Our guest blogger Gianfranco Farruggia, Ph.D., is a Professor of Nonprofit Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University
The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management has been reviewing applications for the noted Alford-Axelson Award for a good number of years and various notable Chicago-area nonprofit organizations have received the award and the associated notoriety throughout its existence. This “mini-organizational assessment” permits applicants to be reviewed by a volunteer committee of civic leaders with a wide range of expertise: finance, strategic planning, consultation, academic, banking, nonprofit management; a full gamut of capabilities and knowledge that relate to managerial excellence in the nonprofit space. A definitive benefit of this assessment is that applicants can get feedback at the end of the process to add to an organization’s learning and understanding of its strengths, weaknesses and challenges.
It’s reasonably apparent that applicants gain visibility just by applying. In addition to the Axelson Center staff, the assessment committee becomes aware of applying organizations, which itself becomes a topic of discussion and first level notoriety. A second level notoriety results by making it to the final round and the committee conducting a deeper analysis of the candidates’ managerial functions and submitted documents. Upon their request, this analysis is openly shared with the applicant organizations, which in turn provides expert advice and can be readily applied to organizational operations. At this level, it’s a win-win situation. If an organization wins, what a wonderful recognition by peers and the nonprofit community. Winners get celebrated at an annual Axelson Center Symposium luncheon and are publicized through various outlets. This visibility and respect of peers in the Chicago-area nonprofit community–recognition of the winning organization’s standing in terms of having strong management and leadership that support a strong mission - goes a long way and is a value that truly lasts. This award is viewed as a “good-housekeeping seal of approval” that can be celebrated. And to boot, the awardee receives a cash prize. Can it get any better?
From the perspective of a reviewer on the selection committee, I can honestly state that the joy that is expressed by the winners at the Annual Symposium is quite a delight for the committee and certainly rewarding for the winners. Having the organization’s name proclaimed publicly before a large group of nonprofit leaders is very well-received and greatly appreciated. In other words, the return-on-investment of applying for the Alford-Axelson Award is a value that goes well beyond monetization.