Stories of people banking for impact

 

Everyone used to bank with the local bank, but the building down the block is no longer necessarily locally-controlled. The modern indicators of a local bank have changed. Accordingly, so must the way in which people search for banks. Read below how people are navigating the current banking marketplace in their interest to bank for impact.

 
A bit of change can make a big impact.

A bit of change can make a big impact.

Who is banking for impact? Do-good millennials? The uber wealthy? The guy down the block? The three-generation family that’s synonymous with their town? People who like information transparency? People who like their money to serve their interests?

All of the above.

The World Economic Forum wrote that depository institutions, or banks, were the original impact investment organizations, specifically those focused on poverty alleviation (Community Development Financial Institutions).

Today, more than 90% of adults in the US having a bank account. Meanwhile, less than half hold investments in financial markets.

The bank account is arguably the oldest — and today’s most accessible — impact instrument.

We’ve collected stories — from the web and from our own Mighty users — about how people are choosing the best banks for their money and values, starting with their checking account, savings account, CD or business banking.

People

  • Chicago native, tech entrepreneur and former banker Daniel Ramirez-Raftree lives in New York but keeps an online savings account with a local Chicago bank that's focused on funding poverty alleviation and racial equity in Chicago. "If you’re a civic-minded person concerned about social impact,” Ramirez-Rafttree said while speaking as part of Chicago Ideas Week, “you’re much more likely to agree with what community-investing banks are doing with your money than what other banks would be doing with it.”

  • Comedian, writer, and commentator Baratunde Thurston wrote about his personal decision to reevaluate his bank, as he wrote on social media: “It makes me feel dirty knowing they're cycling my money through private prisons and other such activities I deem unethical to oppressive. I think it's important that as many of my actions as possible line up with my values, and where I store my money (and who I let USE that money to finance the activities of others) is a big part of that.”

  • After moving her money to a black-owned bank, Solange Knowles reflected “While I realize this is a very personal decision and thing to share, I’m proud to say I made that step today. Time to literally put my money where my mouth is.”

  • Comedian Sarah Silverman moved all of her money away from a big bank in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying “We can vote, we can protest, but another active thing we can do is watch where we spend our money...we have a ton of power in places we never realized, and one of those places is where we do our banking.” Watch Silverman speak about this on video.

  • Rapper Killer Mike urged members of the black community to put their money in black-owned banks. In the first five days, more than 8,000 people opened up accounts. See press coverage via HuffPost, NY Post and Pitchfork.com.

  • Actor and clean energy advocate Adrian Grenier spoke publicly about his decision to move his bank deposits to a sustainable bank: “After researching the impact banks can have on the environment, I decided that divesting my investments wasn’t enough, where my deposits are held is extremely important as well.”

Small businesses

  • For Jeff Beckham, Founder of Black Box Creative in Chicago, banking is another way of strengthening his connection to the community. He uses different banks for different reasons: one strictly for transactional purposes, and another for the values-aligned, neighborhood-oriented relationships it offers his business and his local community network.

  • “We were pretty unhappy with the relationship we had with our previous bank at the time (a large national institution), and were looking for something new," Rasheed Hammouda, Cofounder of Chicago-based financial technology firm BridgeFT said regarding his decision to use a local Chicago bank for his business. "It’s good for us to work with a bank that shares our mission to build the local startup community.”

  • The team at Gotham Greens chose to use a community-focused bank when building its facilities in Chicago, describing themselves as "farmers that live in apartments" and the company as "fueling blooming communities where others fear urban decay" in order to "grow extraordinarily fresh food in extraordinarily fresh places.”

  • Artist Amanda Williams, owner of AW Studio, investigates color, race, and space with her work, and uses a community-focused bank because it’s “a neighborhood place. People there know your name when you walk in...I enjoy seeing the team there and maintaining a connection. This feeling should happen a bit more in life in relationship to business vendors.”

  • Billy Belchev, President of Chicago-based web development shop Webitects, says the the firm banked locally since day one as it fits the firm's culture. “We happily work with many mission-driven organizations in Chicago and across the country,” Belchev said, "and love that our bank supports local businesses.”

  • Family-owned Wabash Seafood in Chicago works with a community-focused bank because, according to the owners, "the bank understands small business ethos, the importance of small business relationships, and the importance of setting standards of excellence when making your name in small business."

  • Bottom Line Yoga owner Lauren Goggins works with a local bank to achieve her mission of supporting wellness in Chicago. According to Goggins, “We're a purpose-driven Chicago company and value working with purpose-driven partners and clients."

Nonprofits

  • Green America advocates for the importance of banking with your values and putting your checking or savings to work building the local green economy.

  • The Polk Bros. Foundation opened a money market account at a local poverty alleviating bank because, according to foundation staff, "it’s an easy way to help the community while at the same time advancing the foundation’s mission by further investing in several of the foundation's focus areas, including workforce development, housing and economic development, and safe communities.”

  • The University of Chicago deposited $1 million across four community-investing banks as a “practical and responsible solution in furthering the University’s commitment” to the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Genesys Works provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities and works with community-investing banks to help students open savings accounts as well as explore careers in banking with a first job in a community bank.

  • "As churches, our goal with our money is to serve our mission, vision and purpose not just when we are spending it but also when we are saving and investing it. Our choice of bank should be based on directing our money to the places where it will do the most good while it is being held on our behalf." -Dr. Scott Bader-Saye for The Christian Century

Local governments

  • The City of Chicago placed $20 million in a Chicago black-owned bank. According to City Treasurer Kurt Summers, “My office works to invest in the City’s neighborhoods and communities. Community banks are a great opportunity for that because they are designed for the sole purpose of re-investing in their local area.”

  • The State of Rhode Island moved state cash to local banks and credit unions in an effort to “support local financial institutions lending to small businesses in the Ocean State."
 

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