Philanthropic Bank Virtual Roundtable: Kelly Bruggeman

Kelly Bruggeman, First Interstate Bank

Title: Executive Director, First Interstate BancSystem Foundation
On the job since: 1990
Based in: Billings, Montana
Corporate headquarters: Billings, Montana
Philanthropic activity footprint: Montana, Wyoming & South Dakota
Grants made in 2015: $2.8 million
Staffing for philanthropic activity: 3 staff members

How has your career prepared you for your current role?

I acquired my expertise over the last 25 years by networking with other foundation colleagues, through research and by attending  industry specific classes, workshops, conferences and webinars through philanthropic and nonprofit organizations such as the Council on Foundations, Association for Small Foundations, Philanthropy Northwest, the TCC Group and the Center for Corporate Citizenship and Boston College.

How are your bank's philanthropic activities — i.e., grants, impact investments, sponsorships, volunteerism — structured?

First Interstate’s philanthropic activities are a combination of centralized and decentralized. Branches have their own budgets and we also have a foundation.

How has this work changed since the Great Recession?

We look for more collaboration on projects from nonprofits. We are less interested in capital campaigns. We look for more partnerships around solutions for community issues.

What are the most important issues in the communities where you engage in philanthropy?

Poverty issues, affordable housing, hunger and homelessness.  We do see it outside of the Northwest.  

What are your core strategies for addressing these issues?

Finding the organizations that are successfully working to solve these problems as well as engaging and leveraging others around the same issues.      

What's been a big success for your bank's philanthropic activity?

Neighbors Feeding Neighbors, a program that supports feeding programs within our footprint through funding and awareness. It has been successful because we were able to provide funds to nonprofits of all sizes, across all of our markets and utilized all of our resources, both human and capital.   

What's a big challenge for your philanthropic activities?

Our markets being in rural areas. There are never enough funding partners.  

What’s one more question we should ask, and how would you answer it?

Q. How has corporate philanthropy changed over the years?
A.  It was always the right thing to do, but now it’s incorporated into CSR and business strategies because of the shared value it brings to the business and community.  

Kelly Bruggeman is executive director of First Interstate BancSystem Foundation, the charitable affiliate of First Interstate Bank, joining us this month for our virtual roundtable with philanthropic banks. A former Philanthropy Northwest board member, she is helping plan our annual conference in MIssoula, Montana this fall.