Eligibility Requirements

What can be entered?

  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report, or ordinance entered must have been published, implemented, or completed within three years of the date of submission. Published drafts of plans are not acceptable.
  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report or ordinance may only be entered in one award category per award year.
  • All plans, and planning efforts must be based in the United States. At this time, the program is not accepting international planning efforts for consideration.
  • You do not have to win a chapter or division award to be eligible for a National Planning Award.

Who can nominate?

  • An individual may not nominate himself/herself (the individual) for an award. Anyone working on a plan or project may nominate that plan or project for an award.
  • Nominators may not be related by blood or marriage to any individual they wish to nominate.
  • Members of the APA Awards Jury, APA staff, APA Board of Directors, and AICP Commission are not eligible to nominate or to receive individual awards.
  • APA staff may not nominate, contribute to, or review award nominations.

Award Categories & Criteria

The awards jury will select only one recipient in each award category. Award recipients will be recognized by APA in a variety of ways.


National Planning Award Categories

Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff

This award honors an individual, project, group, or organization that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. The nominated effort demonstrates a sustained commitment to advocacy by addressing the concerns of women or minority groups through specific actions or contributions within the planning profession or through planning practice. The award honors the late APA member, Paul Davidoff, for his contributions to the planning profession.

Examples: A plan or effort that improves the living conditions of those in an underrepresented neighborhood, an individual working to improve the lives of others, a policy that addresses a need not currently met through other efforts.

Complete Details


Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate. Open to efforts within the United States.

  1. Social and economic. Describe how the nominated effort addresses the needs of at-risk individuals or populations that society typically overlooks. How does the effort advance or sustain sound, ethical, and inclusionary planning within the planning field, within a specific community, or in society at large?
  2. Engagement. Explain how various stakeholders and community members were engaged in the planning process. How were typically hard-to-reach populations included in the planning process? Detail any non-traditional engagement efforts used to obtain community input. Share how challenges such as limited accessibility and digital divides were addressed.
  3. Effectiveness and results. Specify how your entry has had a positive impact on the lives of those it was intended to help. Indicate how these efforts have touched a wider audience, helped increase diversity and inclusiveness within the planning field, or in helping support diverse populations. Share how this effort has elevated the value and importance of planning within the community.

Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

For a comprehensive or general plan that advances the science and art of planning. The award honors America's most famous planner, Daniel Burnham, for his contributions to the planning profession and to a greater awareness of the benefits of good planning. The nominated effort helps advance communities toward a safe, stronger and more equitable future.

Complete Details


Open to APA members and non-members. The award is given for group achievement and may be made to a planning agency, planning team or firm, community group, or local authority. There are no limits on the size of jurisdiction. For efforts within the United States.

  1. Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address needs. Explain how the use of the planning process in this context broadened accepted planning principles within the context of the situation.
  2. Quality. Explain how your plan is state-of-the-art in terms of presentation and methodology. Identify what makes this plan different or stand out compared to other comprehensive plans.
  3. Engagement. Explain how various stakeholder interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Competitive entries demonstrate a strong effort to solicit input from those who historically have been left out of the planning process. Show how the nominated plan obtained public and private support, and helped to bring the community together over shared goals.
  4. Promotion of Planning. Clarify the role, significance and participation of planners. Demonstrate the connection between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of planners and planning. Explain how the nominated effort helped to elevate the value of planning within the community.
  5. Effectiveness and Results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Explain what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for development and implementation of the plan. State the positive or unintended outcomes. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.

Resilience & Sustainability Award

This award recognizes a strategy that creates a more sustainable community and/or increases the ability of a community to recover from and adapt to shocks and stresses (economic impacts, natural disasters, human-caused disasters, climate change, etc.), resulting in it becoming stronger, more equitable, and better prepared for the future.

Examples: A comprehensive plan, climate adaptation plan, or other plan that addresses resilience in substantive and innovative ways; a program or project such as use of green infrastructure to protect a community from hazards and build resilience; community engagement that increases understanding of resilience and leads to action; public health efforts or economic development plans or initiatives that improve the overall human and fiscal health of the community, etc.​

Complete Details


Open to APA members and non-members. For efforts within the United States.

  1. Originality and innovation. Identify how the strategy builds upon best practices and identifies innovative approaches for addressing a community's specific needs or reducing its risks. How does the initiative improve recovery efforts if a disaster does strike, or address cascading disasters or stresses (i.e. landslides result from excessive rains, public health emergencies create economic stress)?
  2. Engagement. Describe how the strategy used an inclusive planning process and engages diverse partners and stakeholders, and/or breaks down institutional or structural barriers to facilitate decision making so all community members' voices are represented. Describe what steps were taken to build momentum and support for your entry. Explain how planners helped facilitate outcomes that gained support for planning practices.
  3. Integration. Describe how the strategy integrates or augments existing planning efforts within the community, county, or region such as corresponding comprehensive or master plans or other related initiatives. Explain how the effort or initiative can be adapted or applied by other jurisdictions and supports the broader needs of the community and surrounding region.
  4. Economic Impacts. Describe how the strategy represents realizable and practical actions, leveraging multiple funding sources and partnerships to deliver co-benefits for diverse populations. How will the effort lessen the financial impact disasters or economic downturns can have on communities?
  5. Effectiveness and Results. Demonstrate how the initiative has strengthened the resiliency of the community. Identify what benchmarks were used to determine success and be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of people affected. How has this initiative increased resident understanding and awareness about potential disasters, as well as the roles and responsibilities of individual community members, along with the community as a whole, in helping to mitigate the severity of potential disasters? How has this initiative positioned the community for a stronger, more resilient future?

Planning Excellence Award

This award recognizes how planning is essential to addressing desires, needs, or challenges within a community, county, region, or specific geographic location. This category emphasizes outcomes and demonstrates how planning helps to create stronger, more equitable communities.  

Examples: Affordable housing plan, growth management or design guidelines, applications of technology, fostering greater public engagement in planning processes, transportation options, or efforts that create a sense of place.  

Complete Details


Any planning agency, planning team or firm, community group, or local authority helping civic leaders and citizens play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives may submit a nomination. No restrictions on the size of the jurisdiction. For efforts within the United States.

  1. Originality and innovation. Describe how your entry addresses a known community need or challenge, and better positions the community for a stronger, more equitable future for all. Identify any tools, resources, or skills that helped to advance the effort within the community. Demonstrate how this effort compliments or builds upon existing planning efforts and supports the overall planning goals of the community. Explain how this effort also helps move the planning profession forward?
  2. Methodology and Transferability. Explain the process, budget, and project timeline for the nominated effort. Identify how planning and/or planners were instrumental in this effort. Share how the community is kept updated and informed of progress and implementation of the effort. Demonstrate how your effort can be applied in other communities and the methodology used to help advance the value of planning.
  3. Engagement. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for your entry. Share how all community members were involved, including those who historically have been left out of the planning process. How did planners help facilitate bringing together competing community interests for the betterment of the whole community? Describe stakeholder involvement and how the entry brought together elected leaders, public, private, and non-profit stakeholders, and community members. Identify, if applicable, any unique strategic partnerships or funding sources that was used to help move the effort forward.
  4. Effectiveness and Results. Provide measurable results or how success will be tracked. What are the long-term outcomes generated or expected from the effort? Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time or be a catalyst to future efforts. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of those who live in the community. How has this entry positioned the community for a stronger, more resilient and equitable future?

Looking to recognize a planning pioneer or planning landmark?

APA's Planning History Timeline recognizes individuals and events that have national significance to the planning field.

Submit your recommendation for additions to the timeline