The McNamara Award Committee gives "an annual certificate of honor and monetary grant for a paper in the sociology of religion submitted by a student." The committee both solicits submissions and judges "their merit, within guidelines established by the Executive Council." These guidelines are summarized in the call for papers that appears on the Web site.

The Chair of the committee receives at his or her address and circulates the manuscripts that are submitted. Manuscripts are currently due 15 June, so the Chair should be available at that time to begin the committee's work. In consultation with the committee, the Chair determines, within reason, the formats in which manuscripts will be accepted. If the Chair is a member of the committee, s/he participates directly in the voting process; if not, then s/he would act only in a tie. Regardless, however, the Chair normally participates in the discussion and evaluation process. In addition, the Chair should expect to receive various inquiries about special circumstances. Usually the guidelines speak to these, but some will require consultation with the Executive Officer and/or previous chairs. The guidelines are posted to the Web site by the Executive Officer and also distributed at RRA/SSSR. The Chair may choose to pursue other means of distribution as well. Contact with the Executive Officer is essential before the vetting of the manuscripts, since membership in the Association is required for participation; hence the Chair needs to furnish the Executive Officer with a list of names of persons who have submitted manuscripts. This is best done as a single list.

Once an awardee has been determined, it is the responsibility of the Chair to notify the Executive Officer and to notify all those who submitted papers for consideration, including the awardee.

Neither the work of the committee nor the giving of the award requires attendance at the annual meeting, however, when both the Chair and the Awardee are present, it is appropriate for the Chair to present the award at the Association's annual business meeting. Otherwise, the award is announced at that time and conveyed through the mail from the Executive Office.

The current amount of the award is $500. An additional $200 is available for honorable mention(s), though it has been given only once. One year when the paper was co-authored, an award of $600 was given.

The number of papers received has ranged from a low of 0 to a high of about a dozen. Normally the number is low. The award does not have to be presented, and at least once, the committee chose to give no award, even though it had candidates. When it is not presented, the award returns to the endowment.