Putting HEAL’s Money Where Our Mojo Is
The administrative tasks at a small environmental advocacy non-profit sometimes seem never-ending. Office space, payroll, health insurance, tax-exemption, employee reimbursement, government permits, HR requirements, IRAs, IRS 990 filings, financial audits… well, you get the picture. And although finding a bank that shared our values was often discussed at staff and board meetings, it never got to the top of the priority list… until now.
Report from Rainforestactionnetwork, Fossilbanksnothanks, indigenousrising, priceofoil, reclaimfinance
Chase, who had been HEAL’s bank for over a decade, keeps showing up at the top of the list of the world’s biggest investors in fossil fuels, and we knew we wanted to part ways. But breaking up with them was more complicated than we expected. We researched banks and credit unions that supposedly had favorable ESG (environment/social/governance) investment strategies but kept running into dead ends. One bank we seriously considered that ranked highly on one of the “green” lists turned out to be owned by another, larger, international bank deeply invested in fossil fuel. And a local credit union, recommended as environmentally sustainable by another source, kept putting off answering our questions about their investment portfolio. In addition, we needed to find a bank that would provide the services we needed like auto bill pay, Quickbooks integration, debit cards, etc.
Image from www.amalgamatedbank.com/our-story
We finally settled on Amalgamated Bank. It was started by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union in 1923 and is based out of New York City. Their stated purpose is “To be America’s socially responsible bank empowering organizations and individuals to advance positive social change” and to provide “Banking that furthers economic, social, racial and environmental justice.” They not only checked out as far as values go, but they were also very responsive to our inquiries. Other non-profits gave them positive references, and their fees were the same or less as we were paying at Chase. The second big hurdle (after finding a bank) was changing everything over from payroll to bill pay to integration with our bookkeeping interface. But our account reps at Amalgamated have been very responsive, and we have now made the official switch!
Our next task is to find an ESG investment vehicle for our cash reserves (six months of operating expenses and expert/legal funds). And our board finance committee is on it.
We’d be glad to answer questions from other non-profits who are considering this type of move. It was a lot of work, but now we can say that it was worth it!