Excellent Emerging Organization Award

Thank you for your interest in the Excellent Emerging Organization Award.  The application period has ended.  Check back in May to learn about the 2014 finalists.

A Portrait of an Excellent Emerging Organization

For this award, an Excellent Emerging Organization is a young organization whose potential for growth and impact is high. The organization demonstrates that it is capable of leadership within its subsector, as well as innovation in its programs and service delivery. While young and small, the organization practices financial stability, sound management, and visions and plans for its future success.


In order to be considered for the award, an applicant must fulfill the below criteria:

  • A 501(c)3 organization
  • Primary mission focus must benefit Chicago and/or its surrounding communities (includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will County).
  • Organization has been in existence for 10 years or less
  • Organization budget must not exceed $750,000
  • Organization must have 10 or less full-time staff members
  • Complete the eligibility checklist of this application.  In an effort to save time for the applicant, we ask that if you cannot check every item on the list that you not complete the application at this time.

Staff, board members, and volunteers may nominate their own organizations.  Organizations that have received the honorable mention designation in previous year award programs are eligible to apply.

Award Benefits

The winning organization will be announced at the Axelson Symposium on June 3, 2014. The award aims to strengthen the capacity of the winning organization to improve services and efficiency. The organization will be awarded a capacity-building package, which in past years has been valued at approximately $50,000. The package could include services such as:*

  • $1,000 in professional development programs from the Axelson Center;
  • 1 year mentoring by a senior nonprofit leader;
  • A professional attorney will evaluate the organization's internal operations, alerting management to any potential legal or regulatory issues;
  • A team of highly-experienced consultants will provide a wide-ranging, in-depth organizational assessment to identify key strengths and opportunities, and then develop a strategically-focused capacity-building plan for capitalizing on them and ensuring ongoing progress;
  • An cash prize of $2,500.
    *The above listing includes services that have been offered previously.

Application Instructions and Timeline

(Below are the instructions for the 2014 application process, for reference and planning purposes.)

If you meet the eligibility requirements, we invite you to apply for this award.  Download the application and instructions.

(Note: You can download this PDF, fill it in electronically, and save it to your computer using Adobe Reader)

  1. Complete and mail/email the initial application (electronic files are preferred, postmarked no later than January 10, 2014). Include a copy of your 501(c)3 letter, your most recent Form 990, a listing of current board members, their vocation, and the number of years they have served on your board, strategic plan, and original signature page.
  2. The initial applications will be reviewed and 3-5 organizations will be chosen to complete an interview with the review committee. The qualifying organizations will be notified no later than February 10, 2014.
  3. These organizations will schedule interviews with the committee in late March.
  4. All qualifying organizations will receive special recognition at the Symposium on June 3, 2014.

The quality and completeness of the application is essential as it will serve as the primary basis for assessment. In this regard, all questions should be answered directly and explicitly; generic responses are not acceptable. Incomplete applications—including indirectly addressed criteria—or omitted financial data will limit our ability to assess your organization and ultimately will prevent your organization from being considered.

Next Steps

2014 will mark the fifth year the Axelson Center awards the Excellent Emerging Organization Award.  View the past winners here.

Axelson small logo at North Park University