Our Story

A democracy is never on cruise control—it needs guidance that is wise, strong, farsighted, fair-minded, and concerned for the welfare of everyone.
James B. McClatchy

The Central Valley Foundation was founded in 1994 by the late James B. McClatchy and his wife, Susan McClatchy, as an engine for James’ dream to build a greater California Central Valley—an inclusive democracy that works regardless of race, language, or wealth.

With James’ passing in 2006, the Foundation changed its name to the James B. McClatchy Foundation (JBMF) to honor James and his vision. We continued forging ahead, vigorously increasing grantmaking efforts to support an inclusive, diverse democracy.

James and Susan’s Foundation has since advocated for English learners and supported the First Amendment through grants for programs and projects that cover gaps in our multilingual communities and local spheres of journalism.

Our Founders

I see the sunrise as a fulfillment of the dreams James and I had for the Foundation. The needs of the Central Valley are so great and the solutions to address them should come from the people who live there. JBMF’s sunrise plan is but the grease to facilitate what already exists in diverse communities. Although we are sunsetting, we are calling on others to join us on an ambitious journey for lasting change.

Susan McClatchy
JBMF Board Vice Chair & Founding Board Member

Our History

A Foundation is Established
  • James and Susan launch The Central Valley Foundation (CVF) with their personal assets and contributions with James as its first President.

  • The first grants are awarded to Fresno Regional Foundation and Sacramento Regional Foundation for $1,000 each.

Initial Grants
  • The Foundation issues its first education grants to Fresno and Madera schools, mostly aimed at supporting efforts for English Learner students, classrooms, schools, parents, and teachers.

  • Sacramento area schools receive their first grants.

  • First Amendment grants primarily focus on the First Amendment Coalition and Committee to Protect Journalists. 

  • First Amendment grantmaking expands to local journalism collaborations and news access for under-resourced communities.

Defining Moments
  • James and Susan donate additional funds to CVF toward a $30 million goal.

  • James passed away in 2006, and the Foundation renewed its commitment to his wishes and dreams for the Central Valley.

  • Grantmaking increases with a laser-focused effort for English Learners. 

  • In recognition of James, the CVF board established the James B. McClatchy Endowed Chair in First Amendment at Stanford University.

  • The first part-time Executive Director is hired.

A Foundation Grows
  • Grantmaking expands to school districts and educational partners for refining teacher development, increasing student outcomes, and encouraging more data analysis.

A Sunsetting Mindset
  • The Board approves the sunset of the Foundation.

  • The Growing Strong Learners Initiative is announced, focusing on pre-K English learners.

Growing Sunset Capacity
  • The first full-time CEO is hired.

  • The first Growing Strong Learners Initiative grants of $2 million are made to four Central Valley school districts.

  • The Board votes to change the Foundation’s name from “Central Valley Foundation” to the “James B. McClatchy Foundation.”

  • The Board approves the LIFT pilot initiative on the First Amendment: Lifting Local Voices, Lifting Inclusive Partnerships, and Lifting Organizational Power.

  • The Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust, founded by former Fresno Bee Executive Editor Jim Boren at Fresno State, is awarded its first JBMF grant. 

  • A series of listening sessions from Sacramento to Bakersfield are launched to learn from community organizers, parents, educators, and journalists about the issues they face.

Activating Grant Activity in First Amendment and Educational Partnerships
  • JBMF convenes ad-hoc Local Journalism Network meetings.

  • The Local Journalism Feasibility Study is approved.

  • The First Amendment LIFT Pilot Initiative is launched to support and activate civic engagement.

  • Partnership grants begin with a $1.7 million investment from California education Partners, Californians Together, and Emerging Bilingual Collaborative, a pooled funding effort for multilingual learners between Sobrato Philanthropies, California Community Foundation, Silver Giving Foundation, Heising Simons Foundation, and the JBMF.

Shaping the Sunset
  • Lifting Local Leaders storytelling series is launched using the StoryEngine framework to profile Central Valley civic engagement changemakers.

  • The Central Valley Journalism Collaborative (CVJC) proposal is presented to and adopted by the JBMF board for an initial investment of $1 million.

  • The Growing Strong Learners Initiative invests $2.9 million in five school districts.

Launching a Sunrise Strategy
  • JBMF’s collective grantmaking strategies are measured to impact 74 Central Valley schools. 

  • LIFT Pilot grants end, and Lifting Local Voices grants begin, allocating $1.5 million to 29 organizations, including EdSource, Center for Public Integrity, and PBS NewsHour for reporters in the Central Valley.

  • The sunset plan evolves into a “sunrise” plan. It is approved by the JBMF Board to focus on the nexus of English language learner education and First Amendment protections of free speech, free expression, and a free press as a multiracial democracy.

  • External funding partners Microsoft and Irvine Foundation invest in the CVJC.

Sunset to Sunrise