Alford Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

Thank you for your interest in the Alford Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence.  The application period has ended.  Check back in May to learn about the 2014 finalists.

The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University is proud to present the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. This award program honors and continues 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

An excellent organization embodies exemplary organizational management qualities such as those espoused by the award’s namesakes. Through practice and performance, an excellent organization exhibits such hallmarks of effective and excellent management as:

  • 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

The Award

Each year, since the award was established in 2001, nonprofit and community leaders in the Chicago community award two $7,500 cash prizes. One prize is reserved for a nonprofit organization with an annual budget under 3 million dollars and the other is for a nonprofit organization with a budget exceeding that amount. Organizations are selected on an annual basis by a nomination committee comprised of Chicago-area nonprofit and community leaders. The recipient organizations are recognized at the annual Symposium sponsored by The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. The 2014 symposium is scheduled for June 3, 2014.


Eligible applicants 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).
  • Provide direct services or programs or member/constituent resources.
  • 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.

Ineligible organizations include grant making foundations, professional associations, hospitals, houses of worship, and K-12 schools.

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.

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

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 the initial application (electronic files are preferred, no later than December 13, 2013). Include a copy of your 501(c)3 letter and a listing of current board members, their vocation, and the number of years they have served on your board.
  2. The initial applications will be reviewed and 10-12 organizations will be chosen to complete a more detailed application. The qualifying organizations will be notified no later than January 21, 2014, and will be sent the final application.
  3. These organizations will have until February 17, 2014, to postmark the final application.
  4. The finalists will be chosen during a review committee meeting in early April. The finalist organizations will be notified of the date and time, and are asked to have one contact person available via phone for clarification on questions that arise during the review.
  5. All qualifying organizations will receive special recognition at the Symposium on June 3, 2014. The two winning organizations (one small organization, and one large organization) will each receive a $7,500 cash prize.

Next Steps

2014 will mark the 12th year the Axelson Center awards the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence.  View the past winners here.