Shelley Sylva is head of U.S. corporate citizenship for TD Bank. (Courtesy photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer, Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

TD Bank recently launched its annual TD Ready Challenge, a $10 million grant competition for North American nonprofit and community organizations that provide innovative solutions to global issues. This year, TD Bank is focused on addressing math and reading deficits for students in grades K-12 caused by COVID-19.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, students across the country have experienced significant learning loss as a result of remote learning necessitated by the pandemic. In particular, students of color were about three to five months behind in learning while their White counterparts were about one to three months behind.

“It is not predicted learning loss, we know there will be a learning loss for school-aged children as a result of the pandemic,” said Shelley Sylva, head of U.S. corporate citizenship for TD Bank. “So, what innovative solutions do some of our fantastic nonprofit organizations, both in Canada and the U.S., have to solve that problem?”

U.S. nonprofit and charitable organizations of all sizes with scalable and impactful solutions for the educational deficits will have the opportunity to win $325,000 to $1 million in grants. The competition will also have a preference for programs that support communities of color and low-income communities, which have disproportionately experienced learning loss. The deadline to apply is Aug. 26.

“We feel we need to reach out and talk to organizations that are trusted members of their communities and figure out what they’re saying we need to do in order to provide support,” said Sylva.

For the challenge, TD Bank is taking a hyperlocal approach to ensure that the competition can yield the best solutions for all communities, which may have different problem areas regarding learning loss.

“We understand it’s not a one size fits all for every community whether it’s rural or urban,” said Sylva. “We want to make sure that we’re providing the support and looking at creative solutions that will work in those communities.”

There are several components to the judging process for the competition, including a segment similar to shark tank where the organizations will present their solutions. TD Bank will also be enlisting experts to assess the grant applications, as well as allow its employees to take part in the voting process.

The competition is a part of the TD Ready Commitment under the bank’s corporate citizenship platform. The commitment focuses on four drivers of change, including financial security, vibrant planet, connected communities and better health. The challenge launched in 2018, and last year, it targeted COVID-19 response.

“Success, for us, is being able to provide support in a meaningful way across our footprint to those organizations that are going to drive real impact,” said Sylva.

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