Unlocking the Vault: 5 Keys for Nonprofits Seeking Bank Partners

When banks are looking for ways to invest their money, whether in the community or in other opportunities, having a wide range of potential options is ideal and can open the door to numerous possibilities for growth and success.  However, for nonprofits looking to invest in fundraising efforts, more options don’t always equate to better outcomes.  Pursuing too many options can create confusion and unnecessary or redundant work in managing the individual desires and needs of each funding source.   The abundance of options is even less forgiving when you consider the seemingly endless pool of donors, ranging from federal and state governments to private citizens, corporations and foundations.

With so many options and so few outcomes possible, it’s critical for you to craft a winning strategy and make wise decisions when investing your time, energy and hopes into your campaign.  This especially includes a thoughtful plan for selecting donors and meeting their expectations.  When it comes to potential bank funding, this can be especially tricky.  Based on our experience and customer feedback, we know that the donation process varies a lot among institutions and decisions are often not transparent.  Whether you’re just starting out or in the throes of a new grant application, these five tips will help you navigate the world of bank fundraising and capitalize on the numerous options available.

  1. Banks like to take care of their clients first.

The first thing to remember is that banks are for-profit institutions, in the business of opening accounts and making loans.  Protecting their bottom-line is a top priority, and in practice, this usually means that building relationships with existing clients comes first.  Reach out first to banks where you already have an account or existing relationship.  If you don’t have an existing relationship with a bank you’d like to approach, consider opening a new account or even moving your full banking relationship.  Know how far you’re willing to go before you start seeking bank funding.  Doing this will help you build a closer relationship with the bank and show that you’re genuinely interested in working with them.

  1. Highlight all the possible benefits a bank receives by supporting you.

Banks are not only looking for a relationship with you, they’re also seeking partnerships that could allow them to promote their products and services to the people you serve.  If your organization is involved in activities where a bank may be able to offer a checking account or mortgage loan, it provides added incentive for the bank to grow its business as well.  If you’re seeking a sponsorship, be sure to point out anywhere that the bank will receive promotion or advertisement for their support.

  1. Banks want to give back to their community.

Don’t forget that banks are part of the community too and they’re invested in seeing the community grow and thrive.  As a corporate citizen, banks are looking for ways to give back in a more demonstrable way.   Be sure to promote aspects of your request that allow banks to provide community volunteers or financial literacy training.   Also, ask a banker to join the Board – it doesn’t hurt to have a decision-maker sitting in your Board meetings who can then advocate on your behalf.

  1. Research how your request matches the bank’s goals and requirements.

Most large banks that promote their goals for community engagement often publish their criteria for donations and sponsorships on their websites or make them available upon request.  Regardless of how this info is promoted, all banks have obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which can serve as a good baseline test for whether a bank will be interested.  Additionally, banks have clearly defined markets where they need to reinvest and often have pre-determined budgets for cash donations to nonprofits.  Due diligence when planning your strategy will help to answer these questions and could save you a lot of time and headache in seeking support from a bank that may not be able to provide it.

  1. Have a plan for clearly demonstrating the impact of the bank’s support.

Like most donors, banks want to know that their charitable giving is being used for a worthy cause and will create a tangible benefit for the individuals and communities being served.  Having the right initiative designed and planned is only the first step in getting banks to support your project.  The second major step is proving that the project delivers the intended outcomes.  While it’s not possible to report on actual outcomes when asking for support, banks will want to see that you have a plan for collecting, tracking, and monitoring the right data and information. Providing certification letters upfront as well as impact reports, even if not required, will also help build trust and lay the foundation for a long-term, productive partnership.

As you can see, it takes a lot of time and effort to build relationships with multiple banks in your community.   Every bank has different criteria for choosing nonprofit partners and unique ways of providing support.    FindCRA can be a key partner to bridging the gap between bank expectations and your needs and available resources.  To find out more how findCRA can help you partner with banks, visit our Community Partner page.