Five Cent Savings: Banking on community


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Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank. How quaint, I thought, when I moved here in 1998. Hard-boiled New Yorkers and no-nonsense Midwesterners would never come up with such a name for a bank. Only in New England.

Little did I know that this quaint name was a banner for community involvement and support. All banks devote some of their funds for “community benefit” – actually, federal regulations require it. But the level of civic engagement and funding for community vitality is truly extraordinary at the “Five” – a bank that’s been serving Cape Codders since 1855.

Many of us know about grants and scholarships that go to community organizations, educational institutions and directly to students and teachers. Last year, combined donations from Cape Cod Five and its charitable Foundation exceeded $1 million for the first time. Some 89 mini-grants went directly to teachers and 489 non-profits received grants.

Folks who work in a world of non-profits facing mounting needs (but chronically under-funded and under-staffed) are deeply appreciative of the support that comes our way from the Five. However, we should also know that these remarkable charitable gifts to the community are actually imbedded in an intentional, five-part strategy of strengthening our community.

First — providing responsible community banking to help make home ownership and financial planning accessible to low and moderate income folks. Last year, the Five was named by Mass Housing as the No. 1 lender for people acquiring their first mortgage.

Second – engaging a “green” sustainability model of doing business. More of the Five’s facilities earn “Green” ratings, for instance, and the bank’s recyclable bottles and cans are donated to Champ Homes. The bank was also a major investor in a community solar garden in Marion (

Third — employees – from President Dorothy Savarese across the breadth of the organization – are leaders in volunteerism, giving thousands of hours to hundreds of non-profits. The bank also directly funds and employees serve on volunteer groups aimed at resolving important civic issues, such as the wastewater solutions activities and the Smarter Cape Cod conference.

Fourth — the Bank delivers financial education to many: at senior centers, high schools and prisons, teaching how to avoid scams, manage retirement funds; personal financial management, etc. The Five gave workshops or seminars to 4000+ people last year.

Fifth — direct philanthropy. Scores of employees, corporators and trustees serve on committees that review grant applications. Moreover, Vice President David Willard leads community outreach and has served on literally dozens of local non-profit boards – like many other employees, on bank time.

David is especially skilled at implementing intentional philosophies of the bank: that organizations doing similar or related work are encouraged and supported in working collaboratively. Willard has also personally shepherded numerous non-profit boards through times of crisis or leadership transition, driven by thoughtful assessments that occur regularly at the Five: is this non-profit vital to the health of our community, and if so, how do we ensure that it survives and thrives?

After the economic crash of 2008 and earlier corporate failures like Enron – it became common to regard our financial institutions with a combination of shock and horror. Community banks like the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, however, never suffered the meltdowns of the big banks and investment houses. Instead, they quietly and wisely invested in community, strengthening both the community’s social capital and its economic health, enjoying the satisfaction of seeing what their generous community investments create.

— Kathleen Schatzberg is the former president of Cape Cod Community College. Her monthly column chronicles community building on Cape Cod.




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