Putting the ‘Community’ into Community Banking

By Amanda Rowe

Community banks have long been pillars of their communities, supporting everything from Little League teams to the arts to local food pantries. But it is often taken as a given that banks support those endeavors—and dozens of others. Especially during the COVID crisis, with many states under stay-at-home orders for a period of months, banks’ community support had to change and adapt, along with everything else. Here are three community banks that rose to the challenge.


StonehamBank, with $606 million in assets and based in Stoneham, Massachusetts, saw the effects COVID was having on the businesses in its communities. To help soften the blow, it launched two campaigns to support small businesses: virtual pop-ups and a small business spotlight.

Virtual pop-ups. Prior to the pandemic, StonehamBank had been doing “pop-ups” at various heavily trafficked locations and events in their branch towns and surrounding communities. With stay-at-home orders in place, the bank’s physical pop-ups had to be put on hold, but the bank didn’t want to completely stop its momentum. Instead, the bank switched its focus from driving checking accounts to driving support for local businesses. Starting with a small local restaurant that had remained open for takeout to support its employees, StonehamBank launched “virtual pop-ups.””

The premise was simple: On a specific day, and during set hours, anyone who ordered takeout from the restaurant would receive $5 off their orders of $20 or more. The bank would pay the $5 to the restaurant, up to $500. The results were impressive. The restaurant received 30 orders during that first virtual pop-up, totaling $1,500 in sales it would not have had otherwise. Rather than pay the restaurant the $150 in discounts it earned, the bank gave the restaurant the full $500 for the promotion, furthering the positive effect for the restaurant and its employees.

In addition, the bank generated 134,244 impressions with 472 total clicks with a clickthrough rate of 1.25% on Facebook, Instagram and Google combined. This use of spend was the backbone of the campaign’s success and with positive spend down the line, the success of the virtual pop-up can be replicated.

Based upon the success of the first virtual pop-up, the bank has since hosted a second event over Father’s Day weekend at a locally owned car wash and is planning more events for the future.

Small business spotlight. StonehamBank also launched its small business spotlight campaign to give a $2,500 award to a local business. The bank collected nominations through a form on its website and promoted the campaign through digital and social channels. The campaign was kept short—just 30 days—to ensure the award would be received at the time when it was most needed. The response from their community was overwhelming, with 260 nominations flowing in over the course of the month. Seeing this tremendous outpouring, the bank decided to award not just one, but three prizes, contributing $7,500 to local businesses. The digital campaign got a combined 503,137 impressions on Facebook, Instagram and Google, along with 2,046 clicks, resulting in the small business spotlight campaign reaching a wide audience.

Maspeth Federal Savings Bank

The $1.96 billion, New York-based Maspeth Federal Savings Bank recognized the tremendous effect COVID was having on the individuals and the businesses in its community and wanted to do something to support both. Born from that was its “It Takes A Community” campaign. The campaign collected nominations for local businesses as well as essential workers/first responders. Business winners (up to 10) would receive $1,000, and individual winners would receive $250 and two KN95 masks.

As an added touch, submitters could include a message about why they felt the person or business was deserving, which was then included when the winners were announced. As with StonehamBank, the campaign was kept to just one month to ensure the prizes would have the maximum impact. The initiative generated almost 200 submissions, with 50 unique business nominations and 100 individuals receiving nominations. The campaign brought in 354,141 impressions with 2,000 clicks to spread the message that Maspeth Federal Savings Bank is here to help and recognize local businesses, essential workers and first responders.

Athol Savings Bank

As is the case with many community banks, the Athol, Massachusetts-based Athol Savings Bank gives back to the community in countless ways throughout the year. When the $450 million-asset bank saw the hardships and food insecurity many were facing as a result of school closings and layoffs, it stepped up to assist. Jumping into action in early May, Athol Savings Bank donated $1,000 to each of seven area food banks to help ensure no one was going without food.

“A crisis like this can be devastating for many people and families in our community,” says President and CEO Daniel Zona. “As a financial institution with a mission rooted in community service and a solid foundation for growth, we feel a duty to help keep food on every table during these turbulent times.”

There are more examples than we’ll ever know of how banks are meeting their communities’ needs. Being a community bank is about so much more than being able to say you’re locally owned and have been around for 150 years. It’s about how the bank and its employees show up and support local communities time and time again, through both financial and time contributions. Ultimately, it’s bringing the “human” to banking.

Amanda Rowe is SVP at Pannos Marketing, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, an award-winning, full-service communications firm specializing in strategic marketing, public relations, social media, e-commerce and website solutions for financial institutions. Check out The Pannos Sessions to hear more about how community banks are marketing nationwide.