More Than a Bank: A Community Partner 

by Jennifer Purcell

FirstBank has been the presenting sponsor for the Arizona Gives program since its inception. Its focus on “banking for good” is one it takes seriously, and it’s evident in its partnership to this program over the past 11 years as well as its ongoing commitment to giving both its time and financial resources to all causes.

Arizona Gives is a statewide online giving program that promotes philanthropy and awareness about the work the nonprofit sector does for our Arizona community. The program is run by the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, the statewide nonprofit association that unites, strengthens and advances Arizona nonprofits, and Arizona Grantmakers Forum, the statewide association for the philanthropic network to connect, educate and advocate for greater impact. With FirstBank’s commitment, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers Forum, co-hosts of the Arizona Gives program, have helped raise more than $36 million for Arizona nonprofits since 2013.

Commitment to the Community

FirstBank’s commitment to charitable giving is a key part of its business philosophy. The company heavily invests at the local level, believing nonprofit organizations are integral to Arizona’s social fabric, and that the bank is only as strong as the community it operates in. FirstBank impacts thousands of Arizona nonprofits through its support of Arizona Gives and other charitable giving activities:

  • Online giving: FirstBank and the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits started Arizona Gives Day, a 24-hour online giving initiative, in 2013. The bank has invested well over $1 million to spur donations and has provided an incalculable amount of time, talent and resources to promote the campaign. These efforts helped Arizona Gives Day raise more than $6 million to 918 organizations in 2022 alone.
  • Donations: FirstBank has donated more than $4 million to Arizona nonprofits since 2007. Many of these donations are tied to organizations and causes FirstBank employees are passionate about. The bank donates an average of $4 million annually to nonprofits throughout its trade areas and has contributed more than $80 million in nonprofit contributions since 2000.

An unassuming philosophy and mission of “banking for good,” advocated from the top down, has helped the bank reach record growth while making a substantial impact on the communities it serves through programs like Arizona Gives.

To drive interest in donations for Arizona Gives Day, the bank runs a “Give it Forward” campaign each year — where FirstBankers have posed as grocery store baggers, restaurant servers, veterinarian technicians, gas station attendants and more — to pay the tab for unsuspecting community members, encouraging them to “Give it Forward” to their favorite Arizona Gives Day charity.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstBank launched a Support Local initiative to prop up businesses and recognize frontline workers. FirstBank surprised essential workers with free meals at several local grocery stores and delivered meals to homeless families being served by a local nonprofit, as well as to the nonprofit’s staff.

Culture of Philanthropy

From direct donations and donation campaigns to employee involvement, philanthropy is a key component to FirstBank’s culture. During bi-annual reviews, volunteerism and community leadership are factored into officers’ overall job performance score. Officers are encouraged to join nonprofit committees and boards. Many of the bank’s senior leaders and presidents in Arizona lead by example — in some instances joining the boards of multiple nonprofits. The bank has an Employee Giving Program, where employees can elect to donate a small portion of their paycheck to charity. The company’s Employee Volunteer Program also gives employees two days PTO to devote time to organizations they care about, meaning the company pays employees to support charitable causes. FirstBank employees log thousands of hours each year donating their time to nonprofit organizations.

Humble Beginnings

FirstBank, one of the nation’s largest privately held banks, began providing banking services in 1963. It started from humble beginnings — in a 50-foot trailer coined the “check wagon” — and has grown to nearly $28 billion in assets and 100 branch locations across Arizona, Colorado and California. Since 2000, FirstBank has been recognized as a leader in corporate philanthropy, contributing more than $80 million and thousands of volunteer hours. Additionally, a large portion of its stock is owned by management and employees, giving all employees a financial stake in the bank’s success. FirstBank employs more than 100 people at its 14 Arizona branches, led by market presidents Joel Johnson and Humphrey Shin.

Jennifer Purcell is the SVP & Director of Development at Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

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