United States Change Country

Developing Leaders

At American Express, we work hard to attract, develop, and retain top talent to build our leadership pipeline. This commitment to identifying, developing and backing leaders also extends to our communities.

For over a decade, we have devoted significant resources to creating and funding programs that strengthen leaders within nonprofit and social purpose organizations working to solve the world's biggest challenges, with a specific focus on leaders who are people of color and from underrepresented groups.  From 2007 to 2020, we invested nearly $100 million to develop more than 150,000 social purpose leaders who are tackling some of society's most complex issues.

Chances are, there are American Express-trained leaders working in your community — for the causes you care about — right now.

American Express Leadership Academy

Founded in 2008, the American Express Leadership Academy builds the personal, business and leadership skills of emerging nonprofit and social purpose leaders through multi-day, in-person trainings. The initiative has grown to a global program, training world-class leaders in the areas of education, the arts, social services, health, the environment, and more. From 2008 to 2020, we hosted more than 160 Leadership Academy programs around the world, training more than 5,400 nonprofit and social purpose leaders.

Scaling our impact through digital learning

We recognize the need to further scale our leadership programs, so in addition to our hands-on and partner-led Leadership Academy programs, we support two online leadership development platforms for social purpose leaders: Leaderosity and Acumen Academy.

Continuing the leadership development journey

Leaders have much to learn from each other and, for true leaders, the learning never ends. Once emerging leaders have completed the Leadership Academy, we maintain our relationship with them and provide them with resources to build and maintain relationships with each other. We:

  • Offer ongoing alumni engagement through the American Express Leadership Academy LinkedIn group.

  • Organize an annual American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit.

  • Support, a storytelling platform we created in partnership with SparkAction, for Academy participants and grantees. The platform features stories, resources, tips and leadership insights from innovators and experts.


The projects we support encourage leadership development for diverse emerging nonprofit and social purpose leaders; and college students and opportunity youth (young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor working) interested in the social purpose sector through one or more of the following:

  • Diversifying the current landscape of nonprofit and social purpose leaders with an emphasis of increasing training for people of color and underrepresented groups.

  • Helping nonprofit organizations create, enhance or sustain leadership development programs for their high potential emerging leaders.

  • Transforming nonprofit organizations through best-in-class management and leadership practices, implementing management principles or expanding an organization's capacity to attract, develop and retain leadership talent.

Projects we are interested in supporting include:

  • Leadership training by an organization to a wider group of organizations within the same discipline or field.

  • Leadership development of an organization's local members or affiliates.

  • Leadership development of an organization located in key geographic areas.

  • Leadership training for college students and opportunity youth engaged in philanthropic work and/or interested in a career in the social purpose sector.

We are especially interested in supporting organizations led by people of color and underrepresented groups. 

The mission of the American Express Developing Leaders program is to support social purpose organizations by developing their current leaders, and a pipeline of leaders; with a focus on leaders who identify as people of color and underrepresented groups. 

American Express does not fund leadership programs for high school students or support scholarships for individuals' personal leadership training.


Americans for Indian Opportunity, Albuquerque, NM

Support for the Alumni of the Ambassadors Program, an initiative to support the next generation of Native American leaders through innovative programming created to renew and energize current leadership and empower Native Leaders to be the positive change agents in their communities and organizations. The organization engages its alumni network to develop strategies to advance systemic change.

Center for Nonprofit Advancement, Washington, DC

Support for the Executive Preparation Institute, a 12-month certificate series designed to help nonprofit staff develop the leadership capacity needed to step into an executive role.  Participants meet monthly, with sessions covering all aspects of nonprofit management, including fundraising, board governance, fiscal management, strategic planning, program evaluation, leadership and management.

Coro New York Leadership Center, New York, NY

Support for the Immigrant Civic Leadership Program (ICLP), which provides 20 immigrant leaders in New York City with training to develop leadership skills, build networks, convene and dialogue. Participants work on a community change project, which gives focus to the rigorous training while in the program and ensures ICLP’s impact lasts long after graduation.

Hispanics in Philanthropy, Oakland, CA and Mexico City, Mexico

Support for the leadership development program for nonprofit and social sector emerging leaders in Mexico and a leadership development program for emerging U.S. Latino leaders, with the long-term goals of strengthening Latinx nonprofit leadership and ensuring that the wider social sector has diverse talent.

Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc., Los Angeles, CA

Support for the Emerging Leaders Program, a six-month program designed to build organizational capacity by developing Asian and Pacific Islander (API) mid to senior staff for future and current leadership and management roles in nonprofit organizations. The program focuses on leadership development from an API cultural lens.

Public Allies, Arizona, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C.

Support for Men of Color in the AmeriCorps apprenticeship, a program to close the gap for men of color to ascend to positions of nonprofit leadership by removing the barriers they face to successfully complete the program and transition to sustainable, career-advancing opportunities.

Rainier Valley Corps, Seattle, WA

Support for the Leaders of Color Fellowship Program, a fellowship designed to bring more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and develop the capacity of organizations led by communities of color. The curriculum will focus on nonprofit management, adaptive and collective leadership, community engagement and fundraising.