For employees of First Horizon National Corp., it pays to serve on nonprofit boards.

While most banks encourage employees to be active with local charities, the parent of First Tennessee Bank takes its support to a higher level by awarding cash grants to nonprofits at which its employees are board members. Last year its charitable foundation gave out 113 so-called leadership grants to Tennessee nonprofits, ranging from $500 to $1,000. It has awarded more than $1.5 million to hundreds of organizations since the program started more than 15 years ago, according to Kim Cherry, executive vice president of corporate communications.

Encouraging employees to serve on nonprofit boards is good business, because they can network with other business leaders. And the nonprofits themselves need to bank somewhere. The initiative is also a way for the bank to show employees that it cares about their interests and trusts them to represent the company well, Cherry says.

"It's about the company caring about me, my passions and my development," she says. "That's very comforting."

Relationship manager Pearline Washburn certainly appreciates the support from her employer.

Washburn is active with Victims to Victory, a Memphis nonprofit that provides support to families of murder victims. Washburn joined the group after her daughter was killed in 2004 and was so moved by the support she received that she joined its board in 2008. She is now the organization's chief fundraiser and says that the leadership grants she has received over the last few years have gone a long way toward helping Victims to Victory meet its annual fundraising targets.

"I wanted to give back to this organization because it helped me get through a crisis, and the bank has allowed me to do that," says Washburn, who has been at First Horizon since the early 1970s.

Like Washburn, Chad Wortman, a senior vice president and regional manager in the Chattanooga market, has applied for and received multiple leadership grants for his nonprofit of choice, Junior Achievement. Wortman has been on the local board for seven years and became chairman on July 1. A father of four and former part-time youth minister, Wortman says support from the bank has allowed him to carve out ample time to work with and mentor children other than his own.

Still, his nonprofit work is not coming at the expense of time spent with his own family. Wortman, who joined First Horizon in 1997, says that one of the best things about working for the company is that it strongly encourages parents to attend their children's soccer games, ballet recitals and gymnastics meets, even if those activities take place during the workday.

"Market presidents have changed, corporate leadership has changed, but the family-friendly culture has remained the same," Wortman says. "It's who we are. It's part of our DNA."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.