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O’Neal quits Triangle Family Services

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – In an apparent disagreement over the role the agency’s board should play in fundraising, George H. O’Neal III has resigned as president and CEO of Triangle Family Services after heading the agency for nearly 21 years.

The agency announced the move Sept. 11 in a two-sentence email message saying O’Neal had resigned effective Sept. 7 “to explore new professional opportunities.”

O’Neal said in a brief phone interview that “it was at a point where maybe the direction I saw the agency needing to go and the direction that others saw was not in agreement, so I’ve moved on.”

He declined to discuss details.

George McCanless, senior vice president for finance for The News & Observer and board chairman for Triangle Family Services, said by phone that O’Neal was “just looking to move to the next challenge.”

He also declined to discuss details.

“He wanted to do something different,” McCanless said. “All I feel at liberty or comfortable to tell you is he submitted his resignation and the board accepted it.”

A source close to the agency says O’Neal quit because of differences with the board over its reluctance to step up its fundraising activity.

O’Neal, reflecting the position of a growing number of experts who believe a top priority for nonprofit boards is to play a central role in developing their organizations’ philanthropic assets, wanted the agency’s board to get more involved in fundraising, but the board was reluctant to play that role, the source says.

Under O’Neal, the agency built its annual revenues to $2.6 million from $375,000, and launched a series of new programs, including those focusing on children’s mental health; treatment for domestic offenders; supervised visitation and exchange for children from domestic-violence families; emergency housing; and the needs of Hispanic families.

But the agency also has faced growing pressure to raise money.

In recent years, for example, it suffered over $350,000 in cuts from Triangle United Way.

It also has suffered cuts in federal dollars it received for its domestic offenders program through from the Governor’s Crime Commission, as well as cuts in Medicaid funds for mental health services it provides.

The source close to the agency says it has not had a “culture of fundraising,” and that O’Neal has “worked hard to build that.”

O’Neal, for example, recently contracted with a development professional to supplement the work of the agency’s development officer.

And under his leadership, the agency recently was awarded a $25,000 grant from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation to support the agency’s development efforts, with two more $25,000 grants expected each of the next two years. [The Philanthropy Journal is a publication of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.]

O’Neal is immediate past president of the Triangle chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and in 2001 received the chapter’s Lichtin Family Award for outstanding nonprofit professional.

On Sept. 11, he was among over 70 guests attending a private party the Raleigh home of Ralph Falls to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Triangle Family Services.

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