"How can our bank use its charity funds effectively without being a target for every local drive?"
This was the topic of our latest contest for the president of Schmidlap National Bank. Your answers were interesting, to say the least. But the action-oriented winning letter came from Bruce Wright, vice president of marketing at Fort Wayne (Ind.) National Bank, who wrote:
"I am one of our bank's employees in charge of managing our bank's 'community relations' account. I am constantly haunted by the statement made by a now-retired mentor who told me: 'Remember, giving away money, if done properly, is one of the hardest things you will ever do.'
"Boy was he right! It takes the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon, and the leadership skills of Moses to manage the process in an efficient and effective manner.
"The charitable-giving decision process is never going to be an exact science. We at Fort Wayne National Bank receive approximately three requests a day, over 750 annually. Ninety-nine percent of these requests come from wonderful nonprofits doing honorable work. That's what makes the job so hard and filled with emotion.
"Here are the 10 Commandments Fort Wayne National Bank tries to adhere to to make the activity more coordinated and sensible.
"1. You shall establish a community relations donation committee made up of representatives of different divisions of the bank to consider funding requests.
"2. You shall require all community donation requests to be submitted on a form, detailing the event, purpose of event, amount requested, decision- needed due date, and how the bank will be promoted. (This form not only provides a filter for requests, but also requires the nonprofit organization to do their homework prior to asking for funds.)
"3. You shall retain these forms for future reference. (It really helps to update a data base of funding requests to determine who is seeking and receiving bank funds. The results may surprise you.)
"4. You shall remember to communicate and keep it constant. (A memo to all divisional heads on the committee's funding decisions, and a reminder to all on the committee's purpose and function does wonders in getting community donation requests routed to us.)
"5. You shall honor your employees and protect them at all costs. (If you have bank employees on the requesting organization's board or involved in the project, give that request extra consideration.)
"6. You shall only fund one sports team from each league.
"7. You shall not fund requests where only an individual benefits, such as beauty contests, sponsoring one athlete to participate in a special competition, or sending one child to space camp.
"8. You shall give the greatest consideration to funding requests that benefit the greatest amount of people for the longest period of time.
"9. You shall remember to treat every request with respect and kindness. (Communicate your decision to the nonprofit organization in a timely fashion and with a meaningful explanation.)
"10. If your bank is a big supporter of the United Way, you shall give greater consideration to organizations not receiving United Way funding and less to organizations already receiving bank support through United Way contributions."
The award certificate as Schmidlap National's president for a day is on its way.