A new program for the economic advancement of Arkansas’ Black female entrepreneurs will be able to scale through a multi-year grant from Bank of America. The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) has been named as the 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for its work to reduce gender and racial wealth gaps in underserved communities across Arkansas.
Women’s Foundation of Arkansas is a nonprofit organization that focuses on ensuring economic security for Arkansas women and girls through focused philanthropic investment in their education and economic well-being. Through grant making, research, and its Girls of Promise and Women Empowered initiatives, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas is investing in solutions that allow women and girls to move up the economic ladder and reach their fullest potential. WFA is the only statewide foundation that focuses solely on women and girls in Arkansas.
As part of the program, WFA will receive $50,000 in grant support and an opportunity for engagement in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling.
“As our communities continue to recover and navigate a changing landscape, nonprofits are still experiencing significant demands and are in need of resources to fuel economic and social progress,” said Heather Albright, President at Bank of America Arkansas. “WFA helps bridge important gaps for underserved women and girls to help them achieve economic equity. Programs like Neighborhood Champions help organizations grow sustainably and strategically for greater positive impact serving our neighbors.”
WFA is designing a new program of innovative financial products and support services specifically for small businesses owned by Black women called the Women-Owned Economic Mobility Hub. The Neighborhood Champions funding will provide WFA the flexibility needed to ensure the women served are involved in planning and launching the Hub.
“We support entrepreneurs in some of the most underserved communities in our state, providing access to capital, business education, mentorship and access to specialized experts,” said Anna Beth Gorman, executive director, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. “Bank of America’s Neighborhood Champions program will allow us to cultivate and leverage partnerships and funding for the new Women-Owned Economic Mobility Hub, which will have a long-term and far-reaching impact on WFA’s overall capacity to provide services to the most vulnerable, underserved women in our state, empowering them to be active members of their own success.”
In 2020, WFA launched a Women-Owned Grant Assistance Fund as a swift response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to securing and distributing funding to small businesses owned by women of color, WFA worked with partners to create business and educational resources for all small businesses who applied for funding.
In addition to Arkansas, Bank of America is bringing Neighborhood Champions to over 40 additional communities across the U.S. this fall as part of its commitment to investing in the long-term health of communities. The Neighborhood Champions program is invitation-only for nonprofits who are poised to take their work to the next level. Leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year’s awardee.
The Neighborhood Champions program is an extension of the bank’s signature philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders®, the largest corporate philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership in the country. Since the program’s inception in 2019, Bank of America has invested $6.3 million in 126 organizations within 42 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.