Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

The Award

Since the Alford-Axelson award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence was established in 2001, nonprofit leaders in the Chicago community announce two awards annually. One award is reserved for a nonprofit organization with an annual budget under $3 million (small category) and the second award is for a nonprofit organization with a budget exceeding that amount (large category). Organizations are selected on an annual basis by an award committee comprised of Chicago-area nonprofit and community leaders. The recipient organizations are recognized at the Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers sponsored by the Axelson Center.


In order to be considered for the award, an applicant must be a 501(c)3 organization and its primary mission focus must benefit Chicago and/or its surrounding communities. Staff, board members, and volunteers may nominate their own organizations by completing an application. Organizations that have received the honorable mention designation in previous year award programs are eligible to apply.  If you applied for the 2014 Alford-Axelson Award, but did not seek feedback on your application, your 2015 Alford-Axelson Award application will not be accepted.

If you are a small 501(c)3 organization that has been in existence 10 years or less, has a budget of under $750,000, and has fewer than 10 full-time staff, you might consider applying instead for the Excellent Emerging Organization Award.

2015 Intent to Apply

The Axelson Center encourages organizations interested in applying for the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence or the Excellent Emerging Organization Award submit an Intent to Apply form. Inclusion on this form is not regarded as a completed application and does not guarantee that your organization will receive an award. Also, failure to submit the Intent to Apply form does not preclude anyone from submitting a completed application. The form allows our award committee to better prepare for the review cycle.


2014 Alford-Axelson Award winners announced at annual Symposium

Each year, the Axelson Center presents awards recognizing the achievements of Chicago-area nonprofits. This year, 19 organizations were nominated, and 6 finalists were selected.

The recipient organizations were recognized at the 15th annual Symposium on June 3, 2014, and presented cash awards of $7,500 each, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.   A committee of nonprofit and community leaders determined the recipients.  We congratulate the 2014 winners:

Literature for All of Us
Evanston, IL

Small nonprofit category

Literature for All of Us: 2014 Alford-Axelson Award (Small Category) Winner from North Park University on Vimeo.

Literature for All of Us was selected for its well-defined mission, inventive programs, strong volunteer and client engagement, and strong commitment from the board of directors--strong examples of managerial excellence.

Chicago Community Loan Fund
Chicago, IL
Large nonprofit category

Chicago Community Loan Fund: 2014 Alford-Axelson Award (Large Category) Winner from North Park University on Vimeo.

Chicago Community Loan Fund demonstrated effective management through its in-depth strategic planning process, cultivation and relationship building with volunteers, effective resource management, and transparency with stakeholders.

The committee also recommended one finalist for an honorable mention.  We commend La Casa Norte, and look forward to seeing them apply in the future.

2014 Finalists for Alford-Axelson Award

Two Chicago-area organizations are finalists for the 2014 Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence.

Large Nonprofit Award Finalists

Small Nonprofit Award Finalists

The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University is proud to present the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. The purpose of this award program is to honor and continue the legacy of Nils G. Axelson, a devoted community healthcare leader and visionary, and Jimmie R. Alford, a recognized thought leader in the nonprofit arena, by recognizing and celebrating Chicago area nonprofit organizations that exemplify extraordinary managerial excellence.

A Portrait of an Excellent Organization

In reviewing the nonprofit organizations that were nominated for this year’s awards, the selection committee considered to what extent each organization embodies the full range of managerial excellence criteria:

  • Clear, compelling, and well-communicated, mission and vision
  • Coherent organizational strategy that aligns programs and services to mission and goals
  • Strong and effective leadership by staff and board
  • Solid financial management
  • Diversified funding model
  • Well-developed fundraising and external relations program
  • Strong sense of integrity throughout organization’s culture
  • Shared sense of purpose and values within organization and among key external constituents
  • Process in place for evaluating organizational performance

Next Steps

The application will be available in early September.  In the mean time, complete the Intent to Apply Form.