TD Bank: Leveraging Business and Philanthropy for Positive Change

Leveraging business and philanthropy for positive change

For TD Bank, it’s not enough to just provide financial services – they want their work to have a deeper impact.

“Banks play a pivotal role in giving back to the community,” says Rob Curley, TD Bank market president of South and Coastal New Jersey. “TD has a longstanding commitment to enrich the lives of not just our customers, but also our colleagues and our communities.”

TD’s involvement in the communities it serves goes back decades. But its recent TD Ready Commitment – launched in 2018 – took it to a new level. This corporate responsibility platform highlights philanthropic opportunities in 4 critical areas: financial security, vibrant planet, connected communities and better health.

“We want to empower people to feel more confident and comfortable with using their money to make a difference in their communities and their own lives,” says Curley. “When we provide financial services, we hear firsthand what people need. We want them to know that we not only understand their needs but we’re actively working alongside them.”

To do that, TD works closely with key community partners – organizations with a longstanding commitment to South Jersey – to see what to tackle next. These efforts span far and wide to address current community needs. Through the TD Ready Challenge, the organization awarded a $625,000 grant to Camden-based nonprofit LUCY Outreach to provide homework assistance, job readiness, college counseling and other support to low-income Camden city and county students. Its relationship with the Camden Community Partnership helped create and implement a plan to ensure every Camden resident has a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk, and its collaboration with the Latin American Economic Development Association’s Continuum of Business Education Initiative allows TD employees to teach essential skills to small business owners to help them start or grow their businesses.

“We go out very often to have an open dialogue to see what they need and then frame our actions based on that,” says Paige Carlson-Heim, director of the TD Charitable Foundation and Office of Charitable and Community Giving. “We rarely just write a check and walk away. We want to be there, doing the work alongside the organization.”

When the pandemic hit, TD was ready to redirect volunteer efforts and funds as needed, says Carlson-Heim.

“The pace of change and the need for supporting our communities over the past few years has never been greater, especially during the pandemic,” she says. “And while TD usually encourages face-to-face volunteering, we had to look for ways to volunteer virtually. But we were able to reaffirm our commitment and involvement in the communities we serve.”

They had a solid foundation from which to build, shifting priorities on a dime to “always-on” mode, she says. The TD Ready Comittment gave them the structure to address some of the key, fundamental challenges the pandemic brought on like the need to address affordable housing, health and job insecurity. On the operations side, instead of processing grants quarterly, they processed them as soon as the applications came in.

“So many of these organizations became first responders because the community needs became so great. We wanted to do everything we could to make sure they could still operate,” says Carlson-Heim.

But at the same time, the bank still had to operate as a business – a challenge that Curley says wasn’t as difficult as some might think.

“When we provide financial services, we hear firsthand what people need. We want them to know that we not only understand their needs, but we’re actively working alongside them.”

“The balance between business and philanthropy is one that we are very adept at,” says Curley. “I would even say it’s less of a balancing act for us and more of a natural alignment to how we have always done business. That’s reflected in the people on our team.”

TD has no problem getting its employees involved in its efforts. In fact, the problem is how to keep up with their employee’s interests.

“People are constantly coming to us with new ideas, new causes, new organizations, saying we need to do more,” says Carlson-Heim. “Really, it’s about us trying to keep up with them.”

“We also encourage our colleagues to participate in our annual employee giving campaign,” says Curley. “It’s a bank-wide effort and allows colleagues to respond to the needs of communities across the TD footprint by donating to the organization of their choice.”

One of Curley’s favorite initiatives is TD’s partnership with the New Jersey Special Olympics, where he serves on the board of directors.

“I used to watch my sister compete in the Special Olympics almost 40 years ago, and it’s something that’s stuck with me,” he says. “One of our key goals is to be inclusive and diverse in our involvement, whether that be race, ability, income – anything. And over the past 13 years, our partnership has provided thousands of volunteers and raised over $12 million for the Special Olympics.”

While TD executives are very proud of the progress, Carlson-Heim says there’s always more to do. “We won’t take our foot off the gas.”

“We have to remember that we must continue to be a catalyst for positive change,” adds Curley. “Our work and our contributions are so much more than banking. It is to help build a better tomorrow.”