By Todd Cohen
Tom McGuire, executive director of the $45 million-asset A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh for 15 years, will step down at the end of the year to form a management advisory firm.
McGuire, who helped the foundation give more than $40 million to a broad range of causes and spearheaded its efforts to help nonprofits strengthen their internal operations, will focus his firm on organizational planning, management issues and resource development.
“Tom can write the book on effective management in the nonprofit community, including capacity-building and the use of partnerships,” says Jim Goodmon, president of the foundation and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co. “We plan to work with Tom as a consultant in our arts activities in the future.”
McGuire, one of North Carolina’s longest-serving foundation executives, joined Fletcher in 1988 as its first executive director after serving as executive director of the N.C. Symphony and the Arkansas Symphony.
During his tenure, the foundation has granted $2.5 million to $3 million a year on average, although it has not accepted unsolicited proposals for two years.
Those grants include the largest music scholarship program in the state and $2 million to create the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at the BTI Performing Arts Center in Raleigh in partnership with the city of Raleigh.
McGuire also planned and led the transfer of the foundation’s National Opera Company to the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem in 2001.
As part of that move, the foundation agreed to give the school $10 million over 10 years to support what is now the Fletcher Opera Institute.
It also invested $3 million to renovate downtown Raleigh’s historic Briggs Hardware building, which houses the foundation and other nonprofits, and $1 million to renovate the Boylan-Pearce building next door.
McGuire also oversaw the foundation’s launch of the Philanthropy Journal in 2000, and this year has been working two days a week as a loaned executive to help the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh assess its financial development, budgeting, marketing, organizational structure and management information systems.
McGuire says his philosophy at the foundation “was always to create working partnerships with grantee organizations, believing strongly that donors and recipients represent two equal sides of the same coin when it comes to solving community problems.”
Tony Habit, president of the Wake Education Partnership, says the foundation under McGuire’s leadership “stood above others in the state through its commitment to capacity-building in nonprofit organizations.”
After trying unsuccessfully to find startup support, for example, the all-volunteer Durham Public Education Network in 1989 landed its first grant, $120,000 over three years from Fletcher, an investment that enabled it to hire its first staff and has helped generate more than $10 million for the group, says Habit, who was its first executive director.
After Fletcher made the grant, McGuire acted as a “coach and guide,” a gift from the foundation “that never will appear on a balance sheet,” Habit says.
“Tom made sure that a charitable contribution from the foundation had great depth and resonance,” Habit says, “because he played an active part in being sure that those gifts were used to the best possible benefit in communities and in organizations.”