Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

The 2016 Alford-Axelson Award application is now available. You can download the PDF application, fill it in electronically, and save it to your computer using Adobe Reader. If you will be completing the application using a Mac device, please contact us for a Microsoft Word version of the application.

Prior year award applicants are encouraged to receive feedback before reapplying. Organizations that applied during the 2015 award cycle can schedule a feedback call with the Axelson Center via email through October 23. If you applied for the 2015 Alford-Axelson Award, but do not seek feedback on your application, your 2016 Alford-Axelson Award application will not be accepted.

2016 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.

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. Established in 2001, this award is presented annually at the Axelson Center's Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers.

The winning organization receives a $5,000 cash prize and a commemorative award symbolizing the organization's dedication to modeling nonprofit managerial excellence.


In order to be considered for the award, an applicant:

  • Must be a 501(c)3 organization
  • Must have a primary mission focus that benefits Chicago and/or its surrounding communities (includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will County)
  • Must provide direct services or programs or member/constituent resources
  • Must have an executive director in their role for 2 years or longer at the time of applying
  • Must have a strategic plan
  • Must certify that financial reports are audited annually by an independent CPA
  • Must have quantitative metrics to measure the organization's impact

Note: 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 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.

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 2015 Alford-Axelson Award Winners or view the prior winners of the Alford-Axelson Award and Excellent Emerging Organization Award.