Making Charlotte Stronger

  • Categories:

    Agency News, Community, Inspiration

  • Date:

    October 1, 2019

Making Charlotte Stronger

Agency News Community Inspiration

Wray Ward launched EmpoWWer, our service-grant program created to support Charlotte-area 501(c)(3) community initiatives, in August 2018. Since then, it’s become even more clear that grassroots and well-staffed charities alike have an immeasurable need for the kind of support companies such as Wray Ward can provide to nonprofits working hard to make the world a better place.

Applications for 2020 EmpoWWer service grants open today. If you think your nonprofit organization could benefit from a partnership with Wray Ward, I encourage you to review our application guidelines and apply by November 30. Meanwhile, take a few minutes to hear from Dianne Chipps Bailey, managing director and national philanthropy strategy executive of philanthropic solutions at Bank of America. Dianne shares our fierce passion for social responsibility and the city we call home, and we’re excited for another year of working with deserving groups to make Charlotte stronger.

Tell me briefly about your professional background as it relates to philanthropy and social responsibility.

DB: Philanthropy is at the center of my being, both personally and professionally. I am blessed that my work is completely aligned with my core belief that nonprofits have the power to make our world healthier, better educated and more humane.

How I share my passion with the community has shifted over time. Early on, I was on the front lines serving on lots of boards, planning events, raising money and learning about community needs. Given the demands of my new national role with Bank of America, I have to be more strategic in how I engage, but my devotion to Charlotte endures.

Why is corporate social responsibility so important?

DB: It’s nuanced. There is an ethical imperative for the corporate sector to do its part. Meanwhile, the business motives are increasingly clear, especially when it comes to next-gen employees who care even more about a company’s values than the promise of personal recognition and rewards. Companies must live up to their employees’ and customers’ expectations. I’m incredibly lucky to work at Bank of America, where our senior leadership has wired social responsibility into our DNA as a company.

Rather than gifts of treasure, Wray Ward’s EmpoWWer program grants gifts of talent and time. How does a program like this help fill a gap in the nonprofit community?

DB: The nonprofit community continues to be under-resourced, relying upon volunteers to provide specialized expertise in many areas. The marketing communications skill set and creative inspiration Wray Ward can provide are absolutely critical. Nonprofits also need legal, accounting and other support — especially fundraising.

The fundraising environment is becoming more competitive by the day. In fact, the number of donors declined by 4.5% in one year from 2017 to 2018. That’s shocking. But I refuse to believe Americans are suddenly 4.5% less generous or less committed to community engagement. In part, people are expressing their compassion in different ways. It may be cause-related purchasing, crowdfunding, impact investing or other nontraditional means of support. Nonprofit leaders must pay attention to this fascinating and critically important trend.

As the landscape changes, nonprofits are becoming more reliant on a smaller group of more affluent donors and are leaning into their major gift strategies. This makes sense, but it’s troubling. Even if you meet your goal, you’re creating concentration risk. What if your donors’ interests change? Nonprofits must diversify their donor base.

What do you love about Charlotte?

DB: Charlotteans are willing to do their bit for the greater good. Collective engagement and action are, I believe, at the heart of who we are as a community. Take the Women’s Impact Fund, where 500 women come together, bringing their financial resources and other gifts to the table to make transformative investments in local nonprofits. Look at what happened with the protests of 2016, when our streets flooded with people grieving together. From that grief, new leaders emerged to create much-needed positive community change. Charlotte, too, welcomes and relies on newcomers. You see many of them on boards, featured prominently as donors and fueling organizations as volunteers.

How can our city be better?

DB: We can’t stop talking about the lack of economic mobility in our city. Unless we face this issue head-on, we won’t begin to move the meter. We need to prepare ourselves for a long and likely nonlinear journey, with a fierce optimism that we can create change that is meaningful and enduring. This work is hard but central to our identity as a community.

Talk about the responsibility of companies such as Wray Ward to bring it all to life.

DB: People’s hearts and minds have to change before we can truly address our problems, and companies like Wray Ward have the ability to use stories and images to communicate these issues. This gives you real power.

At Bank of America, we do our part by providing dollars and volunteers and also by structuring our products to meet the needs of low-income customers or putting branches in fragile neighborhoods. Together with Wray Ward and so many other businesses in Charlotte, we can support the important work of schools, nonprofits, government and the faith community to promote economic mobility.

In your TEDx Talk, you said “anger inspires our actions and optimism fuels the fight.” I love that. Can you talk about what you meant?

DB: Anger and optimism are not mutually exclusive. That’s the most powerful combination! When something stirs an emotional response in you and you listen, you can release that energy as unrelenting determination to achieve a goal. You have to believe that you will reach that goal. Together, audacity and optimism can fuel your momentum.

I think it’s important to say any of these intractable problems call for hard work. Growth will be incremental at best. Sure, we all want that cataclysmic moment where secrets are unlocked and miracles are realized. But the eureka moment is so rare. Instead, you’ll make progress bit by bit, day by day. Optimism provides fuel for this long fight.

What would you say to a nonprofit leader about applying for an EmpoWWer service grant?

DB: Go for it! Don’t think too hard. Get out of your head and act today. You have nothing to lose and everything in the world to gain. Harnessing the power of storytelling is critical to every nonprofit’s success.

Last but not least, people care deeply about positive community impact. If you run a nonprofit, working with a team like Wray Ward to further articulate and amplify your mission is one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your cause. The service grant could be more important than any check you’ll receive next year.

Ready to apply? Tell us about your vision and how we can help you get there. Applications close on November 30. Learn More and Apply

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