Cash for Community
Northrim Bank’s 2017 pancake feed at Mat-Su Career Tech High School, featuring its mascot, Peri, the moose.
Philanthropy is a crucial part of the culture at Alaska’s banks and credit unions. Financial institutions such as Alaska USA Federal Credit Union (FCU), First National Bank Alaska, KeyBank, Northrim Bank, and Wells Fargo donate millions of dollars, thousands of volunteer hours, and manifold in-kind gifts annually.
Financial organizations offer cash, time, and passion
Alaska USA FCU donates to many organizations through its community grant program, which supplies grants up to $1,000 to nonprofit organizations providing needs-based services to areas in which it operates. “This allows us to provide funding to smaller organizations,” says Dan McCue, senior vice president of corporate relations. “We also give as a part of nonprofit sponsorships or because of employee giving initiatives.”
Alaska USA and its employees also work to make a difference by donating their time to various organizations. These entities include Alaska Business Week, state and local chambers of commerce, Habitat for Humanity, The United Way, Armed Services YMCA, and the Financial Reality Foundation, which facilitates the Get Real Financial Reality Fairs. The credit union’s volunteer activities also extend to other areas. “Employees at Alaska USA are also involved with local boards and committees for a variety of nonprofit organizations, and Alaska USA does its best to support those organizations where our employees serve,” McCue says. “In addition to the more traditional volunteer efforts, Alaska USA employees help to manage, run, and fundraise for the Alaska USA Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 that gives back 99.9 percent of all income it receives to local nonprofit organizations.”
Like other financial institutions, Alaska USA is selective about where it lends its support. Following its motto of “People Helping People,” the credit union chooses to align with organizations that best match its mission, values, and brand as well as those that help the communities in which it serves. “This means that, as a whole, Alaska USA makes every attempt to donate time or money to organizations with a focus on financial education, active duty military, veterans, or children,” McCue says.
He adds: “Our organization believes in supporting the communities in which we serve and, more importantly, our employees and members within those communities. Because our history is with the military, our organization aligns with those that support active duty members of the armed forces and veterans.”
As part of its funding process, the credit union’s corporate relations department manages the requests it receives for support from community and nonprofit organizations. Funding determinations are based on the alignment of the request to Alaska USA’s focus areas, its membership base, the groups it has historically served, and its roots. “Depending on the type of request, the approvals for donations run through specific departments and sometimes go all the way to the president,” McCue says.
Alaska USA determines the budget for philanthropic efforts on an annual basis, and each year the organization’s charitable giving tends to fluctuate. “In 2017, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union donated more than $600,000 to organizations in all of the areas it serves, reaching more than ninety Alaska-based organizations,” McCue says. “The level of contribution is directly related to the number of organizations that request funding in any given year.”
First National Bank Alaska
First National Bank Alaska believes in Alaska and in giving back. It does this through volunteerism on the part of its staff and financial support in the form of charitable contributions, including bank donations and community sponsorships. Giving back is essential to the success of Alaska’s communities, and, as a good corporate citizen, the bank remains steadfast in its commitment to helping Alaskans’ dreams grow, says Community Reinvestment Act Officer Natasha Pope.
“For nearly a century, First National Bank Alaska has been committed to Alaska and Alaskans and to their economic and cultural growth,” Pope says.
In the past twelve months, First National has donated more than $1.8 million to a variety of Alaska organizations and causes. And since July 2013 it has contributed $5.89 million throughout Alaska. “The bank’s annual cash budget for donations and community investment in recent years has remained relatively consistent at or just over $1 million dollars,” Pope says. “As a local community bank, we are proud of our level of investment as this nearly mirrors that of some of our market’s largest competitors.”
First National’s cash donations over the past twelve months have gone to more than 150 nonprofits statewide. Nonprofits focused on providing youth, education, and basic emergency services receive the greatest amount of bank funding. Outside of these focus areas, additional organizations or causes of interest are economic and community development, arts and humanities, health, seniors and disabled, and military or veterans services.
For example, First National is proud of its leadership role in helping the youth of the state succeed through its significant support of Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) for nearly thirty years. The bank remains a longtime supporter of Alaska Public Radio Network news and cultural programs broadcast in communities across the state. And First National has supported United Way since its beginning in 1956 here in the state.
First National’s staff volunteer in support of a number of nonprofit organizations and causes each year. In any given year, First National employees serve on an average of 130 nonprofit boards across the state. In addition to volunteering as nonprofit board members, bank staff volunteer in support of numerous community events. For example, employees teach financial literacy for Junior Achievement, dress bears for Salvation Army’s Teddy Bear Tea, serve as cashiers at the Boys & Girls Club Annual Gala, wrap bowls at the Bean’s Café Empty Bowl Project, spruce things up during United Way’s Day of Caring, Paint the Town alongside NeighborWorks, and hand out awards at ASAA competitions, among countless other service commitments.
The bank’s annual charitable contribution budget is developed in conjunction with annual forecasting and budgeting for the bank each year and must be approved by executive management and the board of directors. In addition, requests for donations and community support are primarily received from nonprofit organizations working in the eighteen communities in which the bank operates branch offices. Each branch manager has the authority to make community sponsorships to local community organizations and events.
Philanthropy is engrained in First National Bank Alaska’s culture. “Locally owned and operated since 1922, our bank is committed to serving Alaska communities where we do business,” Pope says. “Bank officers, directors, and employees take great pride in the generous contributions made by our bank in support of their volunteer service and its impact to our communities. This helps grow employee satisfaction and enthusiasm to help improve lives and strengthen communities.”
KeyBank employees give the Eagle River VFW in Eagle River a thorough spring cleaning.
KeyBank Alaska’s giving strategy is based on four pillars: neighbors, workforce, education, and service focused. In addition to being guided by these pillars, the bank also places a special importance on financial wellness. “Our purpose is to help our clients and communities thrive,” says Lori McCaffrey, KeyBank’s Alaska market president. “Through lending, investing, grants, and volunteerism, we balance mission and margin to participate in the growth and revitalization in the communities we call home.”
In 2017, KeyBank in Alaska invested approximately $200,000 in grants, sponsorships, matching gifts, and in-kind donations. And more than 50 percent of its Alaska employees donated more than 400 hours of volunteer service. In the past five years, KeyBank has contributed approximately $ 1 million in Alaska, excluding all matched and in-kind gifts.
KeyBank’s benevolence impacts dozens of organizations in Alaska, including many long-standing partners such as Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Calista Education and Culture, Chugach Heritage Foundation, Doyon Foundation, Junior Achievement, and Tanana Chiefs Conference. The bank also provides financial and volunteer support to organizations that foster safe and stable communities like Covenant House, United Way, NeighborWorks, and Cook Inlet Housing Authority.
One of the signature ways KeyBank helps communities thrive across its entire footprint—from Maine to Alaska—is through Neighbor’s Make the Difference Day. On May 23, KeyBank closed several of its branches, and employees spent the afternoon volunteering at various organizations and community service projects. Included in that effort was an outreach project for the VFW in Eagle River. “Led by Alaska’s Retail Leader Vicki Myers, it was truly an impactful and rewarding experience,” McCaffrey says. “The military community is very important to all of us in Alaska, and being afforded the opportunity to give back was meaningful in so many ways to our entire team.”
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KeyBank presents check to United Way.
Community and board service are also important to KeyBank, which encourages employees to volunteer at different levels. For instance, McCaffrey’s board service includes the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast and the American Heart Association. In fact, next year, she will serve as Chair for the Anchorage American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative. With a family history of heart disease, McCaffrey feels it’s important to motivate women to take action against cardiovascular disease.
McCaffrey says corporate responsibility is part of KeyBank’s DNA, underscoring the importance of giving back to the community. KeyBank does this by addressing the needs of underserved communities and low to moderate income individuals, as well as aligning business strategies with community development. Recently, KeyBank announced a five-year National Community Benefits Plan that calls for the bank to invest $16.5 billion in lending and philanthropy nationwide.
As a testament to its efforts, KeyBank has received nine consecutive “Outstanding” ratings under the Community Reinvestment Act from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “It’s a very proud moment for all of us at KeyBank, being the only top-twenty US bank to earn this accolade for exceeding the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act,” McCaffrey says. “And we are very excited to see the outreach efforts unfold in our Alaska communities.”
Northrim Bank was founded on the principle of providing excellent local customer service, and giving back to the community is one of the ways it accomplishes this, according to Community and Public Relations Officer Katie Bender. Northrim provides cash donations to a variety of organizations, particularly those that provide support for low-income individuals and promote community development.
Beneficiaries of Northrim’s philanthropy include Toys for Tots, Camp Fire Alaska, and The Salvation Army’s McKinnell House, which provides emergency shelter for homeless families with children. Northrim also donates money to University of Alaska and maintains partnerships with elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state. In Anchorage, the bank partners with Fairview Elementary, funding T-shirts for certain events, extra gym shirts for students, and turkeys for families during the holidays. “We‘re proud to support organizations that help our most vulnerable neighbors and those that help our communities grow,” Bender says.
Northrim strives to support organizations holistically. So many of its more than 300 employees serve on boards and committees as well as volunteer at the same organizations that receive financial donations from the bank. “We want to do more than hand a check over once a year,” she says.
Employees are paid for the time they spend volunteering during business hours for a bank-supported event. “Employees are encouraged to volunteer at events that are near and dear to their hearts,” Bender explains. “We try to be very flexible with our employees, so they are able to volunteer at organizations that are meaningful for them.”
Northrim encourages its employees to suggest community service projects that personally interest them. Junior Achievement is a favorite nonprofit for many employees. So is NeighborWorks Alaska. “We always have one or two teams for their Paint the Town program,” Bender says.
Northrim Bank also prioritizes participating in professional industry organizations, such as chambers of commerce, economic development groups, the Resource Development Council, and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance. “These are organizations that our customers are part of,” Bender explains. “These are organizations and industries that drive our economy, so it’s important for us to be engaged in them as well.”
When choosing organizations to support, Northrim considers two basic groups: charitable organizations and business entities. Each year, the organization is required to submit a request for funding for the upcoming year. Bender says: “We really look at what they’re asking for and what the need is. We also look at whether there has been strong engagement with this organization in the past and if there are opportunities for our employees to be involved. If there is a strong match for our focus areas, we are likely able to fund the request.”
In 2017, Northrim contributed more than $572,000 to Alaska organizations, and its employees provided 2,064 volunteer hours. Over the last five years, the bank has donated $3.3 million, and it has contributed $9.6 million during its twenty seven-plus years of existence. “To put this into perspective,” Bender says, “when the bank was founded, we had an initial capital of over $8 million. So we’ve given back to the community more than we had in our initial capital raise.”
She adds: “We are members of our community just as our customers are,” she says. “We believe a strong community is good for everyone, and we are proud to be a part of our community and we help wherever we can.”
Wells Fargo employees on Go Blue Day 2018, an annual event organized by the Alaska Children’s Trust. Participants dress in and decorate with blue to show support for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Corporate citizenship and philanthropy are essential to Wells Fargo. As a national company, Wells Fargo is able to leverage multiple initiatives and pools of funding for communities across the country. In every state, Wells Fargo conducts a community needs assessment that involves surveying nonprofits statewide. “We ask the ones who are in the field doing the work what they see that the community needs,” says Alaska Community Relations Manager Judith Crotty. “We distill that information and come up with local market priorities. In Alaska, that helps us drive where we invest.”
Wells Fargo’s local market priorities in Alaska focus on investing in affordable housing, homelessness, education, workforce development, and promoting healthy communities, which entails ensuring access to food, affordable healthcare, day care, and other necessities. “When we are looking at our strategic giving, we have a lens of empowering our low- to moderate-income and underserved community,” she says.
Affordable housing is generally a need across all communities in Alaska, Crotty says. For military veteran Luke Connally and his wife, Mary, that need was met when they received a house as a mortgage-free donation. The home, located in Palmer, was donated in June through the partnership of Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Since 2012, Wells Fargo has donated more than 350 homes, valued at more than $55 million, to veterans in all fifty states.
In 2017, Wells Fargo invested $1.3 million through donations and sponsorships to support hundreds of nonprofit organizations in Alaska. The bank’s 700 team members in Alaska also volunteered a record 13,000 hours with nonprofits, schools, and community organizations and personally donated $242,000 through the company’s annual Community Support Campaign last September.
Luke and Mary Connally receive a new home near downtown Palmer thanks a mortgage-free donation resulting from a partnership between Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
Wells Fargo serves as a “cornerstone” investor for many organizations, providing generous and long-term funding. It has been investing in a number of organizations for five or ten years, including Food Bank of Alaska, Covenant House Alaska, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rural Alaska Honors Institute. The bank also engages in place-based philanthropy. For example, in its ten years of investing in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, Wells Fargo has provided approximately $70 million to $80 million in donations and tax credit investments, Crotty says.
Volunteerism, Crotty says, is extremely important to Wells Fargo. Every team member who works full time can receive sixteen hours of paid time off to volunteer. “That’s a huge commitment of Wells Fargo, underscoring the importance of having our team members engaged in areas where they are passionate,” she says. “When you have team members engaged outside the company, they are more apt to be happy employees.”
Nationally, Wells Fargo donated $286.5 million to more than 14,500 nonprofits in 2017. Team members across the company volunteered two million hours last year, including 183,528 hours of service on 3,679 nonprofit boards. And Wells Fargo has plans to increase its corporate giving. The company has vowed to give $400 million in cash to nonprofits in 2018, representing a 40 percent potential increase in its corporate philanthropy compared with last year. And starting in 2019, the bank is planning to spend 2 percent of its after-tax dollars on corporate philanthropy.
Tracy Barbour has been an Alaska Business contributor since 1999. As a former Alaskan, she is uniquely positioned to offer in-depth insight and enjoys writing about a variety of topics.