Taproot’s founder Aaron Hurst conducted an interview on Huffington Post with Kerry Sullivan, President of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. For the beginning of the interview click here – it continues below:
Aaron Hurst: You have about 300,000 employees at Bank of America. How can you be strategic in adding real value and impact to the community with that many people?
Kerry Sullivan: Our challenge, despite our size and scope, is to resonate locally and take on and contribute to issues that matter. We fund across a broad range of interest areas, but right now we care about critical needs like providing international disaster relief, getting people back to work, and preserving neighborhoods. Domestically, those are the things that we’re focused on.
We are going to connect the dots from what we’ve done domestically to what we can do in the international space. As we build out, we’re rebuilding and re-thinking our global strategy. We certainly develop national and global partnerships, but we also fund organizations that are specific to a city or community. We approach it both ways. We do feel that despite our size, we matter and make a difference in the communities where our business is. We’ve got folks on the ground, and the distribution of our philanthropy is local.
AH: You’ve been involved in Reimagining Service for a while now. How has that caused you think differently about the service you’re doing at Bank of America?
KS: We’ve really been helping people not only contribute, but also have more impact by taking the skills they have to the community. Reimagining Service has been the catalyst for a lot of those discussions internally. The biggest change this past year has been the heads of large business lines in the company coming forward and saying, ‘I want my division and people to be engaged around one or two issues.’ Knowing that volunteerism can make a difference used to just be bottom-up, but now it’s bottom-up and top-down. There’s a preponderance of people wanting to leverage their skillsets.
From a foundation standpoint, we tend to give general operating or unrestricted funding to nonprofits we believe in. We’ve been mindful to ensure nonprofits feel comfortable and inspired to use some dollars to help build that structure they need to better handle volunteers. Not only are we supporting volunteerism and service through our own employees’ actions, but we’re really committing unrestricted support to nonprofits so that they can work toward being more of service organization, if that makes sense for their mission and the service they provide for the community. It works hand in hand.
AH: At Bank of America, how does philanthropy and service fit within the broader Corporate Social Responsibility strategy?
KS: The premise is a simple one: when communities are not vibrant and people are not working and the economy isn’t moving, we can’t grow and prosper as an institution and company. We look at creating opportunity through our philanthropy and volunteerism as essential to moving communities–and hence our business–forward. We’re always trying to look at the opportunity that has the multiplier effect and reverberates broader than just the Band-Aid. It’s part of our business strategy.
Our CSR platform is broader than philanthropy and volunteerism. Making positive connections and opportunities for environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion, community lending and investing, and responsible business practices–they’re all part of it. We’re all part of the same team and report to Andrew Plepler, the Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Consumer Policy Executive , which is a relatively new role that began in 2009. Clearly, all of this is very integrated and connects very strongly with business strategy.