Beyond using a bank or credit union as a place to save and withdraw money, it’s not always clear what you should expect from a financial institution or how to get the most out of your banking relationship. Your nonprofit should hold the bar high when choosing a financial institution. A business banker can be one of your greatest allies and make a critical difference to your organization both in times of economic uncertainty and prosperity.
What nonprofits should look for when choosing a bank or credit union.
Kevin Baughman, Business Banking Relationship Manager at Elevations Credit Union, works with over 75 local nonprofits along Colorado’s Front Range and shares the following insight for choosing a financial institution. “Accounts and fees are similar at most banks,” says Kevin. “The difference lies in how personalized their service is.”
He recommends using these criteria to choose a financial institution:
1. Find a local financial institution you can build a relationship with.
A local bank or credit union will understand the local economy and empathize with changes that may positively or negatively impact your nonprofit. When you meet with a business banker for the first time, get a feeling for whether they are genuinely interested in your organization. They should ask questions about whom you serve and the value your work brings to the community. If they do, that’s a good sign that they’ll bring all their resources to the table and truly address your needs.
Ask if they provide additional resources to nonprofits outside of standard banking products and services. For example, Elevations Credit Union sponsors events with organizations in the community, and its staff have dedicated volunteer hours to give back to local nonprofits. Plus, Elevations Credit Union proudly supports the Elevations Foundation’s initiatives, including community grants for local nonprofits.
Expect great service. Hallmarks of great service are:
- A dedicated business banker who is personally available. If your business banker is delegating many of your requests and not handling them personally, that’s a sign that they aren’t staying close to your business needs.
- Fast turnaround times. Your business banker should respond to you immediately when you have needs to help your finances stay in order.
- Someone who understands your nonprofit. Sometimes you may not even be aware of what banking services you need. Excellent service is a dedicated business banker who takes time to learn your business and proactively provides helpful banking strategies.
3. Make sure the financial institution can serve your nonprofit’s unique cash flow.
Nonprofits are powered by grants, fundraising and, sometimes, seasonal revenue. You’ll want a financial institution that provides products, services and resources that support your cash flow situation. Ensure the institution’s fees, interest or other features and services don’t penalize your nonprofit during up and downtimes.
How to prepare for that first meeting with a business banker.
Now that you know what to look for to set yourself up for a fruitful first meeting, come prepared with information that will help a business banker get to know you and discover whether there’s a mutual fit. We’ve listed the main topics Elevations Business Banking Relationship Managers typically discuss with nonprofits in a first meeting. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer for these conversations, and you don’t need to have everything figured out. A frank discussion allows both you and the banker to understand what services best fit your needs.
A first meeting typically covers these topics:
1. Your business operations.
Be prepared with:
- An explanation of what your nonprofit does, whom you serve and how your work benefits the local community.
- How your nonprofit is structured. Do you have a board? What staff positions do you have — an Executive Director, CFO or others?
- Who needs to have access to your accounts —a business banker can help you set up account access to mitigate risk.
- What your cash flow looks like. What type of balances do you typically have in your bank accounts? Is it seasonal? Is it predictable, unpredictable or somewhere in between?
2. Your plans and goals for the future.
Be prepared with:
- How do you envision the future for your nonprofit? Are you looking to serve more people, add different services, stay the same size, move to a new space, or expand your board or staff?
3. What you’re looking for in a financial institution.
Be prepared with:
- Your honest expectations! Your first meeting is the right time to bring up your service expectations, and if you expect a dedicated business banker, additional resources and more.
When you’re ready to get started, the Elevations Business Banking team is here to speak with you. Please reach out to one of our experienced Business Banking Relationship Managers in your area to get started.