Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence

Congratulations to our 2015 Alford-Axelson Award finalists!

Accion Chicago

After School Matters

By the Hand Club for Kids

Interfaith House


Teen Living Programs

Be the first to know who wins this year's award!

Attend the 2015 Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers. We'll announce the winner at the Symposium luncheon.

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.

Application Instructions and Timeline

  1. Complete and mail the initial application (electronic files are preferred, postmarked no later than December 5, 2014).
  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.