Past Triangle Community Foundation Board Chair and current Board member as chair of the Foundation Leadership Council, fundholder Rick Guirlinger with his wife Annette has been part of the Foundation’s family for almost half of its existence, and we couldn’t be more grateful for his dedication to our organization in so many ways.

Rick credits his parents with teaching him the importance of honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, and a sense of obligation to help those not as fortunate. “Philanthropy started early, with a portion of my allowance, in addition to money earned from mowing neighbors’ lawns, a paper route, and various high school jobs, set aside for church, March of Dimes, and causes introduced to me by my parents. This became more intentional after marriage and having children, in that my wife and I wanted to continue this practice with our two sons.” Rick credits Hamilton Sloan, a Foundation fundholder and co-owner of General Parts, Inc. where Rick was working at the time, with introducing him to the Foundation. Rick first joined the Finance Committee in 2005, and “a year later I became a Board member. Over the next few years, the fund balances at the Foundation grew to over $100 million, and I was privileged to be Vice-Chair of the Board under Dr. Phail Wynn’s guidance. I am pleased to say that one of our most significant accomplishments during that time was to secure Lori O’Keefe as CEO.”

Finding Alignment Between Donors and Nonprofits

From Rick’s affiliation with the Foundation for almost 20 years, he has gained perspective on both the nonprofit and donor landscapes. “One of the largest issues for nonprofits I've come across is how much they can get mired down with administrative tasks. To mitigate that, you have to go after donors who will be investors, and you can’t over-communicate with them. People that are intentional with their dollars need to know what you're doing, because you want to retain them as an investor. It doesn't mean you have to bombard them with email blasts every week, but you should tell them the impact you're having and how it aligns with their philanthropic goals. I think too many nonprofits do not understand who their donor/investor is. They don't do enough due diligence on who they want as donor/investors, instead going after the same 50 or so people everyone pursues since they are known to donate large amounts, but whose interests might not align with your mission.”

Similarly, donors need to understand where their true passions lie. About ten years ago, Rick was asked by a community member to perform the exercise of writing down all the organizations whose boards he served on and then analyzing whether or not they aligned with his interests. “At the time I was serving on about 8-10 boards, and as it turns out, there were only about three that were aligned. While it wasn’t bad for me to be serving, what it meant was that I was taking the place of someone who was a better fit because they had more of a passion for the cause. At the end of the day, that is the type of value-add the Foundation brings to the table, helping donors and nonprofits understand how to align themselves with each other.”

Challenges in the Community

In looking at the evolution of the Triangle and the issues that exist in today’s economy, one of Rick’s biggest concerns is the lack of affordable housing. “Today our region is mostly a service economy. A lot of businesses are looking for service workers and can’t find them for a number of reasons, primarily because they simply can't afford to live here. Not only is that a housing issue, it's a transportation issue. People are trying to come in from 50 miles away every day, since $15-$20 an hour works out to a gross income of between $30,000-$40,000 a year, and the median home price in Wake County almost at $500,000 is out of reach. We have to solve those type of issues to make this economy work.”

Rick sees the Foundation as playing a role in solving such issues. “The Foundation is known for being a convener, so how can we gather all the stakeholders in the same room? We need to say to folks, ‘Check your politics at the door, we are just here to have a discussion,’ and include city officials and government officials. I think there are some councilmen and women that would join us, but unless the discussion starts, there won't be one. What can we do in this community here to raise issues and give not a handout but a hand up that’s sincere and genuine? That then becomes a reinvestment back. I think the Foundation can do more to provide awareness because somebody has to, and who better than a community foundation?”

Hopes for the Foundation’s Future

Rick’s hopes are twofold as he looks to the future. “First, for those that helped the Foundation get through the first 40 years, particularly the first 20-25, that their heirs and descendants will continue this journey - as much as the founders did, and as much as the initial supporters did, and take it to the next level. Clearly 40 years ago this area was very different. It's so much bigger, and issues are much more complex. Second, I hope we connect to the emerging wealth that's in this area. So many people have moved and continue to move here with many companies building satellite headquarters. There is a huge opportunity to bring those folks on board, because a lot of them want to know what's taking place collectively and how to make this community stronger. The next level with the Foundation is to have gatherings of small focus groups with this next generation to expand awareness more quickly.

“I hope my efforts at being an ambassador for Triangle Community Foundation results in others becoming community investors and not simply donors to the needs of our area.  I am convinced that this community we call the Triangle does not have a giving concern but instead has a greater need for awareness of the nonprofits delivering much needed services and changing lives for the better of those they serve. We are blessed to reside in such a vibrant and growing area, and we must remember there are those among us not as fortunate and we have an obligation to support them as we are able.”