Just as Eastern Bankconversion to a stock bank has altered the local banking landscape, the decision appears poised to create major change in Massachusetts’ communities. 

After long touting its status as the oldest and largest mutual bank in the U.S., Eastern went public this fall, but simultaneously donated stock valued at about $90 million to its charitable foundation.  

That added capital will provide opportunities to significantly grow the foundation’s work funding a more equitable commonwealth  without changing its mission. 

The combination of our philanthropy, our volunteerism and our advocacy on critical social issues stands us apart from others,” said Nancy Huntington Stager, president and CEO of the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation. “And that is not changing. 

Added Resources 

Before receiving the $90 million stock donation, the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation had about $125 million in assets. With Easterns stock price mostly rising since October, the foundation now has approximately $240 million in total assets. 

Formed 27 years ago, the foundation will continue to provide grants from $100 to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations within its markets in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire and Northern Rhode Island. 

The reason foundations are set up is to help communities,” Stager said. “And this year, all of our communities faced the greatest challenges theyve faced in a very long time.” 

2020: A Year in Giving

The real estate and lending communities gave back to their communities in so many ways this year, both big and small. We’re celebrating that by highlighting a selection of these good works.

What might seem different is the focus of the foundations larger donations each yearThe additional capital will help the foundation build on initiatives related to economic inclusion and mobilityStager said, initiatives started before 2020 and the stock conversion. 

The mission didnt change as a result of the IPO,” Stager said. “It was changing before that.” 

A key moment that helped shape the foundationdirection was the 2015 release of the Federal Reserve Bank of Bostons report on the citys wealth gap, “The Color of Wealth in Boston.” The report highlighted the regionwealth gap between white people and people of color. 

After the reports release, Eastern Bank established the Foundation for Business Equity to help Black and Latinx businesses. And last year, Stager said, the foundation decided to start focusing its larger charitable donations on economic inclusion and mobility to help chip away at the wealth gap in the banks markets. 

This giving will focus on four areasequity for businesses of color, early childhood development, safe and affordable housing, and workforce development. 

By focusing its larger charitable donations on four key areas including early childhood education, Eastern Bank hopes to make a dent in racial injustice in Greater Boston.

Stager said its work in these areas put the foundation in a position to move quickly in response to the local and national awareness of racial inequities.  

We were already moving in that direction and definitely moved faster in doing more this year,” Stager said. 

This included a $5 million donation over five years to the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund. Eastern Bank President Quincy Miller is part of the funds leadership. 

Pandemic Response 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been a focus for the foundation this year, with three waves of giving totaling $11 million, including support for community health centers, food banks, small businesses, vulnerable populations and housing and homelessness. 

Its devastating that it was necessary, but were just glad to be able to help,” Stager saidadding that she has been speaking on the phone people working at these nonprofit organizations. The work they do every day is tough work but in a pandemic is even harder. 

Diane McLauglin

One thing different during the pandemic is Eastern Bank’s volunteerismIn a typical year, the banks employees spend about 50,000 hours total as volunteers. The virus has kept those numbers down, though Stager said they have found other opportunities, such as a toy drive and letter writing campaigns to young people and those serving on a Navy vessel 

Eastern bankers are always some of the first to step up, and they didnt disappoint this year either,” Stager said. 

The bank also has more than 200 employees sitting on nonprofit boards. 

We may be regional, but we’re still a community bank, and it’s important to stay connected,” Stager said. 

Eastern’s Conversion Grows Its Foundation

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 3 min