James McDonough, Alphawood Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, arts education, performing arts, LGBT, domestic violence, literature, and historic building preservation in the Chicagoland area

CONTACT: jmcdonough@alphawood.org, 773-477-8984

IP TAKE: McDonough takes a legally cautious and media-savvy approach to grantmaking at Alphawood. The foundation has traditionally been known for its support of LGBT causes, but architectural preservation has been a hot topic lately too.

PROFILE: Alphawood Foundation founder Fred Eychaner is a really private guy. So it sort of makes sense that he chose a media executive from the Sun Times to run his philanthropy. In July 2012, James McDonough put in his resignation with the Chicago newspaper to become the Alphawood Foundation's executive director. Eychaner looked for someone to fill the position for at least three months before deciding McDonough was the right man for the job.

McDonough was chosen for his experience in the non-profit arena, legal expertise, and media credentials. He was the chairman of the Sun Times Charity Trust and was an adviser to several other charities in the city. Upon hiring McDonough, Eychaner said, "Jim brings a wealth of experience in advocacy and not-for-profit organizations, informed by a deep and varied background as a lawyer and businessperson in the media world. We look forward to his leadership of our organization."

It certainly helped that he served on the national board of Lambda Legal, the legal organization that stands up for the civil rights of LGBT and HIV-positive communities. You see, Eychaner is one of the few foundation leaders who is openly gay, and Alphawood is one of the few foundations that regularly support LGBT causes.

McDonough began his career in the field of law after graduating from Northwestern University School of Law and becoming a partner at Gardner, Carton & Douglas. He has even been appointed as a member of the Committee on Professional Responsibility by the Illinois Supreme Court. Clearly, Eychaner feels most comfortable when surrounded by lawyers. (Around the same time that McDonough's appointment was announced, another lawyer by the name of Brad White was brought on to develop Alphawood's affordable housing and community development programs.)

During his stint at the Sun Times, McDonough served as a senior vice president, chief administrative officer, and media expert. According to Windy City Media Group, "Since joining the senior management of Sun-Times Media in 2005, that company has successfully entered and exited bankruptcy and has been sold twice to separate groups of local investors."

More recently, McDonough has been pushing the Alphawood Foundation to support architectural preservation causes. In mid-2013, he announced that Alphawood would work with the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation to donate $10 million to restore Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in suburban Oak Park. "The Alphawood Foundation is committed to supporting efforts that preserve and protect the Chicago area's architectural legacy," McDonough said in a written statement. "We are delighted that our gift will be an important first step toward the restoration and preservation of this international landmark." Alphawood is looking to revitalize or overhaul preservation organizations like this one to facilitate public programming and tours.

The Alphawood Foundation's purpose is to provide advocacy and support grants in the areas of architectural preservation, domestic violence prevention, LGBT rights, and the environment. The Association for Public Television Stations said it best: "The critical issue for organizations that have not previously been funded is gaining access in order to be invited to submit a proposal." To learn more about Alphawood's grantmaking program, put in a call to 773-477-8984 or email info@alphawoodfoundation.org.