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Community Banking Month: Celebrating Servant Leadership

Paying it forward — or repaying a kindness received with a good deed to someone else—is more than a concept, it’s put into practice every day at the nation’s community banks.

From sharing money management skills to lending support to neighbors in need, there’s something to be said about tending to the communities where we put down roots and choose to live our lives.

Throughout Community Banking Month in April, ICBA is spotlighting why where consumers choose to bank matters and encouraging our members to leverage the Tell Your Story Toolkit and our National Campaign learnings and toolkit to share their unique and uplifting stories in their local markets.

Corporate Giving Made Personal

Jeff Dick, chairman and CEO of $2 billion-asset MainStreet Bank in Fairfax, Va., recently shared how he was inspired by another community bank, Bell Bank in N.D., to start an employee-directed corporate philanthropy program.

Share Your Story of Community Service

ICBA is calling for nominations for its National Community Bank Service Award program, which recognizes community banks that provide outstanding volunteer services to local communities. Sponsored by FIS, this year’s awards recognize exceptional community bank service as well as emerging service programs that have been in place for less than three years. Submissions are due, Sunday, April 30.

Submit a nomination.

Through “The Miracles on MainStreet” program, part-time and full-time employees can direct up to $500 and $1,000, respectively, in contributions to a worthy organization or individual of their choosing, he explained. Employees can also pool funds to make a larger contribution. The goal, Dick says, is to encourage community service by empowering employees to support local causes that matter to them and benefit the community.

Employees complete a donation request form, which is reviewed by a charitable giving approval committee, but the intent is not to make the process laborious, Dick explains. “It just has to make sense and embody the spirit of the program.”

The program launched March 13 and has already generated $25,000 in donations.

“The largest amount so far was a $6,000 contribution to the Ryan Trexel Memorial Scholarship, a fund established in 2020 in memory of the college-bound son of one of our team members. The employee’s closest colleagues banded together once again to honor his son, who passed away unexpectedly,” Dick said.

Debra Cope, the bank's head of corporate communications, picked the Center for Adoption Support and Education as her charity to receive a $500 donation.

“As an adoptive parent, this organization was really important to me and my children,” says Cope, who says she was also inspired by the organization’s local impact and work training adoption-competent therapists nationwide.

The community has been good to us, and the bank wants to repay that kindness, says Dick, who notes the bank has actually seen an increase in deposits following the Silicon Valley Bank debacle—further proof that his customers understand and appreciate the community bank difference.

In fact, millions of Americans entrust their deposits in their local community banks— now more than ever. Bloomberg News reported that while bank deposits are up across the board, “deposits at smaller banks rose by the most this year.”

Customer Wishes Come True

Five years ago during a team-building retreat employees at $3.4 billion-asset Choice Bank in Fargo, N.D., were challenged to create an initiative in honor of the bank’s core value to ‘better the places we live,’ from which the Wishing Well program, was born, Melissa Block, senior vice president, marketing and communications told Independent Banker.

Community members can submit wishes for anything big or small, with past grants awarded for everything from library books for schools to cancer treatments.

“The program is intended to help those most in need, especially those in our rural communities where they may not have access to as many resources as in some of our more urban areas,” Block says.

“We have been fortunate enough to share the program and some stories with various news outlets as well, which has helped created additional awareness for the program,” she notes, adding that roughly $100,000 in wishes have been granted since the program’s inception.

Creating Loyal Customers

Nalls Produce Inc. proprietor Sharon Nalls has been a Burke and Herbert customer for years, in large part because of its unwavering advocacy for small business customers, she says.

“They listen to our issues and then we work together to find the best solutions,” she says of the Alexandria, Va.-based community bank. “The last few years have been particularly challenging,” notes Nalls, who had to quickly adapt to doing business differently in the wake of the pandemic.

“Burke and Herbert Bank kept in touch with us and offered to assist in any way they could,” including reaching out to ensure Nalls could meet their weekly coin needs, she explains. “That sounds like a small thing, and it is...relatively speaking...but it's exactly that personalized attention to little things and details like that that set them so far above the others.”