This 172-Year-Old Bank is Giving Millions in New England and the Tri-State Area

 photo: BestStockFoto/shutterstock

photo: BestStockFoto/shutterstock

The New England states are home to many well-established banks that aren’t just providing financial services, but really diving into philanthropy in a big way. One such bank funder is the Berkshire Bank Foundation, which announced $1,118,000 in grants to 294 nonprofits last month.

Founded in 1846, Berkshire Bank is headquartered in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and bills itself as “America’s most exciting bank.” If you’re a nonprofit in this area, the bank’s $11.9 billion in assets is pretty exciting once you get to know its local grantmaking habits a bit better.

Every year, the Berkshire Bank Foundation invests at least $2 million to nonprofits that operate within the bank’s territory. And with 115 full-service branches in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, this is a large territory that encompasses many large and small cities and towns in the Northeast.

Thus far, the bank foundation’s top priorities have been education and economic development. But Berkshire’s grantmaking is growing and expanding. Lori Gazzillo Kiely, the foundation’s director and senior vice president said:

While education and economic development remain the Foundation’s main funding priorities, we also recognize the need for other types of support to help nonprofits reach the next level of operational, programmatic and financial maturity. We’re excited to be able to provide an opportunity to address these important issues, in addition to our larger commitment to the nonprofit sector in 2018.

Some of the issues she’s talking about are affordable housing, career advancement, and small business support. Something else that has been of increasing interest to the Berkshire Bank Foundation lately is nonprofit capacity building. The bank’s goal is to help local nonprofits improve their performance and impact with small boosts of funding to get things moving in the right direction.

Massachusetts, the funder’s home state, is a big part of this foundation’s current giving strategy. New grantees in Massachusetts include the Christian Center in Pittsfield, Revitalize Community Development Corporation in Springfield, and Community Harvest Project in Boston. In fact, Berkshire Bank was named one of Massachusetts' “Most Charitable Companies” by the Boston Business Journal this year. Meanwhile, Tri-State groups, like Billings Forge Community Works, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, and Rise – A Community Service Partnership, also received grants in the bank’s most recent round of giving.

Berkshire has quarterly deadlines for education and economic development grant requests, and the foundation does accept unsolicited inquiries from first-time applicants. Learn more about the foundation’s past giving by reviewing the bank’s press releases.