Despite what its name may suggest, National Bank of Arizona, which bills itself as the state’s “largest community bank” devotes a considerable amount of time and effort encouraging its employees to strengthen their local communities through various volunteering activities.
In fact, the bank asks its own community of approximately 800 employees at 70 branches in 50 Arizona communities for ideas on what efforts to get behind. And there’s “no shortage of great ideas” says Mark Vance, the bank’s vice president of marketing.
Employees have logged more than 8,000 hours in 230 volunteering activities through the bank’s volunteer program, NBAZ in Action. The bank has donated more than $3 million in direct or in-kind community-based giving during the past three years. Bank employees have pledged more than $150,000 of their own money toward 12 United Way agencies in the state, Vance says.
NBAZ, which was founded in Tucson on the idea of providing “family financial health,” is celebrating three decades in business this year. Vance adds that the bank’s volunteer and community-supporting efforts go far beyond dollars and cents.
“The role a bank plays in bringing value to a community is not just in the form of writing a check,” he says. “There are banks in the community that have deeper pockets than ours, but not deeper roots.”
Act One Foundation
One nonprofit that has benefitted from both the bank’s generosity and manpower is the Act One Foundation, which pays all the expenses to take children from underserved schools and communities on field trips to experience live performing arts.
Act One founder Linda “Mac” Perlich says the organization has brought 50,000 Arizona school children to live theater performances since its founding in October 2011. She says the experience goes beyond just showing the kids a live performance to entertain them.
“The shows we pick are academically aligned; we have developed study guides that align with age-appropriate academic standards,” Perlich says. “It is a truly educational experience, it’s not fluffy.”
Perlich sees arts education as a vital part of a student’s development because each person reacts to and interprets a performance in their own unique way, which stimulates brain function. “Arts education sparks creativity, imagination, critical thinking and allows for thought processes to be developed that are then utilized in other disciplines like science, math and others,” she says.
National Bank of Arizona provided nearly $20,000 in 2013 to support Act One’s efforts through the financial institution’s annual Taste of the Biltmore event, held in October, of which 100 percent of the ticket sales is donated to a selected nonprofit.
Vance says the bank chose to support Act One last year — and has done so again this year — because the bank’s goal of “building communities and building a sense of community” aligns well with the nonprofit’s.
Perlich lauds the bank because its efforts extended beyond just writing a check. “It was not slapping their name on something to get acknowledgement in the community,” she says. “Blood, sweat and tears were donated by them.”
Act One, a small nonprofit that Perlich says “has one-and-a-half employees,” also benefits from its association with National Bank of Arizona through a ripple effect. She says that once a big organization donates to a particular nonprofit, it greatly helps the “identity, credibility and visibility” of the nonprofit, clearing the way for other organizations to feel safe in donating to it.
Looking to the future
Perlich hopes that exposing students to live theater, willnot only help develop their critical thinking skills, but will also carry the added bonus of breathing life into the aging live theater audience.
“The arts groups recognize that a lot of the people in the audience currently have gray hair,” she says. “If we don’t supplement those gray hairs with a younger audience, the theaters of tomorrow will not be filled with robust patrons as they are now.”
National Bank of Arizona seeks to achieve its goal of financial literacy through several avenues, including its Arizona Saves initiative, the American Bankers Association’s Teach Children to Save Day and the ThriveTime Challenge, all aimed at educating students at all grade levels about effective money management.
The bank also supported Sen. Kimberly Yee’s bill during the 2013 session that allows local school boards and charter schools to require students to show competency in personal finance to graduate. The information can be taught through a separate personal finance class or as an addition to an existing class. The bill received nearly unanimous support in the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor.
Ultimately, Vance says the bank’s giving and volunteering opportunities center around the idea of preparing people to effectively manage their money throughout their lifetimes and supporting efforts to make the state’s economy stronger through the people and businesses that drive it.
“Our commitment to the community goes way beyond just financial give-back. We are strong champions for Arizona businesses,” he says. “Those Arizona businesses that are going to be successful in the future are going to be run by successful Arizona students.”
Giving back: National Bank of Arizona
National Bank of Arizona is a longtime advocate for community furtherance, and has devoted time, money and resources to ensure Arizona is a great place to live and do business. Below are some of the organization’s charitable and volunteer efforts.
Money Management NBAZ sponsors several programs and community initiatives that promote financial literacy, including “Arizona Saves” and the American Bankers Association’s “Teach Children to Save Day.” This event prepares students for the economic world ahead by teaching them about saving, how to differentiate between needs and wants, and how interest makes money grow.
Finance Games Founded by the 2013 NBAZ Woman of the Year Sharon Lechter, the ThriveTime Challenge is a tournament involving playing ThriveTime for Teens board game. The game takes players on a financial rollercoaster where they must make crucial life decisions like buying cars and paying for college. Most recently, the bank sponsored the Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge, of which the proceeds went directly to support Junior Achievement’s financial literacy programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Women’s Financial Group NBAZ has an entire division devoted to promoting financial literacy for women. The Women’s Financial Group is a forum of professional women who join forces to collaborate, network and succeed in finance, business and life through quality relationships and exclusive WFG events.
Sporting Events The WFG also hosts the annual Winter Swing Golf Tournament, the proceeds of which benefit local charities. This year the Ron Wolfley MVP Foundation and the Calais Campbell CRC Foundation benefitted. The MVP Foundation leverages the power of professional sports to provide opportunities, interactive programs and resources to at-risk children and families in Arizona. The CRC Foundation was established to teach life skills that are not typically learned in a traditional classroom setting, such as accounting, budgeting, and diversity awareness.
Grants WFG recently awarded a $25,000 grant to the YWCA of Maricopa County in support of its Own It Financial Education Program, which provides financial literacy courses to primarily low-income women and families at no charge.
Employee Volunteers Employee volunteering is also an integral part of NBAZ’s proactive approach to “pay it forward.” The bank has sponsored more-than 230 volunteer activities that resulted in nearly 8,000 hours of service through the NBAZ in Action program.
Last year’s records show several NBAZ employees served as committee members, treasurers, or even presidents to many different nonprofit boards, while other employees preferred more hands-on opportunities. Some employees sought out opportunities to serve meals to the homeless, while others chose to make a difference at special events by answering phones at auctions, holding bake sales, and sponsoring local families with angel trees.e