Downtown Memphis, TN. Photo: Sean Pavone/shutterstock

Downtown Memphis, TN. Photo:Sean Pavone/shutterstock

In today’s ever-changing financial world, bank mergers have become so commonplace that they’re hardly even newsworthy anymore. But all across the U.S., banks have established charitable giving foundations to give back to the communities they operate in. This prompts the question of what happens to bank foundations once after merger and acquisitions take place.

In December 2017, a Charlotte, North Carolina bank called Capital Bank was acquired by First Horizon National Corporation. First Horizon is based in Memphis, Tennessee, but this acquisition brought its geographic reach into new markets in the Southeastern U.S. First Horizon has had its own charitable foundation since 1993, and to kick off its 25-year anniversary, it launched a new grantmaking entity called the Capital Bank Foundation.

All of the various entities can get confusing for local grantseekers who just want to know where to send a grant application, so let’s break things down a bit.

Over past couple decades, the First Horizon Foundation has distributed over $80 million through its First Tennessee Foundation, which is the foundation of its subsidiary, First Tennessee Bank. However, pretty much all of these grants have been awarded in various parts of Tennessee, giving over $5 million annually in the last few years.

Now with a new market and a new foundation under its control, this bank is expanding grantmaking both in terms of dollars spent and geographically. The Capital Bank Foundation’s first foray into grantmaking is a video contest that involves sending a quick 60-second-or-less video to the bank funder that explains how a foundation grant has helped a past grantee or would potentially help a prospective grantee.

This is an interesting first approach for a new bank funder to take, choosing a video submission format over traditional paper or online applications. But perhaps it sets a tone that bank funding will look a bit differently in the future and take a turn from what’s been done in the past.

Organizations in the following areas may submit no-frills videos to the bank’s 25 Years of Giving Video Contest between now and August 1:

  • West Tennessee: Memphis, Jackson
  • Middle Tennessee: Nashville, Cookeville
  • East/Northeast Tennessee: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Tri-Cities, Greeneville, Sevierville, Morristown/Dandridge
  • Northwest Mississippi: Southaven, Olive Branch, Hernando, Horn Lake, Senatobia
  • Texas: Houston
  • Florida: Jacksonville, South Florida/Keys
  • North Carolina: Triad, Triangle, Charlotte, Hickory, Asheville
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Greenville/Spartanburg, Columbia
  • Virginia: Richmond

Even more interesting, the bank is opening the first round of judging up to the general public and encouraging public voting to narrow the submissions down to just 25 videos in late-August. Then community leaders will do the second round of judging to award a total of $250,000 in individual grants of $5,000 to $25,000 each. Going forward, the First Tennessee Foundation handle giving in Tennessee and Texas, while the Capital Bank Foundation will focus on Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“We know that there are stories in our communities that have happened that we may not be aware of,” said Alana Hu, the community investment manager at First Tennessee Bank, "so, we’re excited to share those, but then also to identify what are the other potential partnerships of nonprofits.”

Now combined into one banking entity, this is the fourth-largest bank in the Southeast and has approximately 300 branches in the region.

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