Ideas in Action: Stand for Something

By Kate Young

What does your brand stand for? Do your customers and potential customers know? Are you sure? It’s all well and good to have your mission and values posted on your website or engraved on a placard in your lobby. But in the end, everyone knows that to understand an institution’s values, all you have to do is follow the money and track the time spent.

That’s why we’re always interested in how America’s banks, large and small, engage with their communities. Whether it’s through charitable giving, volunteerism, and outreach—or through business niche and product development—banks have been coming up with cool ideas for community involvement. Ideas that really show who they are.

So next time someone tells you banks are all the same, point out some of the things banks have been doing lately put their thumbprint on their communities.

  1. Eastern Bank’s Selfies for Good. Plenty of people will volunteer for a good cause when they’re asked to do so by their school, club, church, or employer. But let’s be honest. What would your bank have to do to get you to pitch in? Looks like Boston-based Eastern Bank has that one figured out. By combining the universal urge to photograph oneself with good old fashioned cash prizes (500 prizes of $200 each), Eastern has generated an enormous social media community of do-gooders.
  2. The U.S. Bank OC Marathon. Apparently the real bankers of Orange County (California) are quite fit. For 13 years, U.S. Bank has been running an annual marathon, drawing competitors from 20 countries and 50 states. And when we say “running” the marathon, we’re not just talking about sponsorship—the bankers are actually lacing up their sneakers and running the race. As part of a corporate challenge, businesses of all sizes—including the national giant U.S. Bank—compete against one another for participation levels and charitable fundraising.
  3. Beneficial State Bank’s line of products for nonprofits. Supporting nonprofits can be about much more than fundraising and charitable giving. One of the ways this Oakland, California-based bank invests in its communities is by providing loans, lines of credit, and accounts that are tailored to the particular needs of nonprofits. Informed by an emphasis on economic justice and environmental sustainability, Beneficial State provides fair, transparent credit to enable such programs to grow and scale.
  4. TD Bank’s Bring Change initiative. How can a large bank with a massive footprint know what’s important to the diverse communities it serves? TD solves that problem by going hyperlocal, empowering its branches to serve as individual fundraising hubs in the hundreds of communities it serves. The campaign, which launched in May 2015, has contributed $1.6 million so far to causes for the homeless, cancer survivors, veterans, the arts, and education, to name a few.
  5. Generations Bank’s Right to Run 19K. This 19 kilometer race is a nod to the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. Based in Seneca Falls, New York, birthplace of the women’s rights movement, Generations Bank will donate proceeds from the event to the National Women’s Hall of Fame’s fundraising campaign, with the goal of rehabilitating the former Seneca Falls Knitting Mill into its future home, the Center for Great Women.
  6. The Hollywood Charity Horse Show Presented by Wells Fargo. Big bank, big event, with a big name. This star-studded fundraiser, taking place in Los Angeles, and now in its 27th year, is conceived and hosted by none other than William Shatner, aka, Captain Kirk. The beneficiaries: an array of small, grassroots, mainly child-centered charities in the Los Angeles area.
  7. TD Bank’s support for African American genealogy. TD’s charitable giving arm, the TD Charitable Foundation, recently contributed $250,000 to the International African American Museum’s Center for Family History. The museum, which will be built in 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina, will provide on-site genealogists and historians to help visitors research their families’ roots. As David Lominak, TD’s South Carolina Market President said, “One way we can support our community is in knowing our shared history.”
  8. 1st Security Bank of Washington’s support for Seattle’s LGBT Executive Director Roundtable. Executive directors of nonprofits can find the job isolating—especially if their organizations have small budgets and serve the LGBT community. With the help of Washington State-based 1st Security Bank, the Roundtable provides collegial and logistical support to its members so they can advance their community missions.
  9. Columbia Bank’s seasonal farmworker housing grant. The availability of safe, decent housing for seasonal farmworkers is a crucial—and expensive—element of success for an agricultural community. That’s why Tacoma, Washington-based Columbia Bank partnered with the Washington Growers League to win a $500,000 grant to help fund new housing for the temporary workers who come in every year to prune, thin, and pick the local crops.
  10. Capital One’s Junior Achievement Mobile Finance Park. How do you introduce middle and high schoolers from underserved communities to concepts in personal finance and career exploration? By bringing a high-tech, hands-on, mobile program to their doorstep. Partnering with Junior Achievement, each year, thousands of Capital One associates volunteer to work with students to build a foundation for the kind of informed financial decisions that change lives.

Kate Young is the content editor of Email: [email protected].