Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

2014 Alford-Axelson Award winners announced at annual Symposium

Each year, the Axelson Center presents awards recognizing the achievements of Chicago-area nonprofits. This year, 19 organizations were nominated, and 6 finalists were selected.

The recipient organizations were recognized at the 15th annual Symposium on June 3, 2014, and presented cash awards of $7,500 each, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.   A committee of nonprofit and community leaders determined the recipients.  We congratulate the 2014 winners:

Literature for All of Us
Evanston, IL

Small nonprofit category

Literature for All of Us: 2014 Alford-Axelson Award (Small Category) Winner from North Park University on Vimeo.

Literature for All of Us was selected for its well-defined mission, inventive programs, strong volunteer and client engagement, and strong commitment from the board of directors--strong examples of managerial excellence.

Chicago Community Loan Fund
Chicago, IL
Large nonprofit category

Chicago Community Loan Fund: 2014 Alford-Axelson Award (Large Category) Winner from North Park University on Vimeo.

Chicago Community Loan Fund demonstrated effective management through its in-depth strategic planning process, cultivation and relationship building with volunteers, effective resource management, and transparency with stakeholders.

The committee also recommended one finalist for an honorable mention.  We commend La Casa Norte, and look forward to seeing them apply in the future.

2014 Finalists for Alford-Axelson Award

Two Chicago-area organizations are finalists for the 2014 Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence.

Large Nonprofit Award Finalists

Small Nonprofit Award Finalists

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.

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

The Award

Each year, since the award was established in 2001, nonprofit and community leaders in the Chicago community announce two awards. One award 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.


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. Organizations that have received the honorable mention designation in previous year award programs are eligible to apply. In addition, we have also added an eligibility checklist as the first page 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.

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 less than 10 full-time staff, you might consider applying instead for the Excellent Emerging Organization Award.

Archives: 2014 Call for Nominations

(The information provided below is for historical purposes, to help applicants better understand the process.)

Contact the Axelson Center by email or by phone at (773) 244-5747 to nominate an organization for this award. Organizations do not need to be nominated in order to apply, but members of the community are welcome to nominate organizations that they know. If you would like to nominate an organization, please provide contact information for the individual who should be contacted to complete the application process. An organization can self-nominate simply by completing the application, in this case you do not need to notify the Center prior to your application submission.

Archives: Application and Review Process

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 award.