Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

2015 Alford-Axelson Award Application is now available.  Deadline to apply is December 5.

You can download this PDF, fill it in electronically, and save it to your computer using Adobe Reader. If you would like to request a Word version of the application or if you will be completing the application on a Mac device, please contact us.

The Award

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.

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. 

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

Application Instructions and Timeline

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. If you would like to request a Word version of the application or if you will be completing the application on a Mac device, please contact us).

  1. Complete and mail the initial application (electronic files are preferred, postmarked no later than December 5, 2014). Please include all required attachments.
  2. The initial applications will be reviewed and up to 12 organizations will be chosen to complete a more detailed application. The qualifying organizations will be notified no later than January 20, 2015, and will be sent the final application.
  3. These organizations will have until February 20, 2015, to submit the final application.
  4. The finalists will be chosen during an award 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 Axelson Center Symposium on June 22, 2015. The two winning organizations (one small organization, and one large organization) will each receive a cash award of at least $5,000.

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

Read about the 2014 Alford-Axelson Award Winners or view the prior winners of the Alford-Axelson Award and Excellent Emerging Organization Award.