It seems like only yesterday that Tom McGuire and I were playing in a charity golf event with a couple of unfortunate partners who spent the day cringing as they watched each of us hook and slice our way into water hazards, woods, and sand traps. Thankfully the golf gods were a forgiving bunch and we finished the tournament a few strokes ahead of the last-place team. Our score was unfortunate, but insignificant to either of us, as it was clear that our time spent together that day had a much higher purpose than showing well in the tournament. It was during this outing that Tom and I first broached the idea of starting a small consulting practice together. A few months later, on January 1, 2004, the Philanthropic Advisory Group (the original name of Armstrong McGuire & Associates) officially opened its doors for business.
Thinking about those early days always makes me smile. We loved traveling across North Carolina – from the mountains to the coast – pitching our business, conducting feasibility studies, leading retreats, and helping nonprofits think strategically and plan effectively. We celebrated many successes along the way. We also weathered seasons when economic forces and other headwinds shook our confidence. There were some who warned us that business partnerships ruin even the best of friendships. Maybe that’s true for some, but it wasn’t our truth. As we navigated these ups and downs of running a small and undercapitalized business, we maintained a shared commitment to succeeding – and succeeding together.
We intentionally expanded our scope of services as our understanding grew of the challenges faced by nonprofits struggling to build capacity, grow, and sustain their commitment to mission. A few years into our journey, we demonstrated our true corporate brilliance by inviting some wonderful professionals to join us in this adventure. Judy Bright and Shannon Williams were our first additions. Judy shared her unique style of planning and facilitating that endeared her to everyone she encountered. Shannon gifted us with her abundance of special talents that continue to shape the firm’s vision and reputation in our community.
As the opportunities grew, so did the team. Amazing professionals like Priscilla Bratcher and Derwin Dubose and Danielle Irving shared a season of their professional careers with us. As the clients continued calling, we strategically sought out the gifts and talents of new advisors who form the core of our team today: April Anthony, Leslie Starsoneck, Paul Starsoneck, Mendi Nieters, Katie Weeks, Staci Barfield, and Beth Briggs. It’s a talented team I am honored to work with and to call friends.
2019 marks the firm’s 15th year of serving our nonprofit and philanthropic community. Tom’s death last year leaves a personal and professional void for me and for my team. We are considering ways to honor his memory during this anniversary year and will have more details on that at a later date. But for now, we know that the best way for the firm to honor Tom is by faithfully upholding our commitment to the core values that started it all: integrity, experience, relationships, and results. You can count on us doing just that!
Fifteen years, hundreds of clients, thousands of great leaders and volunteers placed along our path, millions of dollars raised and invested in mission-driven work across our state, and countless blessings from being part of North Carolina’s thriving nonprofit and philanthropic community! Thanks to all who have placed your trust in the Armstrong McGuire team. We will continue striving to be deserving of this trust in the years ahead as we help nonprofits do great things!