Building Stronger Communities


First Interstate Bank’s Commitment Shines at Sixth Annual Nonprofit Summit

On a sunny mid-May morning at The Offord Hotel in downtown Bend, the First Interstate Bank’s Sixth Annual Nonprofit Summit welcomed diverse nonprofit leaders, community members, and First Interstate Bank employees. The event was a testament to First Interstate Bank’s deep commitment to community development and support.

The summit began with a warm welcome from Aaron Schofield, a First Interstate Bank branch manager in Bend, setting the stage for an inspiring day. Soon after, Schofield introduced Sarah Mariani, a senior program manager with the bank for over 19 years, based in Billings, Montana. Marini’s enthusiasm for community responsibility and extensive commercial banking experience highlighted her passion for the bank’s philanthropic initiatives.

“First Interstate Bank operates on the principle that socially responsible corporate citizenship is paramount,” said Mariani during her presentation. “Every day is an opportunity to contribute to our communities through time, treasure, or talent.”

First Interstate Bank’s “Commitment to Community” is manifested in various ways, including philanthropy, volunteering, financial education, community development, sustainability, and public relations. The bank’s compliance and marketing departments collaborate to create annual goals and guidelines for these areas, allowing each market to address its unique community needs.

One of the standout programs discussed was “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors,” launched in 2008. This initiative addresses food insecurity across the bank’s footprint, providing over $2.6 million and countless volunteer hours to support families in need. Another significant effort is the bank’s financial education outreach, which includes digital education modules and employee-led programs that aim to enhance financial literacy and awareness for kids.

“Our ‘Neighbors Feeding Neighbors’ initiative has made a tremendous impact by helping thousands across our communities,” Mariani explained. “It’s not just about providing food; it’s about ensuring our neighbors have the support they need to thrive.”

The “Believe in Local” campaign, a $1 million philanthropy initiative started in 2022, celebrates the integration of First Interstate Bank and Great Western Bank. This employee-driven campaign allows staff members to nominate local nonprofits for funding, fostering a sense of ownership and direct community impact.

Cameronne Mosher, the market president for Bend, shared insights into the bank’s local impact. In 2023, First Interstate Bank’s community giving in Central Oregon totaled $594,000, including foundation grants, sponsorships, and employee gift matching. The bank’s volunteer day, held annually on the second Wednesday of September, saw employees contribute over 3,700 hours to various community projects.

“Our annual volunteer day is a highlight for many of us,” Mosher stated. “It’s a chance for employees to come together and make a tangible difference in our communities, reinforcing our commitment to being more than just a bank.”

This year’s summit also featured a panel discussion led by Jim White, the executive director of the Nonprofit Association of Oregon. The panel focused on nonprofit succession planning, a crucial topic for ensuring the sustainability and growth of nonprofit organizations.

Panelists included Amber Kostoff, executive director of the Humane Society of Central Oregon; Kara Tachikawa, executive director of Mountain Star Family Relief Nursery; Donna Mills, former executive director of Central Oregon Health Council; and Tim Rusk, founder and former executive director of Mountain Star Family Relief Nursery.

The panelists shared their experiences with leadership transitions, emphasizing the importance of strong relationships between executive directors and boards, as well as the value of having a succession plan in place. Kara Tachikawa highlighted the smooth transition she experienced, thanks to Tim’s mentorship and the board’s support. Kostoff spoke about the benefits of having an interim director, Donna Mills, who provided stability and a clear roadmap during the transition period.

The discussion emphasized the necessity of open communication and trust between boards and executive directors. Boards must ask critical questions about their organization’s future, including the potential need for cultural shifts or even mergers with other nonprofits. The session also touched on the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in leadership transitions, ensuring that new leaders feel supported and valued.

As the summit concluded, there was a palpable sense of unity and purpose among the attendees. First Interstate Bank’s dedication to community was evident, not only through their financial contributions but also through their genuine commitment to fostering strong, resilient communities.

The First Interstate Bank’s Sixth Annual Nonprofit Summit was more than just an event; it was a celebration of the power of collective effort, and the impact that dedicated individuals and organizations can have on their communities. As we move forward, it is clear that we can achieve remarkable things together with continued collaboration and support.


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