By Michael Souza
By Michael Souza
Rockland Trust and the Stonehill College Center for Nonprofit Management recently announced they are teaming again to present their BreakFACTS workshop series for small and mid-sized nonprofits in southeastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island. The classes are designed to help charitable organizations be more resourceful by thinking creatively and strategically. It is the ninth consecutive year Stonehill has held the seminar and the second year Rockland Trust will sponsor the series.
Ralph Valente, senior vice president and director of marketing, strategy and communications at Rockland Trust, recently spoke to PBN about the seminars.
PBN: You say the seminars will help nonprofits to "think creatively and strategically." What do you mean? Can you cite an example or two?
VALENTE: Nonprofits are unlike corporations in that their focus is not necessarily bottom-line driven; rather they are guided by their overall mission. While this is fantastic for an organization’s beneficiaries, these organizations would not be able to achieve their missions without effective leadership and management of the business aspects of running a nonprofit.
Nonprofit organizations typically look to donors to raise funds, and they may not manage these funds as effectively as possible. It’s important that they start to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising and investing, which is where Rockland Trust comes in. We are helping nonprofits explore other manners of raising funds, including setting up endowments and investing strategically for both short- and long-term use.
Participants in Stonehill College’s BreakFACTS Series, co-hosted by Rockland Trust, will leave with practical information they can use right away. For example, the workshops will help nonprofits learn everything from how to manage their money, to fundraising and marketing strategies. These workshops will provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to more effectively manage their business – which will help them achieve their mission.
PBN: In what manner are the sessions tailor-made to benefit nonprofits, as opposed to conventional literacy classes?
VALENTE: This is the second year we’ve sponsored the BreakFACTS Series with Stonehill College’s Center for Nonprofit Management and we’re excited to offer such a wide variety of educational sessions for local organizations at a very nominal cost of only $25 per seminar. This year, Rockland Trust is hosting sessions on investments and endowments, how to develop an effective board of directors, how to build a good team, and how to use digital technologies to raise brand awareness. These topics are great because they’re immediately applicable and necessary for every nonprofit, regardless of size or mission.
PBN: What other similar programs does Rockland support?
VALENTE: Another area that we think is vital is financial literacy. We believe it is important to start young so we offer a program every year called Reading Makes Cent$ to schoolchildren in grades 1-8 across Eastern Massachusetts. From June through August, kids can come into our branches with their families and take part in the program which encourages literacy and fiscal responsibility. They earn $2.50 for each book they read, up to a maximum of 10 books. This year, more than 1,000 kids participated in the program, and I’ve received great feedback about this from both parents and children.
We also have a program called RockCORP, which supports community-based organizations both financially and with volunteer efforts. Each Rockland Trust employee is provided with two paid days off per year to volunteer in the community, and we have a contributions committee that evaluates donation requests based on variety of criteria established by the bank.
PBN: How great is the need for financial literacy in the personal, business and nonprofit sectors, and what do you base that on, observations?
VALENTE: In today’s complicated financial environment, everyone -- regardless of their age or occupation -- needs to be financially literate. This should be a given, but you’d be surprised by the lack of financial education for children, women, and nonprofits in particular. Thirty-eight percent of women, for example, spend more money than they make each month, according to a recent survey by Investment News.
One of our top priorities at Rockland Trust is to help increase financial literacy so consumers and organizations can make informed and effective decisions about their finances. We are doing this through programs like BreakFACTS and Reading Makes Cent$, as well as through seminars we host in our branches, and personal consultations with our financial planners. This is critical, because the more financially literate a person or organization is, the more secure their future is, which in turns ensures the stability and soundness of our communities.
PBN: You also oversee Rockland Trust’s charitable giving activities. What are some of your most recent achievements? What’s coming up next?
VALENTE: Our support of nonprofits through the charitable giving program is a top priority at the bank. Primarily, we focus on working with education, health and human services, youth programs and community development organizations in a variety of communities throughout our footprint. For example, we recently donated $50,000 to the Hockomock Area YMCA in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which went towards the construction of a new aquatic activities center designed to benefit programs that cater to children and families with cancer or special needs. Currently, we focus this type of charitable giving on communities in Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island where we currently have branches. With our recent acquisition of Central Bank, we’ll be expanding our charitable giving and community support activities to match this geography as well.