By Thom Mariner
PNC has become one of the region’s most active and visible investors in the philanthropic community. Its involvements range from early childhood education and social services to health care, community development, business incubators, and arts and culture.
“PNC understands that a strong arts sector means a viable and dynamic community, and they play a significant role in the sustainability of the local arts and culture sector,” said Sneja Tomassian, director of development at Cincinnati Opera.
PNC has been a season presenting sponsor and supporter of both mainstage opera productions and community performances.
In addition, PNC has helped the Opera create new productions, such as last year’s “Tosca.”
“They are always open to new ideas and possibilities in their various community partnerships,” said Tomassian.
PNC really began to make its presence felt in Cincinnati following its takeover of National City Bank during the mortgage crisis of 2008.
Kay Geiger was already at the helm then, having just been named PNC’s market president for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. In the years since, PNC has become one of the most active corporate citizens, and Geiger has become one of the most visible cheerleaders of the renaissance now such a part of our regional fabric.
In a recent conversation, Geiger spoke about the “unique advantage” of banks. Because banks touch so many aspects of society, they can see what she calls “the whole.”
“We don’t look at it as a market. We look at it as a place where we all live.”
“That’s the beauty of being in the banking business – everybody relates to the bank,” she said, “and the bank is also relatable to the community. It’s not a single manufacturing business with a single market. It’s Main Street. It’s everybody.”
As an example, she shares a story of being approached by grandparents at the Cincinnati Zoo’s PNC Festival of Lights, thanking her for supporting the holiday tradition.
“We want to be part of the traditions of our community and part of the future,” she said.
Geiger displays complete command of PNC’s many and varied community investments, ticking them off in short order: Fountain Square, Washington Park, PNC Playground at The Banks, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Uptown, Vernon Manor, Cincinnati Symphony, Music Hall, the Reds, United Way, Pre-School Promise, Ensemble Theatre…
She said PNC approaches philanthropy via a three-pronged method:
- Direct financial investment in programs and organizations that improve quality of life
- Active employee engagement on boards and through volunteerism
- Advocacy for and financial support of projects that fulfill a communitywide need
“We look at it as a long-term investment with a relationship,” she said. “So any investment has an entity or an institution around it; it’s not just nameless, faceless checks. We invest in places that grow the region, hopefully for more jobs, more comfort, more livability.”
Dale Kozma, Geiger’s chief of staff and senior vice president/director of client and community relations, expands on that concept.
“With philanthropy, I like the term ‘investment,’ because that’s really what it is at the end of the day. We always say, ‘Don’t talk to us about sponsorship; we’re not sponsors.’ When we build the community, we’re building the broader region. Whether it’s arts, education or urban revitalization, it’s all economic development.”
PNC has a national reputation for philanthropic investment, currently sitting at No. 19 among the Fortune 500 Most Charitable Companies.
“I think it’s in our culture and DNA – the responsibility that the bank has to the community, and in building the community,” said Kozma.
Locally, more than 100 PNC bankers serve on more than 250 boards of trustees in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
Every employee receives 40 hours per year of paid time off to volunteer.
“That’s why our employees understand, and are proud of PNC,” said Kozma. “They’re living it. They’re going in and volunteering in the classrooms on a weekly basis.
“I think that generates a different type of understanding from an employee perspective, and builds passion and understanding. We’re trying to grow the talent here, keep our talent here,” said Kozma. “That works for the bank, and then we attract business and keep the businesses here. When the community grows, and it’s strong, we’re strong.”
PNC, nationally, has made a specific, purposeful investment in early childhood development, from birth to age 5.
The PNC Grow Up Great program is a $350 million commitment to preschoolers and their school readiness, hoping “to set them on a path to success,” according to the PNC Grow Up Great website.
“We support early childhood, because we’re looking at the workforce of the future,” said Kozma.
James Saporito, senior vice president of development at Cincinnati Children’s, has worked alongside PNC and Geiger on several initiatives.
“PNC has been such a great, longstanding partner with Cincinnati Children’s. They know there is no better investment than supporting the health and lives of children in our community.
“We especially appreciate PNC’s collaboration on initiatives to address literacy and other barriers that can impact child health and limit a child’s future success,” said Saporito.
In addition to early childhood education, investing in the future means being part of brand incubator projects, such as CintriFuse, CincyTech and The Brandery, and leadership within the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) as it continues to rejuvenate Over-the-Rhine.
“We’ve been fortunate that our city has so much vitality to be involved in,” said Geiger, “and so we have to make choices. That’s the hardest part. But we’re very long-term thinkers. We are in this forever.”
To learn more about PNC’s philanthropic focus, visit pnc.com, then click Corporate Responsibility.
Nonprofits that meet PNC eligibility criteria can direct specific questions to: Dale Kozma, firstname.lastname@example.org.