 11:59 PM EST
Phase 1 applications closes
The selection committee will review up to the first 250 applications submitted. There are no exceptions to this deadline.

February 16, 2024
All applicants notified of their status
A subset of applicants will be invited to Phase 2

PHASE 2 APPLICATION

February 16, 2024
Phase 2 applications open for invited applicants

March 10, 2024
Phase 2 applications close

April 5, 2024
All Phase 2 applicants notified of their status

FINALIST ROUND

April 5, 2024
Finalists announced

April 10-19, 2024
Finalists participate in final review, including virtual 60-minute interview with selection committee

WINNER ANNOUNCED

May 2024
Winner notified and public announcement

Application Resources


  • One social enterprise will be selected to receive a USD $150,000 unrestricted award. Unrestricted means that you determine the best way to allocate the funds within your organization, and you have the flexibility to pivot that we know is critical for learning, scaling organizations.  Note that while we provide flexible funding, we look for applicants who will apply the funds to a strategy to achieve impact at scale (as opposed to filling a budget gap or pursing “business as usual”).

  • Respecting your time with a tiered application process. To decrease the application burden, we run a tiered process. We ask for limited information in the first, open round and then ask for additional information in the following phases from organizations most aligned with our evaluation criteria. If we do not believe that your organization is in contention to win the prize, we will not ask you for additional information.  Those organizations making it to the finalist round will receive a USD$1,000 award in recognition of their time and effort participating in the full application process.

  • Providing application questions that add value. Many past applicants have told us that our application questions and accompanying guidance have helped them articulate elements of their work more clearly and think through potential gaps – which they said will benefit them in future funder and stakeholder conversations.

  • Providing different levels of feedback throughout the process. We have provided a summary capturing the most common pieces of feedback cited by the Selection Committee in Phase 1 reviews.  For all Phase 2 applicants and Finalists, we offer (as requested) individual feedback from the Selection Committee.

  • Institutional and Brand support from CASE at Duke. CASE will write and share profiles of each of the Finalists to boost exposure among our network.  We will also widely share the profile of the ultimate prize winner, and offer that organization additional institutional support, connections, and coaching.

  • Opportunity for our MBA students to learn from you and the process. Select Duke MBA students participate in the Selection Committee for the Kirby Impact Prize. The students receive training to deeply understand the core elements of the prize evaluation, to discuss issues inherent in being in a funder position, and to appreciate the ways in which bias shows up in reviews and how to mitigate those biases. The students benefit from this training and from having the opportunity to see a broad spectrum of social enterprises, approaches, and innovations in our applicants.

The F.M. Kirby Impact Prize is open to all impact enterprises (nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid), working anywhere in the world, that meet the following criteria:


  • Strong evidence of impact over at least 3 years and a thoughtful plan for how to use the prize to scale that impact in the next 3-5 years.

  • Minimum operation budget of at least $250,000 USD. The strongest applications historically have an annual operating budget between $1-3 million USD.

  • Robust, formal non-discrimination policy that protects against discrimination on the basis of marginalized identities. Marginalized identities may include, but are not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, caste, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disability.

  • For tax reasons, international enterprise applicants must have an established presence in the US, whereby they are a US taxpayer and hold a federal taxpayer identification number. This could include those recognized as an organization exempt from federal impact tax under IRC section 501(c)3 status, a US-based fiscal sponsorship agreement, or other.

  • Exemplary leadership that aligns with the core values of Fred Morgan Kirby, including integrity, resourcefulness, resilience, meaningful collaboration, and diversity.

The Kirby Prize Selection Committee, composed of CASE staff and selected MBA students, will evaluate all applications based on three main dimensions: Impact, Readiness to Scale, and Leadership. See below for more detail on each dimension.

IMPACT: The solution is very effective in addressing the main challenge identified, and there is demonstrated need and demand for the solution among those impacted. While we do not weigh the achievement of broad versus deep impact differently, we do consider the order of magnitude for the number of people or environmental elements impacted relative to the depth of impact experienced.  Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they:


  • Show a clear and well-researched understanding of the issue they are addressing and the root causes therin.

  • Provide a robust theory of change to demonstrate how their activities will lead to outcomes and impact, with strong ties to the root causes of the issue (as above).

  • Have compelling evidence of impact and traction (for at least three years) and demonstrated commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

  • In Phase 2: Articulate a clear business model for the solution, including the key impact drivers and key factors for sustainability.


READINESS TO SCALE: The enterprise is clear on the key elements of their program, product, or principles that are critical to the impact they seek as they scale, and have begun testing likely pathways to scale.  Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they:

  • Articulate a plan to achieve significantly greater impact over the next several years, ideally incorporating strategies that go beyond growth alone (e.g., through partnerships, policy change, influence).

  • In Phase 2: Articulate a compelling plan to achieve impact at scale, which includes clear and realistic steps to get there and reflects consideration of key ecosystem players, including likely implementers and payers.

  • In Phase 2: Demonstrate thoughtfulness around key risks to their scaling plans and ways to mitigate those.

  • In Phase 2: Demonstrate the presence of a strong, embedded learning culture, including systems and processes in place, that has led to real change.


LEADERSHIP & TEAM: The enterprise and its leadership demonstrate the core characteristics of early social entrepreneur Fred Morgan Kirby, including integrity, resourcefulness, and resilience. The enterprise and leadership also prioritize meaningful collaboration, diversity, equity, inclusion, and proximity to the problem as a means to find the best solutions. Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they:

  • Demonstrate the presence and active use of mechanisms to hold themselves accountable to beneficiaries.

  • Demonstrate that the organization’s leadership and decision-making power reflects shared experiences, identities, and/or geographic communities relevant to the organization’s work.

  • In Phase 2: Align staffing plans with scaling plans, including identifying key gaps and showing resourcefulness and prioritization in plans to fill them.

How will you make a compelling case that you are prepared to scale your IMPACT? View our Impact Explained: Scaling vs. Scaling Impact video to see our perspective.

What pathway to scale will you journey on? Through years of research at CASE, we see four main pathways that successful social enterprises pursue on the road to impact at scale, often in combination with each other and evolving over time. In this video we explain each of these pathways and some considerations in pursuing them.

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