Bank of America Charitable Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the international bank, seeks to “address critical issues facing our neighborhoods and communities,” including the support of higher education institutions in communities where the bank does business. Higher ed funding is available through its "Workforce Development and Education" program. It offers institutional support for specific programs as well as general operations.

IP TAKE: BofA views the preparation of young people for the workforce--through training, experience, and education--as the key to raising incomes and lowering poverty rates. This funder is also a great resource for organizations beyond traditional education institutions.

PROFILE: The Bank of America Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the international banking giant. The foundation’s mission is to improve people’s financial lives by building "pathways to economic progress.” It currently pursues this through three main programs: Workforce Development and Education, Community Development, and Basic Needs.

In recent years, most higher ed grants have come in at around $10,000 to $30,000, though some have ranged upwards of $2.5 million.

For higher education fundraisers, the 2016 Workforce Development and Education program is the most relevant, as it seeks to “put individuals, including young people on a path to success.” WDE is divided into two sub-focus areas, each of which has facets that involve institutions of higher learning.

WDE’s first sub-program is called Connecting Youth to Employment. With a goal to conect young people and teens to first-time work opportunities, this focus area’s key strategies include: 

  • Supporting organizations that “help students move from high school to postsecondary success (including at the community college level)”;
  • Providing “tools and support to learn better money habits and become financially capable resulting in greater chances of success in school and career”; and
  • Providing mentorships that connect “young people to committed and caring adults for structured, ongoing relationships that support middle, high school and college success.” 

BofA’s other WDE sub-focus, Investing in the Workforce, is equally relevant for higher ed providers. Among its goals are support for: 

  • Traditional or accelerated degree, credential or certification programs leading to employment;
  • Skill development (including financial management, career counseling, and financial responsibility training); and
  • Programs to help create, expand, and sustain social enterprises and small businesses. 

It’s worth mentioning that traditional schools are not the only higher ed organizations eligible for support under these programs. Because BofA’s prioritization of workforce preparedness, non-university programs such as the Boston-based Year Up, which combines job training, work experience, mentorships, and transferrable college credits, may also receive awards.

A few poins worth keeping in mind. First, to be eligible for funding, grantseekers must be based in and serve communities in one of BofA’s target areas. Second, funds for scholarship support are distributed through the educational institutions themselves, not awarded directly to individuals. Lastly, future requests for proposals may not reflect the areas listed above, so review the site for the most current funding priorities and eligibility criteria.

Also note that this organization is a separate entity from the Bank of America Client Foundation, which is focused almost exclusively on supporting organizations in the Sarasota, Florida, area (though, like the BFCA, education is a part of its giving portfolio).


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