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.

This program is offered in a live virtual format. Our live virtual programs are built to deliver a rich experience that’s comparable to our in-person programs. You will have the opportunity to engage with our faculty and your peers in live discussions and lecture sessions. You will come away with the tools to navigate and succeed in the new business landscape.

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

Innovation as Learning

  • Recognize innovation as a learning and knowledge creation process
  • Understand problem finding, problem selecting, solution finding, and solution selection phases of innovation
  • Discover the role of knowledge brokering in innovation in your nonprofit organization

Build to Learn Pt. 1

  • Understand Building to Learn as a core practice in design thinking
  • Recognize personal and group barriers to Building to Learn and acquire new tactics to overcome challenges
  • Identify different approaches to Building

Build to Learn Pt. 2

  • Learn how to Build to Learn about a new product
  • Learn how to Build to Learn about a new process/system

Bringing it Back to Work

  • Compare and apply Building to Learn to existing organizational practices
  • Prepare to integrate new practices until they become existing routines

Achieving Strategic Innovation

  • Explore how to balance the near-term and long-term, core vs. exploratory, imperatives for long-term success
  • Learn frameworks to align strategy & innovation
  • Explore how to successfully tackle big, long-term mission objectives

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


Elise Madrick Townsend - Academic Director; Senior Program Administrator

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

Jim Kales - President & CEO, Aspire Chicago

Andrew Razeghi - Lecturer, Kellogg School of Management; Founder and Managing Director, StrategyLab Inc.

Accommodations, Fees & Policies


This program is delivered in a live virtual format via the Zoom platform. Please visit our live virtual programs page for more information.

In-person 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

2021 Session

November 9-17, 2021

Start: November 9 at 9:00 AM

End: November 17 at 12:30 PM

Format: Live Virtual Program

Program Days
November 9-10, 16-17


Scholarships Available

2022 Session

March 2-3, 2022

Start: March 2 at 8:30 AM

End: March 3 at 5:30 PM

Format: In-Person on Chicago campus

Click here for Executive Education's COVID-19 health and safety protocols


Scholarships Available

Kellogg School of Management

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