A.J. Fletcher Foundation — History

Growth and expansion | Building the sector | Technology
A new home for opera | Shaping change | Leading for change

The A. J. Fletcher Foundation was established through the generosity of the late Alfred Johnston Fletcher (1887-1979). Mr. Fletcher’s original objective was to provide annual operating support for Grass Roots Opera, one of his numerous civic and artistic endeavors. Created in 1948, Grass Roots Opera had evolved into The National Opera Company by the early 1970’s.

Growth and expansion  

The foundation was a quiet, relatively unknown supporter of various musical institutions and scholarships in area colleges until fairly recently. In 1986, the foundation was a major beneficiary of the sale of Southern Life Insurance Company, an organization Mr. Fletcher had helped form.

With the foundation’s assets more than doubling as a result of the sale, the board committed significant support to symphony orchestras, opera companies, colleges, universities and other arts institutions.

The foundation began to broaden its focus to other pressing issues, including public education, poverty programs and statewide service organizations. It also took significant steps to provide seed money for new and emerging nonprofits, and to support development programs for nonprofits.

With significant new resources, the foundation increased funding for the opera company and broadened its support into a wider range of charitable endeavors. These new areas reflected the concerns of the foundation board and Jim and Barbara Goodmon. New areas the foundation addressed included human services, illiteracy and the health and well-being of children.

In 1997, the foundation helped purchase and renovate the historic Briggs Hardware Building in downtown Raleigh. Completed in 1874, the building was the city’s tallest for many years and, by the 1990’s, had become the city’s oldest extant commercial structure.

Deteriorating and facing possible demolition, the Briggs Building seemed an unlikely candidate for a nonprofit business center. Nevertheless, through an equity partnership with Preservation North Carolina, the foundation acquired and completely reconstructed this important community landmark. In the process, it created a home for itself and several nonprofits, including Preservation North Carolina, the Raleigh City Museum and North Carolina Special Olympics.

The foundation in 2000 purchased the 1911 Boylan-Pearce department store building adjacent to Briggs, and plans to make office or retail space there available to other nonprofits.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Return to top ]

Building the sector

A chief foundation objective for nearly two decades has been to help ensure the strength of North Carolina’s nonprofit sector. The foundation has made grants to organizations in diverse fields to strengthen their internal operations. These grants have been used for staff salaries, administrative education and resource development, technical assistance and program development, and foundation-sponsored conferences for nonprofit boards and staff, focusing on management issues and technical tools.
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During a lifetime that encompassed most of the 20th century, Mr. Fletcher carried through on a positive vision for the future of North Carolina’s arts and educational institutions. The foundation continues his legacy by using the internet to address common needs. To strengthen ties with our traditional partners and to help forge new, effective relationships within North Carolina’s nonprofit community, the foundation has supported the growth of technology in the nonprofit sector.
And in February 2000, the foundation supported the launch of the Philanthropy Journal, an online nonprofit news site that reports on philanthropy and nonprofits in our state, and throughout the U.S. and abroad. The Journal includes pages for job postings and announcements, and publishes email newsletters with links to news stories and editorials on its website.

In 1996, the foundation’s board of directors committed significant resources to establish the A. J. Fletcher Foundation website, which served as an ongoing “annual report” with news, funding guidelines, reports on grantees, foundation history, and information on the board and staff. The foundation now has merged its own web site into that of the Philanthropy Journal.
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A new home for opera

On Sept. 21, 2001, the foundation and the N.C. School of the Arts signed a historic document establishing the A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute at the school’s Winston-Salem campus.

The foundation agreed to underwrite $500,000 a year in operating expenses of the institute for 10 years, and to establish an endowment with an additional $500,000 a year during the same period. The N.C. School of the Arts agreed to make a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution to both annual operations and endowment. As a result, the institute will have an operating budget of at least $1 million a year, and by 2011 should have a permanent endowment with a minimum of $10 million in assets.

Twelve Fletcher “fellows” will be selected each year for graduate and post-graduate degrees:

  • The Master of Music will provide performance-based training to young singers who demonstrate the potential for advanced study in opera.
  • The Performing Arts Certificate is a post-master’s program offered to singers who demonstrate exceptional potential for success in a professional career.

Each year, Fletcher fellows will perform in fully staged productions of new and established operatic works and participate in touring and educational outreach programs. The institute is expected to quickly become one of the nation’s leading centers for the training of professional singers and the production of opera. Along with the new A. J. Fletcher Opera Theater in downtown Raleigh, the institute is also intended to be a perpetu
al embodiment of Mr. Fletcher’s goals for opera and music education.                                                                                                                                                                                       Return to top ]

Shaping change

With Mr. Fletcher’s vision for opera firmly and perpetually established, the A. J. Fletcher Foundation looks to the future with confidence and commitment to the changing issues facing North Carolina. Over the past 20 years, the foundation has contributed $35 million to over 300 North Carolina organizations. In 2001 alone, over $2,250,000 was paid on existing pledges.

The foundation is flexible in its funding, supports a broad range of causes, serves as an advocate for human services, and works to help shape public policy in North Carolina.

The Philanthropy Journal reports on our state’s nonprofit sector, and provides a voice for nonprofits.

In 2003, the foundation supported creation of the Institute for Nonprofits at N.C. State University to prepare future nonprofit leaders and support our state’s nonprofit sector.

And in 2004, the foundation launched NC Policy Watch, a new program that serves as a watchdog of public policy in the state.                                                                               Return to top ]

Leading for change

Under the leadership of Barbara and Jim Goodmon, the foundation aims to be a force for social progress in North Carolina, strengthening human services, giving voice to people without a voice, and shaping public policy through partnerships.                                                                                                                                                                                   Return to top ]

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