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Axelson Center Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Leslie Crutchfield

Leslie Crutchfield, an advisor to leading nonprofits and philanthropies, will open the 10th anniversary symposium.

CHICAGO, IL (March 11, 2009) – When a mix of nonprofit leaders, educators and others began to consider developing a school of nonprofit management at North Park University, they never imagined how successful it would be.

“It’s certainly grown beyond any of our expectations,” says Jimmie Alford, founder of The Alford Group, a consulting firm for nonprofits. The 1966 North Park graduate was twice named one of the “50 most influential people in the nonprofit sector” by The Nonprofit Times.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, as well as its symposium for nonprofit professionals and volunteers. More than 500 attend the event, which has received national recognition for excellence. This year’s symposium will be held May 13-14.

“We are absolutely delighted with the significant accomplishments of the Axelson Center over its first 10 years, which, in fact mirrors the major impact Nils Axelson had in a lifetime of successful nonprofit management,” says Dean Lundgren, treasurer of the Evangelical Covenant Church, professor of strategic management, and former director of the M.B.A. program at North Park.

Axelson was a leader in the Evangelical Covenant Church and founded the Covenant Ministries of Benevolence (CMB). Under his leadership, CMB expanded from one hospital and two retirement communities to two hospitals and more than 14 retirement communities. Following his retirement, coworkers and friends raised money in his honor to endow a full-time faculty position at the University. Melissa Morriss-Olson was the first person to accept the chair, and she helped launch a study that led to the creation of the center.

"At a mid 1990s strategy session for North Park's Graduate Management Program, we identified a major opportunity for North Park to become a leader in nonprofit education here in the Chicagoland area,” says Lundgren.

Today, the Axelson Center offers more than 20 full- and half-day workshops annually on the North Park campus. Every year, more than 1,000 nonprofit leaders benefit from its programs and services.

Pier Rogers, the center’s current director, says that leaders who have received training there have strengthened and started organizations “that were more resilient and better equipped to serve our communities.”

The center developed its reputation, in part, through the excellence of the symposium, which was the “positioning piece,” says Alford. In addition to offering a plethora of workshops, the symposium annually honors nonprofit organizations with the Alford-Axelson Award in Managerial Excellence.

This year’s opening keynote speaker will be Leslie Crutchfield, an advisor to leading nonprofits and philanthropies. She serves as managing director of the Ashoka Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship, and is coauthor of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits.

Early registration is being accepted through April 3 and is $150 for the symposium only, $150 for the post-conference only, or $300 for both. Regular registration is $225 for the symposium only, $150 for the post-conference, or $375 for both.