Leading Banks Offer Relief, Recovery, and Resiliency Programs

Like many other corporations and foundations, Covid-19 has challenged the way banks do business and shifted how they execute their social impact strategies

From grants to volunteerism and tracking CRA credits, leading banks, and all corporations and foundations for that matter, have had to quickly adapt to the changing and sometimes volatile reality that is our world today. 

With any challenge comes the opportunity to seek creative solutions, experience transformative growth, and become a catalyst for change. What we witnessed from the philanthropy community this past year was incredible, but also eye-opening. We saw first hand how teams were able to adapt their programs for immediate response to emerging crises. All the while, continuing to support nonprofit partners, keep employees engaged and stakeholders invested.

Reshaping volunteerism programs to virtual volunteering

While the pandemic greatly impacted how many banks were able to give back to their communities, the pivot to virtual volunteering became mandatory. At US Bank, volunteerism programs have an incredibly high participation rate and are a large part of the U.S. Bank company culture. Through the U.S. Bank Volunteers program, their 70,000 employees are encouraged to maximize their community involvement wherever their passions lie. In 2019, their employees shared their skills and knowledge with communities by volunteering 915 hours (per day!) with a variety of nonprofit organizations. To encourage volunteering, U.S. Bank provides regular opportunities for involvement and 16 hours of paid time off for eligible employees.

Set to have their program enjoy a record-breaking year in 2020 for volunteer hours, their hopes came to a screeching halt in March, forcing the community engagement team to pivot quickly.  Asking themselves “what can we do to amplify some of the virtual volunteer opportunities that we have out there?”  their team elevated the volunteer match platform in CyberGrants, (which has right now more than 900,000 volunteer opportunities in it). “Your team did a great job helping us elevate it on our volunteer search page which was the first and easiest thing for us to do as a company to act quickly. We didn't want to see a huge dip in the volunteer engagement, the need was still there,” said Jamie Inn is the Vice President and national manager of community engagement at US Bank. 

How did US Bank successfully reshape their volunteerism program?

  1. Maximized Visibility - Amplified their message with bold, clear, concise content throughout employee preferred channels. 
  2. Consistent Communication - Leverage their communication teams and intranet site to share information with all employees and business resource groups.
  3. Simplified Access  - Created an easily accessible virtual menu with skills-based opportunities and micro-volunteering opportunities.
  4. Recognized Resources - Established subject matter experts network to teach virtual financial education. 
  5. Reinvented “Rules”- Reevaluated what qualifies as volunteerism and launched new Acts of Community Good program.
  6. Increased Rewards - Granted employees an extra 8 hours of PTO to dedicate towards Volunteering.

Fostering deeper community impact with small business grants

Banks care deeply about the communities they serve, the small businesses they support, and the impact they are making in those communities. Sadly, small businesses have been hit especially hard during COVID-19 and many banks have focused efforts on support options. The nearly year-long pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and caused thousands of small businesses to shutter. Banks have answered the call by offering many small business relief programs.

“According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, more than 163,000 businesses shuttered their doors during the pandemic—meaning roughly 800 establishments closed down each day.” Source

How is Goldman Sachs helping small businesses?

Goldman Sachs has had a long history and a long-standing purpose in their corporate philanthropy programs - to advance sustainable economic growth, to promote financial opportunity, to support relief efforts, and to elevate the needs of small businesses, the fabric of our nation. The challenges of COVID-19, its duration, and its long term impact has led this mission-driven lender to commit  $775 million in lending capital and grants to small businesses through a stimulus package in 2020. Understanding that by leveraging partnerships, needed capital to distressed small businesses can be delivered to the point of need more expeditiously, Goldman Sachs partnered with the Urban Investment Group, a firm committed to community and economic development. During COVID-19, partnerships have allowed CSR leaders to bring businesses, people and, organizations together and pool resources and expertise to achieve set goals and overcome unexpected hurdles. In addition to supporting small businesses, community programs, and health initiatives, the firm also committed $5 million to match employee donations to nonprofit organizations. 

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently recognized Goldman Sachs and its efforts:

“Through this capital commitment, Goldman Sachs was able to reach over 15,000 small businesses employing more than 87,000 people, with 33% located in low-income communities. On the philanthropic side, the company enhanced its educational resources for its longstanding 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses programs to widen accessibility, created an emergency coaching program for small business owners, and an online hub with tips and advice for accessing government support and outside resources.”  Source 

Responding to LMI communities in response to COVID-19

Financial education and community development have been a cornerstone of many banks’ philanthropy efforts over the years, and as the continued effects of the pandemic have had a devastating impact on communities, it is imperative to help low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals and communities cope during this ongoing period of economic uncertainty.  While doing good and establishing a foundation of financial empowerment for generations to come, financial education and community development activities can be counted toward CRA credit in LMI communities.  During COVID-19, banks have an opportunity to look for development opportunities to help further stabilize communities affected by COVID-19. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas shared some examples, including:

  • Investment or service activities that support the provision of food supplies and services for LMI individuals or communities
  • Loans, investments, and services that support access to health care and digital access, particularly for LMI individuals or communities
  • Economic development activities that sustain small business operations, particularly in LMI communities
“Encouraging financial institutions to be responsive following natural disasters and national emergencies has been a core focus of CRA since 2005.” -Kevin Dancy, Fed Reserve Bank of Dallas

How does FifthThird support financial education?

In addition to committing millions to relief, recovery, and resilience funds for COVID-19 response, FifthThird bank is an example of a successful long-standing financial education program.  Helping underserved communities since 2004, FifthThird understands that lives are improved when people at all stages of their lives - from children through adults - have the knowledge and tools to make informed financial decisions. Through their L.I.F.E "Lives Improved Through Financial Empowerment®” program, they have educated over 2.5 million people. 

From Fifth Third Chairman and CEO Greg Carmichael in a LinkedIn post, “Financial education helps build stronger communities. This is why Fifth Third Bank has invested over the years in various financial education programs to meet the needs of all age groups, from elementary school students to adults. With the dedication and volunteer efforts of our employees, and partnerships with organizations like EVERFI and University of Cincinnati The Alpaugh Family Economics Center at UC, we have educated already 2.5 million people - and many more to come.”


Identifying and tracking CRA service credits is often a largely untapped opportunity for banks, and even if you are tracking your contributions and investments, with COVID-19, there may be more opportunity to capture credit on community programs that support economic resiliency. 

Agile social response

COVID-19 struck communities around the world fast - and hard, and many banks responded with agility and equal speed to support vulnerable populations. Like other large enterprises, banks are building and executing their CSR programs in response to COVID-19 in a much different way than in the past. Rather than a “responsibility,” CSR is an opportunity to invest in creating real impact in the communities served and helping those communities, customers, and employees with relief and recovery for a more secure future. 

Want to learn more about CyberGrants solutions for banking? Download our guide A Practical Guide to Capturing CRA Service Credits for Banks

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