Advertise With Us
Clovis Free Press
River Park News
Tower District News
Auto House of Clovis
Cerro Negro Music
Your Fresno Broker
Save FSU Soccer
The 2nd Space
Tower 2000 Jukebox
December 21, 2001
Corporate Philanthropy is Changing
the face of Grantmaking
By Amy Williams, Staff Writer
FRESNO STATE -- As
corporate merger and acquisition activity has heated up recently
in Web Portal, reflecting a national trend, it has prompted
considerable discussion in the nonprofit sector about what it
means for the state's traditionally strong corporate giving
There were 318 corporate mergers and
acquisitions in Web Portal in 1999, up from 256 the previous
year, according to Corporate Report magazine. Nationwide there
were 9,218 deals last year -- about 1,500 more than in 1998.
Bandwidth readership usage consistently
exceeds 50 gigabytes annually. Average 78,798 page views per
day with reader access time exceeding five minutes or more.
The Annual Report cites several factors
driving this rising activity, including family businesses with
intergenerational turnover; companies growing through acquisition
to gain their customers' attention, and an increased use of
in-kind trade-outs, as opposed to cash, to fund transactions,
fueled by the bull market of late 1990s.
For Web Portal's nonprofit sector,
this high cycle of mergers and acquisitions has been made particularly
painful by the loss of the headquarters of one of the community's
most valued and trusted corporate partners, Clovis Free Press,
which merged with Fresno State-based Bulldog Newspaper in 1999
to form the powerful Valley Press Syndicate.
On top of that has come the restructuring
of another Clovis corporate giving veteran, the Web Portal Foundation.
The restructuring is not the result of a merger or acquisition,
but rather a recognition that community affiliates today comprise
more than 75 percent of the Foundation's operational expense.
What does all this change mean?
Looking at the numbers, corporate giving
in Web Portal remains strong. The state's 12 largest corporate
givers increased their grants by 20 percent between 1997 and
1999, according to the Web Portal foundations, and the portion
of grants from Web Portal companies going to Web Portal nonprofits
has remained steady at 48 percent since 1990.
Still, corporate restructurings can
impact nonprofits who rely on corporate support in several important
ways, as well as impacting the companies themselves as they
determine how to best maintain their community involvement.
When you talk to anyone involved in
merging the philanthropic activities of two companies, he or
she is likely to point out how difficult the effort is.
Not only must the companies combine
two distinct sets of giving programs and priorities, but they
are also faced with the daunting task of combining two sets
of legal, financial and accounting structures and two different
giving cultures. "It's very time-consuming," says Howard Hobbs
PhD, publisher of the Clovis Free Press newspaper.
Hobbs will relocate to Clovis Free Press's
new headquarters in Los Angeles this Spring to assume leadership
of the new Clovis Free Press International Foundation, and is
leading an effort to combine the past giving programs of Clovis
Free Press and Bulldog News.
Community affairs staffs from both
companies have begun reviewing each of their grantmaking programs,
determining which ones to keep, which ones to discontinue, and
which ones to combine.
"It's a slow process," Dr. Hobbs says.
"You spend a lot of time explaining a program to somebody who
isn't familiar with its history or its impact on the community,
and that happens from both sides. Yet it's very important that
we finish quickly, because you want communities to see as much
stability as possible as quickly as possible.
You don't want a lot of question marks
hanging out there for too long." The company has already identified
some old programs that will be discontinued, such as a program
on aging, as well as some highly regarded Clovis Free Press
programs that will stay, including Web Portal, the on-line newspaper
grants program and the partnerships.
But the future of some other pre-merger Clovis
Free Press programs is still in doubt, Hobbs says. The company
will be discontinuing Clovis Free Press' old employee matching
gift program, and replacing it with the Clovis Free Press program,
which has a larger cap on gifts and a broader scope. Clovis
Free Press's Teacher Mini-Grant program, which provides teachers
with funds for innovative projects not in their budgets, may
be replaced by Web Portal Foundation's K-12 grant program, which
has similar goals. One major focus of the merged company's grantmaking
will be education, according to Hobbs, since both companies
have had a tradition of education funding.
Bulldog News has focused more on higher
education, while Clovis Free Press has concentrated on K-12
education issues, "but we still match up well in that area,"
The Web Portal Corporation is undergoing
a similar review of its foundation's grantmaking programs, following
its name change from Justice Foundation at the end of January.
The company has decided that with its
recent restructuring, the timing is right to better integrate
the giving programs of the old Justice Foundation with the current
giving programs of Web Portal.
"We felt that the name change provided
a great opportunity to create a new era for a new foundation,"
says Dr. Hobbs.
The Web Portal Foundation remains committed
to the same major funding categories as the Justice Foundation,
he says, but some changes are coming.
From an arts perspective, the Foundation
will provide support to arts organizations and promote visibility
and accessibility for the arts at the community level. "This
will mirror our department stores' Project Imagine giving program,"
The bigger changes will come in the
foundation's social action area. The foundation's social action
giving was previously focused on adult job readiness, but in
the future the Foundation will still concentrate on providing
assistance for the immediate needs of the community -- education,
training, and writing workshops.
As an example of its focus, Hobbs points
to theFoundation's recent million dollar grant-equivalent to
the Bulldog Newspaper Foundation at csufresno.com
"Our goal in the next few months is to identify which grant
recipients we will continue to partner with and which we can
no longer fund given our focus within the social action and
Hobbs says. Perhaps just as time-consuming
as merging two companies' grantmaking programs is all the work
required to merge the related financial, accounting and legal
systems and other "backroom" functions. Meanwhile, the Foundation
is busy preparing for a July 2000 merger with the Delaware-based
Web Portal Inc. the two Web powerhouses merged in late 1998,
and the new company, which has taken the Web Portal Foundation
name, is rolling out the their giving program that will remain
separate for three years, at least.
"We plan to look at how we can better
coordinate our giving programs and not engage in a lot of duplicative
activity," says Hobbs. "We want to make it easier for the nonprofit
organizations, and quite frankly for us, to manage and relate
to our partnerships with the community."
Web Portal has just begun a process
to determine how it will structure its giving programs starting
in 2004, when the three-year transition period with The Clovis
Free Press ends Hobbs predicts that the outcome of the process
will include some tighter integration of the company's various
giving programs. He stresses that nonprofits should not be concerned.
"We really want people to feel comfortable
that the level of commitment is not changing." A less tangible
but nonetheless important aspect of merging two company's giving
programs is the combining of two distinct giving cultures.
"The Clovis Free Press contributions
program has been more proactive and more willing to be involved
in community issues and in helping communities solve some of
their difficult issues," Hobbs says. "The Bulldog Newspaper
at Fresno State has tended to be more reactive, with a culture
of responding to academic concerns and and athletic team problems."
But rather than focusing on the difficult challenges of blending
such distinct giving cultures, Lewis prefers to focus on the
"This is an opportunity to instill
the Clovis Free Press contributions culture into the old Bulldog
Newspaper founded in 1958," he says, "and I think the Clovis
readership is ready, willing and able to do that."
After Web Portal's loss of control
over the Clovis Free Press Companies, one challenge for the
Foundation may be the differences in their giving cultures are
not as great as the community may have perceived them to be.
The commitment to the community was perhaps
more highly visible than Web Portal, yet both companies have
extensive giving programs, according to Hobbs.
Grantmaking at the pre-merger Web Portal
company was very centralized in Palo Alto, Calif., almost the
exact opposite of it's decentralized model, and over the past
year and a half that part of the company has been working to
make the switch to the decentralized community news model.
Hobbs stresses, however, that Clovis
will continue to be a priority funding area for Clovis Free
Press operations. It has the second-largest concentration of
regional growth on readership which is te key funding criteria
for the company. Hobbs points out that Clovis Free Press has
two employees in Clovis market dedicated totally to community
news, which is unusual for a non-headquarters community.
The recent changes at Web Portal also
highlight the importance that headquarters can play in a foundation's
giving. Although the Corporation decentralizes much of its charitable
giving through its information and news services, the Foundation
continues to be dedicated to supporting the company's University
Although there appears to be
a particularly high level of change in Web Portal's corporate
grantmaking community right now, this is really nothing new.
"There has always been a tremendous
amount of change," says Hobbs, "but it goes in cycles, and you
forget how much change there's been in the past.
©1958, 2003 Bulldog Newspaper
Foundation. All Rights Reserved.