An increasing number of Detroit neighborhoods are garnering unprecedented interest and investment.
That’s a good thing for everyone, according to Matt Elliott, Bank of America’s (BOA) Michigan market president, who is excited to see evidence of rising property values in pocketed blocks throughout Detroit.
That’s what Elliott and his team look to lessen — or close entirely.
At risk and declining neighborhoods are at the center of the bank’s annual philanthropic initiatives, which “reflect the genuine devotion” he and his staff feel toward the recovery of Detroit’s neighborhoods.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation celebrates its annual “Detroit Day of Giving” on Nov. 16 to help ensure individuals and families in the city and surrounding neighborhoods have access to basic needs and services. The foundation distributed about $1.2 million to 46 local nonprofits in 2017, plus $3 million in grants, sponsorships, employee donations, matching donations and other support statewide.
“It’s important for us to not only give from our financial resources, but another place where we make the most difference is by giving hours in volunteering,” says Elliott, who takes pride in his staff’s grassroots involvement in Detroit’s neighborhoods.
It’s that first-hand involvement that allows BOA to “see” and “seize” opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed, he says. “We’re Detroiters and Michiganders and everybody here is interested in seeing their community succeed.”
BOA’s community giving efforts are outlined within what Elliott calls “ESG” – environmental, social and government – work.
“We know a heck of a lot better what’s needed in Detroit than somebody who’s not in Detroit.” – Matt Elliott, Michigan market president for Bank of America
Charity through both time and financial contributions has been more than a checklist of warm, feel-good endeavors for the bank. Elliott sees a correlation between philanthropic activity and the commitment of customers at branches in neighborhoods BOA helps support.
“The more we take care of that, the better we perform,” he says, “and the better our community performs.”
As part of “Detroit Day of Giving” five teams of metro Detroit BOA executives will visit organizations the bank funds through grants that help address housing, hunger and employment. While charitable strategies are part of a concerted, nationwide effort, Elliott says Detroit’s leadership is directly involved with identifying the programs and nonprofits it supports, making “more and more decisions at the local level.”
“We know a heck of a lot better what’s needed in Detroit than somebody who’s not in Detroit,” he says.
Beyond charitable giving, the company is interested in seeing a broad base of engagement with residents, private companies and government to help stabilize local neighborhoods.
The city stands to lose up to $90 million if the 2020 census numbers do not accurately record the number of residents in Detroit. Organizations with close ties to residents, who typically fail to respond to the census, are among the recipients of its strategic giving.
BOA’s funding to programs like Motor City Match, which pairs property owners with small business operators, helps reduce blight by putting vacant buildings to use and boosting entrepreneurship.
Elliott counts Motor City Match and the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp.’s (LISC) Zero Percent Interest Home Repair Loan Program, which helps hundreds of Detroiters in all seven citywide districts afford renovations and maintenance, as “examples of real progress.” BOA partners with Detroit LISC and the City of Detroit in the loan program.
Additional efforts to boost neighborhood stability are reflected in grants to Jefferson East Inc., Central Detroit Christian, Detroit Hispanic Development Corp. and other community organizations. Elliott says BOA helps improve their constituents’ quality of life.
“That’s one of the unique things about people who are leading their neighborhoods’ revitalizations,” he adds “The people in those neighborhoods own their little patch of the ground.”
Property ownership also makes neighborhood renewal sustainable, he says, and population loss among Detroiters is a concern.
Nonprofits BOA supports can be especially critical in spreading the word to residents that they need to participate in the 2020 Census, says Tiffany Douglas, senior vice president and market manager. It could cost the city $90 million in government funding support if accurate numbers aren’t reflected in the next federal count, she says.
“Detroit is at the forefront where we could lose the most,” she says.
Elliott and Douglas say support for the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent summer jobs program, which hired 8,000 teens in 2017, and even sponsorship of TheHUB’s “Small Shops” neighborhood business series profiling the city’s ambitious entrepreneurs, further help celebrate the community.
It’s programs like Small Shops that lift up the lesser told stories of Detroit’s small business community and fuel its growth potential.
“To get the story out about what’s happening in the neighborhoods is very difficult” for a corporate institution, Douglas says.
It’s programs like Small Shops that lift up the lesser-told stories of Detroit’s small business community and fuel its growth potential, according to Douglas, who notes larger investors and media outlets follow and pick up Small Shops stories, which in turn, benefits everyone.
Investors pay attention to these stories, which often signal growth opportunities.
“We’re just proud to brag about what’s actually happening in the neighborhood and in the community. What we ‘say’ and ‘do’ in Detroit matters,” says Douglas.
“The more people who see it’s possible, the more likely it is that the vision becomes probable,” he says.
BANK OF AMERICA’S DAY OF GIVING
During the Day of Giving the Bank of America’s team made stops at nonprofits that play a crucial role in providing essential human services that help individuals find their way to economic stability. These nonprofits provide emergency shelter, access to food and benefits that reach individuals at their immediate point of need and connect them to programs and resources.
An important component of Bank of America’s Day of Giving is its Neighborhood Builders partners.
The bank announced Ruth Ellis Center (REC) and the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation as its 2017 partners.
It awarded the nonprofits $400,000 in grants – $200,000 each – to increase their impact in the community through program expansion or operations.
REC is a youth social services agency providing short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBTQ youth. It operates a residential housing program; an outpatient mental health services program; a drop-in center providing safety-net services such as food, clothing, showers, laundry and case management; and Family Group Decision Making, which delivers first intensive intervention with families.
The Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation serves the metro Detroit Hispanic community through its family-oriented services. Its Nuevos Horizontes Housing Counseling program provides U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Department-certified counselors to work with the community through housing-related group workshops, one-on-one counseling and outside agency referrals.
Other organizations that received grants include:
- Catholic Charities’ All Saints Soup Kitchen
- Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp.
- Chaldean American Ladies of Charity
- Coalition on Temporary Shelter
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
- Detroit Economic Growth Association
- Detroit Police Athletic League
- Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
- Develop Detroit
- Focus: HOPE
- Greening of Detroit
- Grace Centers of Hope
- Humble Design
- Jefferson East
- Lighthouse of Oakland County
- Racquet Up
- SER-Metro-Detroit Jobs for Progress Inc.
- YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit