Institutions Should Lead on Local Initiatives

June 09, 2022

At Bank of America and Virginia Union University, we are big believers in changing financial outcomes for members of our community. Our investments in the region reflect that commitment. When members of the Richmond community are able to create new financial destinies, it is the greatest return on investment we can make.

Virginia Union University is uniquely suited to realize this goal. A recent grant given to the school by Bank of America will initiate a financial program for students, and the radius of the impact extends beyond the campus' borders.

The grant will help fund the My Opportunity is Real Essential program. This initiative will not only build skills and workforce experience for VUU students, but it also will leverage that experience to empower and enable them to become ambassadors for financial literacy in Richmond’s underserved minority communities.

VUU realizes it can make an outsize impact in the greater Richmond community like no other institution can. As the city’s only historically Black college or university, VUU students are well prepared to have credibility and trust — key elements of change — with communities they are engaging.

The university is keen to shoulder that responsibility, and attacks the challenge with cheerful enthusiasm. Partnerships between institutions like banks and universities present an opportunity to deliver on some critical local needs.

The school already invests in the community through its various partnerships and workforce development initiatives. These are designed to support underserved, marginalized communities, and to provide access to educational programs and training that otherwise would not be available.

Programs like these pay dividends for the region. Institutions such as VUU and Bank of America realize they can’t be isolated from the communities they're located in.

Universities, banks, manufacturers, companies in the service industry and other organizations must be active participants in the communities they serve and reside in. By leveraging their expertise and involvement, real progress can be made on some of Richmond’s biggest concerns.

These kinds of institutions now are responsible for contributing to the health and wellness of a region, and they must keep a lookout with a neighborly eye toward today’s problems. Bank of America has committed $1.25 billion to this cause because it believes institutions have a duty to local citizens to find solutions, or make investments with groups capable of finding them.

For example, workforce shortages continue to be a concern in the Richmond region among certain talent areas. VUU recognized the need to expand its academic programs to better serve the community, recently launching 11 new graduate programs in high-demand fields.

In the same way, it will be our institutions' responsibility to invest in opportunities that raise the number of graduates from these in-demand programs. These are problems Bank of America and VUU are uniquely positioned to solve, and we view it as our responsibility to do so.

We encourage other institutions to do the same. Figure out how to invest your resources in ways that will reverberate through the community and help solve problems. Perhaps that means volunteering time, energy and talent, or donating resources like knowledge, space and supplies. Perhaps that means financial investments of your own, or through a partner that helps solve a problem.

Bank of America chooses to invest in VUU because it has an outsize impact on positive outcomes in the region. VUU invests in the community because solving local challenges raises the community and its members to higher levels. All institutions should think about what the Richmond region needs and figure out what investments they can make in solving problems.

Victor Branch is Richmond president for Bank of America. Contact him at: victor.branch@bofa.com

Dr. Hakim J. Lucas is president and CEO of Virginia Union University: Contact him at: HJLucas@VUU.EDU