Leading Innovation in Nonprofits

Breakthrough Ideas for Nonprofit Leadership

Nonprofits cannot grow without some commitment to innovation. Organizational change and innovation for nonprofits are key to high-impact service delivery. A nonprofit leader has the responsibility to provide the opportunity for change, as do the individuals to be an active part of the innovative change. This could lead to a pattern of growth and renewed birth for the organization. Through this program, you will explore the concepts of process- and design-based innovation.

Center for Nonprofit Management

Generate new ideas that will take your organization to the next level


Who Should Attend

  • Managers, senior executives, and board members of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations who wish to improve their leadership capabilities
  • Especially valuable for those who are initiating and driving innovation strategies in their organizations

Key Benefits

  • Explore the theory of innovation in organizations and make direct applications to the culture and strategies of your nonprofit organization
  • Learn new concepts around the idea of prototyping — designing small experiments that test new ideas for your organization
  • Identify key leadership traits necessary for leading in a highly innovative and high-risk environment; look at personal leadership traits as they relate to a culture of innovation

Program Content

Customer-Centered Agile Innovation

  • Understand the definition of business innovation: creation of substantial or radical new value for stakeholders and the organization by dramatically changing one or more dimensions of the existing service delivery system
  • Identify tools and tactics that will help participants implement, benchmark and manage innovation strategies at the team and organizational level
  • Understand the primary impediments to innovation within an organization
  • Learn from a case study of a nonprofit organization that faced incredible challenges but through inspirational leadership and mission focus was able to implement game-changing innovation strategies

Quantifying the Unquantifiable: Driving Decisions and Innovation with Data

As a nonprofit organization, wouldn’t it be ideal if you were able to extend the right kind of services to the right beneficiary at the right time? Increasing efficacy is, theoretically, one of the most straightforward ways to deliver on your mission and extend precious resources. Whether it is accurately predicting the future needs of your populace or enhancing the spread of your core message to raise awareness, all of these actions can be improved by leveraging data from your own users --- whether it be from their behavior or direct feedback.

  • With this session discuss how to quantify success
  • Learn how non-traditional information is converted to data
  • Explore data biases
  • Plan how to build the foundational blocks of data analysis and feedback to eventually lead to better management decisions

Beautiful Constraints – A New Path for Nonprofit Innovation

  • Examine how we've become path dependent—stuck with routines that blind us from seeing the opportunity in our constraints
  • Ask Propelling Questions to break free of our old ways and put the most pressing and valuable constraints at the heart of our process
  • Adopt a Can-If mentality to answer these questions—focused on 'how,' not 'if' this can be possible
  • Rediscover resourcefulness, and the ability to create abundance in the face of scarcity
  • Activate the high-octane mix of emotions necessary to fuel the tenacity required for success

Build to Learn: Design Solutions and a Culture of Innovation

People-centric innovation depends on rapidly testing ideas with your stakeholders, rapidly learning from those tests, to increase the likelihood that you will design solutions to meet their needs.

  • In this interactive session, come across an opportunity to flex your strategic and creative mindsets needed to build a strong culture of innovation
  • Learn both a framework for assessing and reducing risk, as well as, techniques for developing rapid, low-fidelity prototypes


Liz Gerber - Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, McCormick School of Engineering

Jim Kales - President & CEO, Aspire Chicago

Robert Wolcott - Clinical Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Executive Education ; Co-Founder and Executive Director, Kellogg Innovation Network

Fees & Accommodations


Nonprofit Management Programs are held at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus.

Wieboldt Hall
340 East Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Chicago Campus Parking Map - Please Note: the Huron Superior Parking A lot and the Erie Ontario Parking C & D lots are available to the public and should be used when attending programs at Wieboldt Hall.

Application Deadline

The deadline for registration is 10:00 am one business day prior to the program start date.

Scholarship Assistance

Up to 50% scholarships are available for all of our nonprofit executive education programs for those working in nonprofit organizations. All applications are initially submitted at the full list price. Each is reviewed by our registrar and any scholarships granted will be reflected in the amount applied to your invoice or charged to your credit card.

Hospitality during the Program

We strive to provide healthy meal choices for our participants for breakfast, lunch and breaks. We typically provide a range of choices, including some vegetarian-friendly and gluten-avoidant selections. We cannot meet all dietary preferences, but we will do our best to accommodate health restrictions, religious restrictions and food allergies.


Participants are responsible for booking their hotel accommodations during their stay in Chicago.

Download Nearby Hotels List

Cancellation Policy:

Participants must notify the Program Manager five business days in advance of the program start date if they are unable to attend. Otherwise, participants will be charged 20% of the stated program fees.

When canceling a program registration, participants may choose to rollover their payment to a future program or receive a refund. Participants are allowed three rollovers, after the third rollover, participants forfeit the money paid to the Center for Nonprofit Management.

*Refund or rollover must be requested at the time of the program cancellation. Once a program payment has been rolled over, a monetary refund is no longer an option. The participant must continue with the rollover process.

Learn More

Please email or call us if you would like additional information about Nonprofit Programs

2019 Sessions

November 20-21, 2019

Start: November 20 at 8:30 AM

End: November 21 at 5:00 PM

Chicago campus


Scholarships Available

2020 Sessions

November 18-19, 2020

Start: November 18 at 8:30 AM

End: November 19 at 5:00 PM

Chicago campus


Scholarships Available

Kellogg School of Management

James L. Allen Center
2169 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208