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16 Aug. 2016 | Comments (0)

Old National Bank launched its foundation a decade ago with the goal of strengthening communities and positively impacting lives throughout its footprint. Ten years, $10 million and more than 1,500 partnerships later, the Old National Bank Foundation continues to help nonprofits improve communities where its associates and customers live and work: in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan.

Economic development is one of the foundation’s primary funding priorities. The company invests in large-scale and high-impact projects with this focus in mind. Additional areas include adult education, workforce development, early childhood development and financial literacy, especially programs that target low- to moderate-income families who are most at-risk. Bob Jones, chairman and CEO of Old National Bank, responded to my questions about:

Q: Who serves on Old National Bank Foundation’s board of directors?

A: Given the challenges of allocating limited funds to meet significant community needs, we felt it was very important to create a foundation board that not only includes geographic and occupational diversity, but which also reflects a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.

Our foundation board members are personally invested and immersed in volunteer activities, including serving on various nonprofit boards and advisory committees in their communities. Having a knowledgeable, “hands-on” board helps ensure that funding decisions are always made strategically and thoughtfully.

It’s also worth noting that the leader of a non-profit organization—Derrick Stewart, CEO of the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana—sits on our corporate board of directors. Derrick’s insights as a nonprofit CEO have definitely helped our foundation shape and strengthen its effectiveness in partnering with nonprofits.

Q: What other measures have you taken to shape and strengthen your effectiveness in partnering with nonprofits?

A: Probably the single biggest factor in the growth of our foundation has been the ability of our staff and board to really get to know the various nonprofits seeking funding. This starts with making site visits and meeting with potential partners on their turf. We’ve also made the decision to take our foundation board meetings on the road and hold them at the offices of nonprofits that we have either funded in the past or that are currently seeking funding. This really provides an inside view of the nonprofit that can’t always be expressed and understood through an online grant application. It also strengthens our dialogue and overall partnership by building trust and widening the relationship. I wish we could visit with every organization in our footprint, but our staff and board do a great job of making as many visits as they can.

Q: In what ways has your foundation grown and improved from lessons learned?

A: Without a doubt, we’ve learned and developed the most in terms of tracking and measuring program outcomes. Not only have we become much more intentional and focused in our approach to seeking measurable data from prospective partners, our nonprofit partners have grown in their understanding of the importance of tracking and measuring outcomes. As a result, our grant requests are now much more outcome-focused than they were at the onset of our foundation, and we also mandate interim and final reporting from each of our grant recipients. While you might think our partners would view this as a burden, this hasn’t been the case at all. Many have told us that it actually helps them shape a better strategic vision, which inevitably leads to stronger results.

Q: What was most challenging in getting useful outcome data, and how did you and your nonprofit partners move beyond the challenge?

A:  It really hasn’t been challenging to acquire useful outcome data from our nonprofit partners. If anything, it has been a rewarding educational process that has allowed us to work alongside our partners to help them establish meaningful metrics. When I think about organizations that do an exceptional job of utilizing data to improve program effectiveness, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) comes to mind. INHP provides direction and resources that empower low- to moderate-income families to become successful homeowners, and they have been our partner since the beginning of our foundation. The folks at INHP really know how to establish specific, measurable goals and develop programs to meet and exceed those goals. Not only does this outcome-driven approach benefit the community INHP serves, it gives our foundation team great comfort that the grant money is being put to effective use.

Q: What special qualities do you look for in a corporate foundation leader beyond the usual leadership qualities?

A: Our foundation president Janet Baas is extremely passionate about community service and community empowerment, and she’s also an experienced manager and leader. I think that’s a very effective recipe for a foundation leader—someone with strong business acumen and knowledge of the nonprofit world who also “walks the talk” by being a passionate, highly involved community volunteer. We look for the same characteristics in our foundation board members as well.

Q: In what ways does the foundation’s giving strategy benefit Old National Bank?

A: I’ve said it many times: Old National is only as strong as the communities we serve. While we have been a philanthropically-minded bank from the very beginning, the creation of the Old National Bank Foundation a decade ago provided us with a more efficient, structured and objective way to allocate much needed financial resources throughout our entire footprint.

In the ten years since we launched the Foundation, it really has become part of our brand and a source of tremendous pride for our associates and owners. As a community bank, a vital part of the Old National mission, vision and culture centers on investing in our communities through charitable giving and helping nonprofit organizations become stronger and more effective community servants. Our Foundation enables us to accomplish these goals very effectively.

About the guest: Bob Jones in Chairman and CEO, Old National Bancorp. Since becoming CEO of Old National in 2004, Bob Jones has embraced the bank’s long-standing heritage as a community bank. Under his leadership, Old National has grown into a $14.4 billion institution while never losing its focus on exceptional client service and strong community engagement. During his tenure, Old National has also been recognized five times as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the Ethisphere Institute. Additionally, Old National was honored by the American Bankers Association with two 2015 first place Community Commitment awards for its commitment to teaching financial education. 

  • About the Author:Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold

    Alice Korngold advises companies and NGOs on strategy, board governance, sustainability, ESG, and diversity and inclusion. She is the author of  A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solv…

    Full Bio | More from Alice Korngold


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