A memorial service for Alford is planned for 2:00 pm, Saturday, December 22, at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, Chicago. Dr. David Parkyn, president of North Park University, will speak. Visitation will precede the service at 1:00 pm.
Alford, 69, was well-known nationally. The Alford Group, which he founded in 1979 to serve the nonprofit sector, quickly grew into one of the premier consulting firms in the United States. It has served more than 3,000 nonprofit clients since its creation. He was twice recognized by The Nonprofit Times as “one of the 50 most influential people in the nonprofit sector.” This past October, the Chicago Better Government Association presented Alford its lifetime achievement award.
Alford’s legacy is the many people he touched through his life and work, Parkyn said. “He loved people. Jimmie devoted his life to the nonprofit sector because here he found an avenue through which to care for others. Because he loved others, he lived a life consistent with the mission of his alma mater. Through his uncompromising care for the well-being of others, Jimmie modeled the mission of North Park University: his life was one of ‘significance and service.'”
Dr. Wesley E. Lindahl, dean of the School of Business and Nonprofit Management (SBNM), said Alford was an important leader in the school and a frequent speaker on nonprofit topics. Lindahl recalled Alford’s recent presentation on nonprofit trends before a large audience University Club, Chicago, as part of the North Park University Breakfast Series. “His recent speech will stay with me as I remember Jimmie,” Lindahl said. “He was able to speak with authority about the nonprofit sector, and the audience was taken with his knowledge and connections to the field. Jimmie was one of the most networked people I’ve ever known. He used his connections across the city of Chicago to continually strengthen the nonprofit organizations that serve those in need. We will miss him tremendously.”
Alford was also an influential leader with the University’s Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, which works to enhance the nonprofit sector through education, service, and resources. He was a founding member of the advisory board for the Axelson Center. Each year, the University presents an award that bears his name: the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. These awards are presented to two nonprofit organizations at the Axelson Center’s Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers.
“Jimmie welcomed me when I began at the Axelson Center in 2007,” said Dr. Pier C. Rogers, director of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management. “He opened so many doors for me in introducing me within numerous networks of nonprofit leaders in Chicago.”
Rogers said in recent years Alford enjoyed spending time with his family and teaching. “He loved to teach, and share his knowledge and experiences with others. He often mentioned how he talked with or met with individuals who sought his counsel as they navigated through various stages of their careers. I often used him as a sounding board to discuss various ideas for Axelson Center programs.” Just last week, Rogers said, she spoke with him about a presentation at the 2013 Axelson Symposium. Now, she and others are thinking about how best to honor Alford’s numerous contributions to the University, the Axelson Center, and the nonprofit community.
Alford was born in Madisonville, Ky. He graduated from North Park in 1967, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University, and served on the board of trustees, completing his term in 2010. He also was a board member at Aurora University, Aurora, Ill., and had been awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the school.
Alford served with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago before he founded The Alford Group, and was an early advisor to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Bloomington. He was a longtime member of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP), and in 2009, was the recipient of the prestigious Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service, given to individuals for exceptional service to AFP, the fundraising profession, and the philanthropic community.
Alford was active as a volunteer with Cure Violence, Chicago, and was senior advisor to the Better Government Association. Last month, Alford and his wife, Maree Bullock, were presented the 2012 “Spirit of Youth” award by the National Runaway Switchboard, a Chicago organization that recognized their work to keep runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe.
Alford is survived by his wife and their three children, Ann (Sean) Reardon, and Joshua, Chicago; Alan, Breckenridge, Colo.; and two grandchildren. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to benefit the Jimmie R. Alford Scholarship at North Park University (designate “Jimmie R. Alford Scholarship Fund”).