Frequently Asked Questions: Leadership Academy

Program Format

The American Express Leadership Academy is a fusion of leading-edge thinking for the nonprofit sector with established leadership principles.  The curriculum for the academy will draw from local, national and international thought leaders on the trajectory of the sector and the role of emerging leaders.

Participants will be challenged to examine their leadership style and will graduate the program emboldened by new skills, knowledge and resources. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to network with other professionals, making connections that will serve them long into the future.

The program days focus on developing the skills needed to be effective leaders, in addition to the exploring the critical issues facing the nonprofit sector. Each day is formatted with both presentation and interaction to maximize the engagement and learning experience.

Examples of topics to be covered on program days are:

  • State of the economy and the impact on nonprofits
  • Advocacy and public policy; government relations
  • Analysis of issues and critical thinking
  • Group and meeting facilitation
  • Board governance
  • Resource development
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Nonprofit leadership and ethics
  • Diversity and cross-cultural communication
  • Community outreach; strengthening communities
  • Communications, marketing, branding and public relations for nonprofits
  • Charting your own leadership path; continuing professional development; setting goals
  • And many more...

Participants will also have the benefit of attending the ASU Lodestar Center's annual Nonprofit Conference on Sustainability Strategies in the fall.

This program requires a significant amount of time and commitment in order to get the full benefit of the experience. Many of the Valley’s top businesses and community leaders present at American Express Leadership Academy program days, so failing to attend even one class is a significant missed opportunity. Another great benefit of the class experience is getting to know your fellow class members and learning from each other.

Participants must fully participate in the 360° evaluation process at the beginning of the year, and each participant will engage with a professional coach during mutually-agreed upon hours.

The program also requires a team project to be completed outside of program days. Each project, created by community nonprofits, will be an opportunity to develop professional skills, and apply program lessons to benefit another nonprofit.

Participants must attend all program days to graduate. Only emergency situations will be considered for an excused absence. Participants may be excused from one program day, if necessary. If any participant misses two days, their eligibility for graduation will be reviewed by the ASU staff and the advisory committee. No participant may miss the first day. Those candidates who know they are unable to attend the first day should consider applying another year.

While the program agendas will allow for short breaks, participants should expect to be fully present and largely unavailable to work or family needs during class days. Applicants are strongly encouraged to give serious thought to this time commitment and to discuss it with their direct supervisor and Executive Director.

Those who are unable to commit to being fully available and present at all program days should apply another year when their schedules are more accommodating.

Applications will be accepted in the spring.

Program days will involve a wide spectrum of speakers and panelists. University professors, practitioner-instructors, community leaders and many others will play a role in providing a multi-faceted learning experience.

Living and/or working in the Valley is not a requirement. However, program days are scheduled at locations around the Valley, and attendance is mandatory.

NLA and PA are both programs to introduce the nonprofit sector to future leaders and give them skills to begin a career in the sector.  The academy takes your professional development to the next level by providing the knowledge, skills and resources needed to advance to a leadership position in the nonprofit community. 

Participants of the academy should all have experience working in nonprofits, although the program does not set a minimum or maximum number of years experience required.

The American Express Leadership Academy is a program designed specifically for emerging nonprofit leaders. The program will provide participants with advanced knowledge, but will go beyond the academic to relate to real people, problems and solutions. As such, the academy is complementary to the MNLM master's program through the application of leadership principles and engagement in the nonprofit community.

The American Express Leadership Academy is a program designed specifically for emerging nonprofit leaders. The curriculum will not go into the detail that NMI workshops provide on the practical aspects of nonprofit management. Rather, it will focus on developing the leadership skills nonprofit professionals need and engaging them with resources in the nonprofit community.

Your question may be answered in this FAQ section.  But, if you need additional assistance, please call 602-496-0500 or email


There is a program fee of $995, plus a $30 application fee. The program fee covers all program costs including meals and program materials. This fee may be paid all, or in part, by your employer. Funds must be received by the first programming day.

Many thanks to the generosity of the American Express Foundation, lead supporter of the Academy. Additional thanks to SRP, Wells Fargo Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and CopperPoint Insurance for their assistance with program days, which helps keep tuition as low as possible. Thanks to sponsorship support this year, we are able to keep the program fee low.

AmeriCorps alumni can now use the Segal Educational Award they received for their service to pay for all or part of the American Express Leadership Academy! If you are selected to participate in this year's academy cohort, you can allocate your Segal Award funds to pay for the academy by clicking on the following link and providing the necessary information.

Pay with your Segal Award

Through the sponsorship of the American Express Foundation, the ASU Lodestar Center is pleased to offer a limited number of partial scholarships to qualified applicants. Scholarship applications must be completed by the program's main application deadline.

How to Apply

Applications can be submitted online through the ASU Lodestar Center Web site. These forms are only available during the application period each spring. During this time, a link to the application can be found on the American Express Leadership Academy home page.

The American Express Leadership Academy is an individual professional development opportunity for emerging nonprofit leaders. We generally accept one candidate from an organization, but there can be exceptions. We suggest you discuss with your supervisor and/or board chair, to determine who from your organization may apply. Many organizations send an employee through each year.