Bankers Tell How They Target Charitable Giving

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Banks that serve the Mahoning Valley are well known for their participation in community projects and donations to various causes, but their representatives note that they benefit when the community does well.

“To be honest, we’re only as successful as the communities we serve,” says Bill Shivers, president of the Mahoning Valley and Greater Akron/Canton regions of Huntington National Bank.

Huntington doesn’t have a separate charitable foundation as do some other banks, but each region where it does business has a budget for charitable giving, Shivers says.

Huntington’s philanthropy is based around three defined “pillars,” he says: critical needs, financial literacy and neighborhood and economic development.

Among the organizations Huntington works with are Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership. “We work with both of those organizations to make a difference from a housing standpoint,” Shivers says.

Sandy Upperman, Huntington regional marketing and communications manager for its Akron/Canton and Mahoning Valley markets, works with Shivers to align community giving requests and volunteer opportunities. “We’re actively engaged in these organizations. They are our neighbors,” she says.

Huntington also partners with the United Way chapters in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. For the past seven years it has collaborated on the agency’s Stuff the Bus campaign to provide school supplies for needy pupils. This year the initiative provided more than 900 backpacks of supplies, Upperman says.

“Part of the challenge you have is so many groups have needs,” Shivers says. Those needs aren’t always financial, but rather a request for volunteers or for an individual to chair a campaign.

“We want to support things that can truly make a difference in the community,” he adds. A donation might be large “or maybe a $500 contribution can really make a difference,” he says.

The PNC Foundation, funded from the profits of the PNC Financial Services Group, underwrites a “broad range” of projects and interests, but has two central focus areas, says Ryan Pastore, director of client and community relations for PNC in its Mahoning Valley market. He also is secretary of the PNC Foundation’s local distribution committee.

The two focus areas are education – particularly early childhood education and school readiness for underserved populations – and community and economic development, Pastore says.

There are two reasons why providing community support is important, Pastore says.

“First of all, we’re citizens of the Valley as well and we want to do our part to give back,” he begins. “Secondly, as a bank we thrive when our community thrives and we want to put our communities in the best possible position to succeed and we can do that through philanthropy.”

PNC’s local distribution committee, composed of seven Mahoning Valley business leaders, determines which initiatives receive funds. “It’s not our goal just to give dollars out,” Pastore says. “We want to make sure dollars are used wisely and have beneficial results for everyone.”

Among the programs PNC supports locally is the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley’s Success by 6 Initiative. The initiative “matches fantastically” with PNC’s signature philanthropic cause, PNC Grow Up Great, which focuses on the first five years of childhood, Pastore says.

PNC also supports YNDC and TNP as part of its economic development efforts along with supporting the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s foundation.

“It’s always important to support Youngstown State University, which is key to our region,” Pastore adds. The foundation supports the arts, including Stambaugh Auditorium and the Butler Institute of American Art as well.

“It’s really important that we invest in our communities that we serve so we feel like we’re making an impact,” says Colleen Scott, vice president of marketing for the Home Savings and Loan Co. and director of the Home Savings Charitable Foundation.

The charitable foundation was established in 1998 after Home Savings and Loan went public. The bank’s holding company donated shares to the foundation to provide funding, Scott says. Its assets grow through dividends, diversification and capital gains.

“You don’t see too many smaller community banks that have foundations, so we’re really fortunate to have it,” she points out.

The foundation is required to distribute 5% of its net assets annually. This year that should amount to between $750,000 and $800,000, Scott predicts. “Obviously in better times we give more because we have more funds,” she says.

A committee of five evaluates grant requests each month, Scott says. On average, 15 requests are received each month, whether from the foundation’s online portal or submitted from employees in the branches involved in different community activities.

“We just walk through them one by one,” she says.

Funded areas of interest run the gamut, from helping disadvantaged adults and children to economic development. “We’re lucky that our scope of giving is very, very broad,” she says.

Pictured: Bill Shivers, president of the Mahoning Valley and Greater Akron/Canton regions of Huntington National Bank.

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