University of Northern Iowa Students Receive Big Idea Award at National Conference

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DATE: January 11, 2018

CONTACT: Christa Beall Diefenbach, CNP, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (Email)

Kansas City, Mo. – The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance recently presented a group of students from the University of Northern Iowa with the inaugural “What’s the Big Idea?” Award, sponsored by KPMG. The awards presentation took place at the annual Alliance Management Institute—an educational conference geared toward students planning a career in the nonprofit sector. The 45th annual Institute was January 3-5, 2018, at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown.

“The students from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) demonstrated complexity of thought and presented a fantastic solution for building new university-community partnerships to develop and implement training solutions for community volunteers working with diverse populations. This ‘Big Idea’ not only builds the capacity of UNI and its local community, it also offers a replicable model for other communities,” says Susan T. Schmidt, CNP, president of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. “We are tremendously grateful to KPMG for recognizing the need for innovation and leadership in the nonprofit sector, and for their support of this award.”

The “What’s the Big Idea?” Award recognizes a group of Alliance students seeking the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential who have created an innovative solution to address a major challenge facing the nonprofit sector. The 2018 student groups focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in the nonprofit sector. Finalists from three Alliance campuses, Kennesaw State University, University of Northern Iowa and Arizona State University, presented their “Big Ideas” in front of a panel of judges and the 500 AMI attendees during the opening ceremony on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. University of Northern Iowa students Trevor Schmitt, Maddie Christensen, JD Waybill, Emily Dvorak and Morgan Rahe were presented with the award during the closing awards ceremony on January 5, 2018.

“Lifelong learning and driving a culture of innovation and experimentation is at the forefront of KPMG’s strategic priorities,” says KPMG Kansas City office Managing Partner Brad Sprong. “These students are embracing the type of innovating thinking businesses rely on, and will help to solve some of challenges the nonprofit sector faces. Congratulations to the winners.”

About KPMG LLP: KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm (, is the independent U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”). KPMG International’s independent member firms have 189,000 professionals, including more than 9,000 partners, in 152 countries.

About the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance: Since 1948, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance has worked to strengthen the social sector with a talented, prepared workforce. Its Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential is the only national nonprofit management certification in the U.S. The Alliance system, which includes nearly 40 colleges and universities, 15 national nonprofit partners and more than 10,000 CNPs, is the largest network in the country working to build a talent pipeline for the social sector.

University of Northern Iowa Students Receive Big Idea Award at National Conference

Cedar Valley nonprofits honored by UNI’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance

UNI’s Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance hosted the 14th Annual Cedar Valley Nonprofit Awards Luncheon on Thursday, April 5 in the University Commons Ballroom.  KWWL’s Abby Turpin emceed the event, which celebrates the accomplishments of the nonprofit sector and the contributions they make to the Cedar Valley.

This year also marked the 30th anniversary of having the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance on UNI’s campus.

Among the speakers were UNI’s Community Engagement Program Coordinator Kristina Kofoot, UNI President Mark Nook, and Susan Tomlinson Schmidt, the President of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, based in Kansas City.

Award recipients are:

Nonprofit Business Partner of the Year: Viking Pump, Nancy Schneider accepting

Gordon Mack Legacy Award: Mark Witmer of North Star Community Services

Robert Koob Award for Collaboration: Cedar Valley Mental Health Planning Coalition, Bruce Meisinger & Debbie Roth accepting

Nonprofit Board Member of the Year: Paula Goetz from Friends of Hartman Reserve Board of Directors

New Nonprofit Employee of the Year: Carmen Finken from UNI Sustainable Schools AmeriCorps

Keri Kulish Award for Outstanding Student Leadership: Karlene Izer, current intern at Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa

Nonprofit Staff Leader of the Year: Katie Orlando, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa

Exceptional Nonprofit of the Year: House of Hope

Special thanks went to the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association, and the College of Education’s Dean Fund for Excellence for supporting and sponsoring this year’s awards.

Learn more about UNI’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance here.

Cedar Valley nonprofits honored by UNI’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance


Certified To Change The World

UNI is the only institute in the state of Iowa that offers the nationally recognized nonprofit credential, the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP), to its students. The CNP is available to all UNI students and complements any major. Receiving this credential prepares students to enter the nonprofit field by equipping them with the knowledge and experiences necessary to excel in their future careers. In fact, research shows that professionals who have received their CNP credential are seven times more likely to rise to a director or higher-level position than those without the certification.

Certified Nonprofit Professional

Research shows that professionals who have received their CNP credential are seven times more likely to rise to a director or higher-level position than those without the certification.

So, how can UNI students earn their CNP?

Step 1: Take four required classes. (Course substitution will be considered.)

Step 2: Participate in the student-run organization on campus, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (NLA).

Step 3: Attend the annual Alliance Management Institute (AMI), which is a nonprofit leadership conference.

Step 4: Complete a 300-hour internship or field-based experience.

Step 5: Attend the annual Alliance Management Institute (AMI), which is a nonprofit leadership conference.

NLA, formally known as American Humanics, was founded in 1948. The NLA headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri, and is the only nonprofit organization to meet the need of educating and preparing students and professionals to be leaders in the nonprofit sector. Being involved in UNI’s NLA organization allows students to build professional development skills, participate in meaningful and fun events, attend nonprofit conferences and have access to internships and scholarships that other students may not have access to.

Participants are expected to attend at least one of the AMI conferences in order to graduate with your CNP. Each year, AMI is located in a different city in the nation. Last year, 42 students went to Houston, Texas, where they received the Program of Excellence Award, which recognizes the best program in the country. In January 2017, 38 students will be headed to Denver, Colorado, for the wonderful opportunity of attending this conference.

UNI NLA members have received several awards and recognitions at past AMI conferences, including:

  • First Place Graduate Research for “Students’ Perception of Fundraising Through Personal Solicitation,”
  • First Place Undergraduate Research for “The Role of Special Events in Raising Contributions and Awareness for Nonprofit Organizations,”
  • Second Place Graduate Research for “Effective Mission Messaging in Nonprofit Organizations: A Content Analysis,”
  • Third Place Graduate Research for “Going Viral: A Case Study of Lessons Learned from the ALS Foundation and the Ice Bucket Challenge” and
  • Third Place Undergraduate Research for “Social Media: Has It Impacted Organizations or Not?”

AMI is a great place for young professionals to learn new skills and to network with professionals in the nonprofit sector. Students in NLA also learn valuable fundraising skills through their Annual Giving Campaign, which helps students attend without financial burden. UNI is unique in that way, as many students from other universities have to pay to get to AMI on their own. This years giving campaign just kicked off recently, and their goal is to raise $31,000.

As a part of fundraising efforts, NLA hosts their annual Duck Dash in the WRC swimming pool and each student is responsible for earning $500. This includes a personal donation, calling past donors and presenting to family, friends and organizations about NLA for donations.

If you are interested in becoming certified to change the world, you can contact Angie Widner at or Julianne Gassman at


UNI Nonprofit Leadership Alliance

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