Among Jimmy and Michael Goodmon’s earliest memories of giving back include volunteering with their mother at the Salvation Army dressed as elves to pass out presents during the holidays. “There was a notion in the family that we are part of the community, and we should help whenever we can help,” says Jimmy. This notion is in fact a longstanding commitment from the Goodmon family, who have given generously for decades through the AJ Fletcher Foundation, Capitol Broadcasting Company, and its flagship station WRAL-TV.

Philanthropy runs deep in the Goodmon family – at least four generations so far. Alfred Johnson (A.J.) Fletcher moved his family to Raleigh in 1919 after studying law at Wake Forest College, and went on to establish a successful legal practice, the Dixie Life Insurance Company, Hayes Barton Laundry and Dry Cleaners, and most profoundly, Capitol Broadcasting Company (CBC). Along the way, Mr. Fletcher was a huge supporter of the arts, founding what would become the National Opera Company as well as the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNC School of the Arts through a generous grant. Supporting the arts and education served as a cornerstone of the foundation’s work. Today, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation (AJFF) also supports statewide public charities focused on support of the elderly, promotion of education, artistic endeavors, communication arts, public recreation, or the fostering of religious faith.

Investing in the Community They Call Home

With ever evolving community needs in the region over the last several decades, chances are the Goodmon family’s involvement is evident in some way. “We’ve always been of the mindset that if a nonprofit wants to get started or there is an event people want to run and it’s a net positive for the community, we absolutely want to help,” says Jim. “AJFF in particular has always had an emphasis on helping organizations get started. We’ll provide a grant so you can perform a study. To help with fundraising, we’ll provide a grant for a year or two for an organization’s development director. In this way we’ve worked on getting organizations like the North Carolina Symphony Foundation, the Public Television Foundation, and The Museum of Natural Sciences started.”

The Goodmons are absolutely in favor of the region’s growth in recent years. “There's no such thing as standing still,” says Jim. “You're going one way or the other, and so we need good steady growth. The key is that we do a good job with it. We're in the fortunate or unfortunate position that we've got all these people coming here whether we want them to or not. So we have to deal with the fact of growth.”

Jimmy adds that, “I think the most important part is building a plan after gathering robust feedback from the community and then working the plan. And once you build it, you stick to that plan unless there is a really good reason not to. I think one of the things that can happen is we work together to make a plan and then eight months later, a new City Council votes that they want a different plan, which gives everybody who was part of that process a slap in the face. So it’s really about stability and confidence in that stability.”

Approach to Giving

When the Goodmon family considers their giving strategy, it is definitely not one-size-fits-all. AJFF has a charter to support certain areas of philanthropy and CBC responds to broad community initiatives, but “we don’t necessarily say uniformly, ‘Hey, this is more important than that,’” says Jimmy. “For us it’s about being part of this community and doing our part to make it a better place. If good things are going on in a place like this it means the wagons are going to turn and come this direction. And then at its base level, we think of folks that work with us similarly to the way we think about our family - like they are our second family, and we want their kids to have a good education. We want them to be safe. We want to feel good when we pull somebody from Portland, let’s say. That the quality of life they're going to experience is what they expect or better. The only way we know how to play a part in that and actually pull levers is to contribute to the community in the areas we think can impact and benefit the whole community in the best way.”

“There are two parts to it,” adds Jim. “We should have a great public school system because we should. If you want to think about the business part of that, companies aren't going to come here and we're not going to have a successful community without a good public school system. Doing both grows the community overall and are good for the economic health of the community.”

Speaking to the Next Generation

At the Foundation we always strive to bring along the next generation of donors and fundholders, and the Goodmons are a great example of that. Again, Jimmy credits his parents with instilling the value of doing good in the community from the beginning. “We recognized very early that everybody didn't have the same things we did and that we really needed to be thankful for what we did have,” he says. “If there is one thing I think we need to bring along with younger generations, it’s a civics education. I don’t think kids are learning about what citizenship means, what it means to be a member of a community, a society, a nation in the same way they used to at school. Part of that may have to do with the type of world we live in now – it’s a more tangible concept when there is a world war going on and in order to save the world we have to come together to do it. What are we doing to make sure that no matter what, if you go through eighth grade, anywhere in the United States, you have a civics education about what it means to be part of a community in a city and a town and why that's important.”

One of Michael’s biggest concerns is how easy it is to “curate” one’s life. “We can curate what opinions we see, what opinions we don't. And our kids are seeing who we interact with, and who we don’t. As a result, I think a lot of kids don't have the exposure to diverse points of view and the ability to respect those different viewpoints and cultivate an ‘agree to disagree’ mentality. As Jimmy mentioned, it felt really good playing the elf. It was a humbling experience. That's just a context that is lost a lot today, and exposure is a big part of it.”

Jimmy adds that, “I've read that the psychology changed after World War II, and there was a shift from ‘we’ to ‘me.’ There are studies showing that from 1900 to 1960 in references and literature, the word ‘we’ is paramount, and soon thereafter is an exponential growth in ‘me’ culture, and while this is happening in other countries as well, it is happening in a more pronounced way here in the U.S.”

Jim believes there’s a simple approach to get people involved. “The only answer I have is the answer I always give, and that’s that you have to ask them.”

Michael also feels that as a culture we are always seeking out the latest thing, and as a result organizations who have been doing incredible work for decades can get ignored. “The Salvation Army, YMCA, Boy Scouts, food pantries….they are all powerful organizations but aren’t revolutionary by today’s standards, and are lacking the support they once had because they seem like ‘granddad’s charity’.”

From Jim’s perspective, he points to the Foundation’s Fund for the Triangle as a type of fundraising vehicle he wishes more organizations would utilize because it makes it easy to participate. “I appreciate the model of community members saying to us, ‘These are the organizations we think need your support.’ There is an efficiency of fundraising in a model like that, rather than asking me personally what organizations I want my money to go to. I really appreciate the fact that the Foundation decides who gets the money. You're going to evaluate what's going on in the community and you’re going to send my money where you think it can be best used.”

Looking Towards the Future

The Goodmons have been great partners with the Foundation for many years, and we weren’t shy about asking them what they thought we could be doing better to support the Triangle. Jim’s main suggestion was that we amplify what the tangible needs are within our community. “It’s really important for people to know the true statistics, like how many homeless kids there are in Raleigh tonight. I know that Wake County ranks really high in the U.S. in terms of the inability to get out of poverty. You can’t help solve a problem if you don’t even know it exists.”

Michael added that there exists a need for more cohesion in the Triangle and feels the Foundation can serve as a conduit and convener. “I find there are so many that don’t understand the different amenities of each community. They are focused very insularly and don’t seem to understand we are one region, and we need to work together to make it better.” One example of this dysfunction in action he points to is light rail. “We spent hundreds of millions of dollars and have nowhere to go with it, and that’s because folks were too focused on the effects in their individual cities and not the collective good it could cause.”

In closing, Jim, Jimmy, and Michael reflected on their existing legacy while also capturing what needs to be done as we grow and move forward. And with an upcoming election in 2024, Jim stressed that, “We have to establish in our country and our community the notion that we're going to vote. Everybody's going to vote, from the smallest local election to the national ones. That’s how we shape the community we want to see.” And as for the legacy of the Goodmon family’s philanthropy? “There is no legacy. It just keeps rolling.”