GAITHERSBURG, MD-Starting in 2007, nonprofit organizations-including charities, trade and professional associations, and government agencies-will be eligible to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest presidential honor for quality and organizational performance excellence.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) manages the Baldrige program in conjunction with the private sector.

To lay the groundwork for the new category, NIST will conduct a pilot application program in 2006 to help train the private-sector examiners who review applications and to determine the readiness of nonprofit organizations to participate. During the pilot, NIST will accept applications only from nonprofit organizations that have received a top-level award from a state or local quality award program, and that would be eligible to apply for the new Baldrige Award in 2007. Most of the more than 40 Baldrige-based state and local quality award programs allow nonprofit organizations to apply for their awards.

While no awards will be presented to nonprofits during the pilot phase, a private-sector team of examiners will review the applications and all applicants will receive written feedback, including strengths and opportunities to improve. The 2006 Baldrige performance excellence criteria for business have been modified to be more relevant to nonprofit organizations. The application forms and instructions for nonprofit organizations are expected to be available early in 2006.

Legislation that authorized NIST to expand the Baldrige Awards to include nonprofit organizations was approved in October 2004. NIST's fiscal year 2006 appropriation provided the Baldrige National Quality Program with $7 million, allowing the nonprofit category to proceed.

For more information on the Baldrige Award, including the performance excellence criteria, visit