Area banks seek to give back the community by investing civic effort.
Banks, of course, are integral to the economic development of any community. Most directly, they finance construction projects large and small while meeting the daily needs of businesses and consumers for financial services. Consider, for instance, that banks initiated roughly $1.5 trillion in new lending over the past 12 months, according to the American Bankers Association.
Yet, they also build in a different way — by helping to strengthen the fabric of communities through outreach initiatives designed to support and nurture, not necessarily to attract new customers. They seek to empower, educate and energize in much the same way they strive to ensure their earnings. And, as such, “giving back” is essentially their dividend to the community. Many of their efforts, in fact, even extend beyond their business boundaries.
How, specifically, do some banks give back?
Perhaps the most visible example of PNC Bank's civic commitment is Grow Up Great, a nationwide 10-year, $100 million bilingual initiative to improve early childhood education, with a focus on underserved communities. Since its 2004 launch, more than 1 million children have benefited from $35 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and other PNC-funded programs in support of early education. The bank has also provided $3.8 million to support preschool scholarships. And approximately 2 million educational multimedia kits, developed by Sesame Workshop in partnership with PNC Grow Up Great and distributed to families, provide simple ways for parents to turn everyday experiences into learning moments. Additionally, the bank has formed partnerships with numerous nonprofit organizations in Florida. For example, it partnered with the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County to provide arts programming for early childhood centers throughout the county. In Orlando, it provided the Central Florida Zoo a grant to fund a project to collect rainwater to be used for multiple purposes throughout the zoo. Also, Quest, one of Central Florida’s largest providers of services to people with disabilities, is introducing a lawn-care service to the community, funded through a grant from the PNC Foundation.
With an eye toward helping homeless children and families, Fifth Third Bank’s “Summer of Dreams,” which ended in mid-August, was a free 10-week program that provided daytime activities, transportation and food to homeless students in Orange County. (Notably, 3,000 Orange County students are registered as homeless.) Last year, intent on doing something to show appreciation for the sacrifices military families make to protect the country, the bank partnered with the Camaraderie Foundation, an Orlando-based nonprofit that provides private counseling services at a discounted rate to veterans and their families. Fifth Third committed to a matching fund-raising campaign with the Foundation to help serve as many families as possible.
BB&T has mobilized to launch a comprehensive outreach to its Hispanic neighbors, helping to strengthen that community sector. These efforts are highlighted by education and professional development, such as that provided through the BB&T/Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Also, the “BiBi” Educational Audio Series, introduced in 2002, addresses issues like finding a job, healthcare, education, how to start your own business, insurance and emergency preparedness.
Among Wells Fargo's civic priorities is its support of programs and organization that benefit low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The bank also considers grants in human services, arts and culture, civic engagement and the environment. In 2010, Wells Fargo and the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation granted more than $8.3 million to nonprofits and schools throughout Florida, including nearly $1.3 million to those in Greater Gulf Coast communities and nearly $1 million to those in Central Florida communities.
FAIRWINDS Credit Union has partnered with the Orlando Magic on community events such as Fan Fest, where thousands of rally towels are handed out, plus hosted food drives. By virtue of a business relationship as well as philanthropy, the University of Central Florida carries the FAIRWINDS name on its campus alumni center. Sponsorship of the FAIRWINDS Broadway Across America – Orlando – signifies support of community arts. And the FAIRWINDS Blue Crew, a group of employees, serves as a street team that attends various community events to help stir excitement and participation.
As part of a grass-roots community service effort, Regions Bank associates across Florida collected and donated more than 10,000 school supplies to Alabama children and schools in tornado-ravaged areas. The supplies were donated to Birmingham City Schools and distributed to students and families in August. And in Orlando, a Regions executive served as committee co-chair of a gala event that raised $167,500 to benefit the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, along with the statewide Florida Impact, another organization dedicated to reducing hunger and poverty.
In June, to help celebrate the rebranding of Mercantile Bank to TD Bank, it donated $2,500 to Junior Achievement of West Central Florida in Tampa Bay. And during the summer, the bank surpassed its $1 million goal for employee donations to the Special Olympics, and more than 3,000 TD Bank employees across its network pledged their time to volunteer at Special Olympics events. It was the third consecutive year of exceeding that mark, with funds raised going directly to the respective local Special Olympics chapters.
In keeping with its designation as a community bank, Old Florida National Bank partners with Orange County Public Schools to foster financial literacy among students through seminars. More than one-than of the district's 180 schools are impacted, as several staff members, including the bank president, volunteer to help provide the seminars. Similarly, bank employees are encouraged to sit on parent-teacher boards, school booster committees and parent-teacher-student groups. School supply and book drives are other related activities.
Federal Trust Bank, another community bank, recently targeted the small business community by supporting the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubation Program through a donation of seven sets of office furniture to furnish offices that are made available to entrepreneurs in the program. The incubation program has helped more than 150 emerging companies create more than 2,000 new jobs since its inception in 1999.
Environmentally inspired First Green Bank in Lake County is the first bank in the region to install electric vehicle charging stations at their locations for customers who want to recharge their cars while they bank. First Green Bank’s Clermont facility was the area’s first to install such a station. And, the bank’s new headquarters in Mount Dora is completely powered by solar panels.
Seacoast National Bank, also a community bank, engages in efforts that range from preparing food and feeding families at Ronald McDonald House to sponsoring a MicheLee Puppets antibullying program at an Orlando elementary school. Ongoing fund-raisers for the SPCA of Central Florida, sponsorship of a local American Heart Association gala event and participation in planning for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life also are noteworthy bank efforts, among others.
After 12 years running SunTrust Bank in Tampa Bay, Dan Mahurin recently broadened his scope, becoming president and CEO of SunTrust's Tampa Bay along with SunTrust's North Florida and Southwest Florida banks.
Yet, that doesn't mean Mahurin's long list of community service will be pushed aside. Fact is, he has even more resolve to remain committed.
Since 2000, Mahurin has helped revamp Tampa's concept of public housing, supported arts organizations and sports franchises, and made a personal pledge to enhance education at all levels. As the past-chairman of the Tampa Housing Authority, for example, Mahurin led the successful effort to secure $150 million for improvements in the county’s public housing communities. And, most notably, although his new office is in Orlando, he continues his involvement with the Tampa Bay Partnership and its One Bay Initiative, which is forging a broad-based vision of the future for Tampa Bay.
Noting that business and benevolence go hand in hand, Mahurin simply recites SunTrust's founding belief: “The way you build your bank is by building your community.” “It really is about how can we make the community a better place. … Place is so important.”
When industry veteran John Moskos became president of Bank of America in Central Florida four years ago, he was clearly well-suited to be the bank's senior executive in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties.
As its turned out, he's also been a stalwart in another key area of the bank's mission: building on a long-standing tradition of community investment.
While the bank’s philanthropic investment in Central Florida was more than $1.8 million in 2010, Moskos is a board member of the Coalition for the Homeless, the Heart of Florida United Way and the Central Florida Partnership. In addition, he's the former board treasurer of the Orlando Ballet and Central Florida YMCA.
He calls the efforts both smart business and the right thing to do.
“Bank of America's commitment to corporate social responsibility is focused on improving the economic and social health of the communities we serve as well as the long-term health and success of our business,” Moskos says. “In conjunction with our commitment to responsible business practices, working with customers to meet their needs and the support of diversity and inclusion, we leverage our resources in the community for positive change.”