How Does the MacArther "Genius" Grant Work?

The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the genius grant, awards individuals cash stipends to enable them to pursue their work in a variety of creative fields. Nominators bring creative people to the selection committee's attention, and the committee pares down the nominees and chooses 20 to 25 recipients a year. The fellows have complete freedom about how to use the grant money.

The MacArthur Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations. Nominators from various fields of creative endeavor are recommended by foundation board members, selection committee members and other experts. When nominators suggest a potential fellow, they write a one- to two-page letter to the program director describing the person they are nominating. The selection committee considers all nominations on an ongoing basis, not only in the year they are nominated. The selection committee discusses the nominees, does further research on likely candidates and presents its recommendations to the board of directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Nominators, evaluators and selectors all remain anonymous.

Fellows are announced publicly in early fall. Nominees are not informed of their candidacy and are usually informed that they have become fellows just before the official announcement. As of 2014, the amount of the award is $625,000, which is paid out in quarterly installments over five years.