TD Bank Group recently announced a $10 million commitment over the next five years to the Black Opportunity Fund (BOF). Anthony Okolie speaks with Colin Lynch, Head of Global Real Estate Investments at TD Asset Management, and co-founder of the Black Opportunity Fund.
- Absolutely. Earlier this week, we received news that we would receive $10 million over the next five years from TD Bank. And this is a transformational investment in the Black community, one of the largest that we've seen in Canada to a Black-led, Black-focused, Black-serving organization. And we're incredibly excited for that.
In addition, we will be receiving the opportunity to have two TD employees seconded to the Black Opportunity Fund over the next five years. And in addition to that, TD will provide space, real estate space, for the Black Opportunity Fund to establish its main office. And that's all on top of the ability that TD employees currently have, and quite a number have raised their hands through the TD Ready Commitment to volunteer with the Black Opportunity Fund. So we're incredibly excited by it.
- That is incredibly exciting, and congratulations to you and to the team. What's the impact that this $10 million could have on the fund?
- It will be profound in a number of different ways. There is tremendous need in the community, not just businesses and entrepreneurs, but also non-profit organizations and charitable organizations, there's a tremendous need for financial help. We saw that expressed earlier this year. We had the pleasure of being invited to be participating with the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism, with Pitch Better and with Facebook to help provide support to Black businesses.
In the course of a small number of weeks, we received nearly 1,500 applications for support. And that was without really broadly publicizing this initiative. And so just that snapshot provides a sense of how significant the need is, how significant the opportunity is in the community. And this support, this significant support, will help us to provide that help to so many organizations, and to entrepreneurs, as well.
- For those of us that don't know much about the Black Opportunity Fund, can you give us a brief description of its mandate and its mission?
- Absolutely. In short, it's to create the world's largest pool of capital, a permanent pool of capital available and accessible to Black-led organizations, Black charities and non-profits, Black businesses and entrepreneurs. Why? Because there are so many people doing such tremendous work. We at the Black Opportunity Fund really wanted to understand what the needs were. And so we spent a lot of time talking with thousands of individuals, and what we've learned was there's so many tremendous initiatives.
The key, or the missing factor was finance, was monetary support to help those organizations and individuals to accomplish more. And so we heard of that need, and so we set out to create a permanent available, accessible pool of capital designed by the community, for the community nationally, representative of the full diversity of the community-- so gender, sexual orientation, language-- that's really designed to be inclusive in its support, well-governed so that it will be around in 20, 30, 40 years. You can almost think of it like an endowment, a pool of capital that generates a return that, every year, supports the community coast-to-coast.
- Can you give us an update on any key highlights or milestones of the fund?
- Absolutely. We set out to create the fund, actually, in 2019, but we publicized the fund and the launch of it in June of 2020. Since that time, so we have grown dramatically. So in June 2020, we had 51 individuals from across a number of different areas of life. So health care, and education, and business, and others came out and said, we believe in this concept. We are going to work to create the Black Opportunity Fund. Since that point, that's grown, and now we're around 300 individuals coast-to-coast. We've received contributions from 30 corporations so far.
We're in a lot of dialogue over the last 12 months with governments, and we're very happy to see that the federal government in the budget announced $200 million to a Black-led philanthropic endowment fund. And we've had a lot of dialogue with foundations, as well, in terms of supporters for the fund.
We established a board, which is representative nationally of nearly 20 leaders, both Black individuals and allies. And we also published a report in December, a 100-day report, which concluded 100 days of intense consultations-- we've had more since-- that outlined the precise needs that we've seen across the country and gaps that we seek to fill.
We've had town halls. So health care was one. We had another one about vaccines. And we had Dr. Theresa Tam, among others, come and talk about the importance of vaccines, and to help educate people across the country about them. We had a town hall for nearly 1,000 businesses. We had an education town hall. We have an arts and culture one coming up. We have a criminal justice and social justice town hall coming up.
Why are those important? Not just to reconnect people, but we also surface initiatives, ideas, opportunities for the Black Opportunity Fund to help, but in creating those connections and servicing those opportunities, we've enabled hundreds of people to come together themselves to create new things.
But most important is the work that we've done creating the fund. That's the board, that's the structure, that's committees, that's the procedures. Super important that it's all well-governed. And this past summer, as we received nearly 1,500 applications for the program that we are rolling out right now, that's proof point to us not just that there's a big need, but the process that we've developed to actually support businesses, and now support charities and nonprofits, can be replicated and can be scaled. And that will create tremendous benefit for Canada.
- Colin, thank you very much for joining us and sharing this exciting news.
- Thank you for having me.