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Backing the People Who Are Moving the World Forward

We work hard to attract, develop, and retain top talent to build our leadership pipeline. This commitment to identifying, developing and backing leaders extends to our communities.

We develop leaders

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. Since 2008, we have invested more than $80 million to develop more than 100,000 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 leaders and social entrepreneurs 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. To date, we have hosted more than 130 Leadership Academy programs across 12 countries, training more than 4,300 nonprofit and social sector 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.

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 our programs, 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.

Grant Criteria

The kinds of projects we support encourage leadership development for emerging nonprofit and social purpose leaders through one or more of the following:

  • Helping nonprofit organizations create, enhance or sustain leadership development programs for their high potential emerging leaders.
  • Diversifying the current landscape of nonprofit leaders.
  • Transforming 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.

Because the mission of the American Express Developing Leaders program is to support social purpose organizations by developing their current leaders, we do not fund leadership programs for high school or college students or support scholarships for individuals' personal leadership training.

Recent Grants

Acumen, New York, NY

Support for +Acumen, an online portal that shares unique leadership tools and guidance on building social enterprises through its free and low cost courses. Leaders from 192 countries have used +Acumen to sharpen their skills and gained new learning tools through on-line courses, volunteering and leveraging Acumen's network of worldwide chapters.

Chicago Foundation for Women, Chicago, IL

Support for the Women’s Leadership Development Initiative, a program for emerging nonprofit professionals, which provides professional development activities, skill-building, coaching and mentoring with the overall goal of building a stronger nonprofit sector in Chicago. The program is designed to help all levels of nonprofit professionals throughout their careers from entry-level, mid-level, Executive Directors and board leadership.

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.

Dance/USA, Washington, DC

Support for the Institute for Leadership Training, a six-month, national one-on-one mentorship program in the professional dance field that engages nine mentor/mentee pairs. The program builds the leadership and decision-making skills of diverse, emerging dance leaders.

Forum for Youth Investment (SparkAction), Brooklyn, NY

Support for, a storytelling platform to share the leadership journeys of social purpose leaders,, uses video storytelling to share key resources and insights on leadership development from innovators and experts. These stories inspire, inform and connect emerging leaders across the nonprofit sector.

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 Latino 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.