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By Lisa Gruner
• Mar 12, 2018
Head Community & Local Marketing Strategy

There's a perception that when a bank comes into a community that we're some big guy coming to drown out local businesses. In TD's case, that couldn't be further from the truth. It's our local communities that have made us who we are; we're the seventh largest bank in the U.S., covering the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida, but we have consistently maintained our local "flavor" — a lot of our communities still see us as the "local bank."

This is one of many reasons we launched the Major Grants initiatives. We empowered our Field Marketing Managers to partner with market leaderships to nominate local organizations to receive grants for multi-year commitments.

The Major Grants Initiative – Big Bets on Opportunities for Impact

The TD Charitable Foundation has given almost $200 million to charitable organizations across our footprint since inception in 2002. In 2017, we took a step back to look at our priorities; we wanted to make sure we were giving to pillars that had the most impact in terms of helping to develop local economy, small businesses, and really help those who are most in need.

We created the Major Grants Initiative to enhance our support to our community partners through longer-term investments. Though one-time grants can certainly have an impact, grants distributed through this initiative are broken up over the course of three years, have checkpoints throughout that process and continue to fund the project in a bigger way. The idea is to make bigger bets, for bigger non-profits, and projects that have the opportunity to revitalize a local economy with specific needs.

Organizations were nominated by Field Marketing Managers who have a firsthand knowledge of their communities; it was invitation-only to ensure good geographic diversity, and market leadership partnered with these managers to determine the best candidates. The non-profits that were awarded grants – 18 in total—are focused on creating sustainable solutions to tackle challenges and circumstances within the community. Three exemplary organizations included:

  • Bridge Park Anacostia River Project (Washington DC) — DC's first elevated public park will provide a low-income community a new venue for healthy recreation, environmental education and the arts.
  • Tri-County Community Action aka Gateway Community Action Partnership (Bridgeton, NJ) — Program will expand an urban farm for food production, gardening education and employment opportunities.
  • Newark Venture Partners (Morristown, NJ) — Venture capital firm will invest in high-growth start-ups to create jobs in both the technology ecosystem and the service system in Newark, NJ.

The Value of Community Investment

Investing in local economies is one of the ways we're building stronger communities where we live. As a financial institution, TD has tremendous assets, putting us in a unique place where we have a lot to give. It's our local communities that have made us who we are — we need to show up and support them the way they support us. We're always looking for ways to tie our programs back to our core brand values — the human component, and the general need to want to do good.

I spent eight years on the product marketing side of the bank, and that part of my brain is always looking to the return on investments. With initiatives like this, ROI is not always easy to measure. It's not like a checking campaign. But investing in the community can tremendously boost the local economy, while helping people better understand what the bank stands for and why they should choose us. Moreover, there's a huge joy in awarding grants to worthy organizations — it can be a real game-changer for them. I'd encourage companies to think about what matters to them, where they think they can make the most impact. Once you start to reach out to the local community, it's amazing how much need there really is.

Watch how organizations are being impacted through the Major Grant Initiative program:

Videos: Major Grant Initiative, TD Charitable Foundation

When you're working in product Marketing like I was, you're focused on providing competitive products and services, and thinking about core banking needs. Two years ago, when I took on a new role as Head of Community, I began to see this other side of the bank. I had always known that TD was committed to giving back to the communities we serve, but the depth of that commitment — and the understanding of the unique needs of diverse segments — was inspiring. Being the "Human Bank" is about so much more. Now being part of this amazing team firsthand, I truly feel that I have the best job in the bank.

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