Raising up nonprofits

Members of Ledyard National Bank lend a hand to Willing Hands, a nonprofit dedicated to feeding those in need.

For its 30th anniversary, Ledyard National Bank decided to ask 10 local nonprofits to enter a video about their work into a contest for the opportunity to win $10,000 and expand their visibility.

By Tiffany Lukk

When Ledyard National Bank in Hanover, N.H., was founded 31 years ago, it was during a time where many community banks were being purchased by larger banks. Decisions were being made by out-of-state folks, leaving the local community without support for or focus on lending, jobs and more. In response to that, a group of people came together to found Ledyard National Bank.

“The basis of their vision was that we would be committed to the community and continually—as long as we were around—give back to the community as in many ways as we could,” says Kathy Underwood, CEO of the $750 million-asset community bank. “It was the vision of our founders, and it remains a core of our values and our culture today.”

Over the past three decades, Ledyard has given back in many ways, including contests, giving employees paid time off to volunteer and donating to numerous local charities.

In honor of the community bank’s 30th anniversary last year, it created a contest for 10 local nonprofits. The participating organizations each made a short video based on the prompt, ‘What does community mean to you?’ Shared on Ledyard’s Facebook page, the videos served to highlight the work the nonprofits do and their significance to the community.

Community members could vote for their favorite video by reacting to it from Oct. 1–22.

“It gave them the opportunity to … use our power and our social media to get their message out there and let them tell their story of what they were doing in the community and why they were important,” Underwood says.

To further boost the nonprofits’ visibility, Ledyard National Bank promoted the videos in its branches, put ads in local newspapers and paid for spots for representatives of those organizations to be interviewed on the radio.

By the end of the contest, more than 2,300 votes were cast and the bank had awarded $30,000 across the 10 nonprofits, with $10,000 going to the first-place winner.

According to Underwood, people who saw the videos showed their support in more ways than just voting. She says, “[The nonprofits] were surprised at how many people in the community responded with not just voting but writing a check.”

A history of support

This wasn’t the first video contest that Ledyard National Bank has hosted. In the past, it’s used this tactic to support nonprofits that cater to low- and mid-income segments, for example. And while deciding which nonprofits to invite to participate in this video contest, bank leaders assessed which sectors would benefit most.

“The thing about the 10 organizations is that each one of them is dedicated to supporting the low- to mid-income segments of our population,” says Jeff Marks, Ledyard’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “For this particular contest, we really wanted to focus on those organizations that were supporting people in the community who needed it the most from an economic standpoint.”

Participants included Dismas of Vermont, an organization dedicated to integrating formerly incarcerated people into society; Upper Valley Haven, which provides temporary shelter and educational programming to homeless families; and West Central Behavioral Health, which offers advanced counseling and treatment to the community.

The money will be spent at each of the organizations’ discretion. West Central Behavioral Health, for example, provides many of its services for free. Every year, it provides about $600,000 worth of charitable care that cannot be reimbursed.

“We offer mental health and substance use and crisis support services to people regardless of what they’re able to pay,” says Dave Celone, West Central’s director of development and community relations. “The monies that we receive from Ledyard … will go to help people who can’t otherwise pay for mental health or substance use or crisis support services.”

Looking to the next anniversary

Celone says the contest reflects the bank’s commitment to service within the community. “They just love the community, and they want to support nonprofits however they can and that feeling really comes through,” he says. “We love to work with them.”

“I would suspect that for our 35th anniversary,” says Marks, “we’re going to have a lot of excellent conversations, and we could do something very similar, or we might do something entirely new. We know that we are committed to doing these types of things for the community.”

Tiffany Lukk is associate editor of Independent Banker.

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