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Andrea Barrack, senior VP, corporate citizenship & ESG and Mohamed Zaki, senior relationship manager, commercial financial services, at RBC.Provided

When RBC introduced its new global RBC Communities Together Fund (CTF), Mohamed Zaki says he knew right away he wanted to get involved. He immediately forwarded the message to colleagues to share his excitement.

One of Canada’s largest corporate donors, RBC provides multiple ways for employees to get involved and make charitable donations to help their communities. The CTF initiative features both funding and volunteering while putting employees in the driver’s seat.

A CTF project starts with at least three employees forming a team and identifying a local community partner. Next, they meet with the partner to determine needs and how they can help. If the needs are pressing and tangible, the team can submit an application to RBC for a $1,500 grant for the charity.

“I found CTF very appealing because employees can choose to support a charity that they feel a strong connection to,” says Zaki, senior relationship manager, commercial financial services. “I also appreciated its clear guidelines and flexible structure.”

Andrea Barrack, senior vice-president, corporate citizenship, environmental, social and governance, says CTF offers new possibilities for engaging with RBC’s purpose of helping clients thrive and communities prosper. For starters, it can help unlock the potential of local charities and foster stronger community connections.

“Large corporate donors typically work with the larger, well-known charities,” Barrack says. “Our employees’ knowledge and understanding of their communities opens the door to smaller charities serving local needs.”

That was the case for Zaki who was eager to partner with a charity serving Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. “I come from a culture where there is no support for the LGBTQ+ community so this is a cause that I’m quite keen to support,” he says.

After considering two well-established charities, Zaki and his team chose Friends of Ruby. A relative newcomer, it supports all gender nonconforming youth aged 16 to 29 with free counselling, social services and housing in a purpose-built transitional home in the downtown Toronto core.

Team members, including both allies and LGBTQ+ community members, participated in two volunteer events, helping sort donated clothing and packaging over 80 free hot meals. The charity used the $1,500 grant to buy gender-affirming garments to help trans and non-binary youth dress in a way that affirms their identity.

“Friends of Ruby is a smaller organization that’s not well-known but is doing great things,” says Zaki. “We were their first corporate volunteers on site and it makes me proud that RBC gave us the opportunity to support them.”

One unanticipated, but welcome, feature of the CTF is its agility. “The wildfires in Atlantic Canada brought this to light,” says Barrack. “Employees throughout the region wanted to help their friends and neighbours and very quickly put teams together,” she says. “We were able to offer rapid, on-the-ground support for disaster relief and recovery.”

All told, employee teams in the Atlantic region and British Columbia led 35 CTF projects, funneling $52,500 directly to communities that were hit hard during their respective 2023 wildfire seasons.

The CTF, in fact, has proven widely popular. In the first 10 months after it launched in January 2023, more than 2,800 employees in six countries completed 889 projects, helping 822 charities and racking up some 13,600 volunteer hours.

Barrack connects the dots between that uptake and the fact that it’s RBC’s people that drive each CTF project. “Employees,” she says, “increasingly want to work for an organization with values that align with their own.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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