Bank of America's work with Room to Heal and Be Lifted Now
In House Pro Bono Stories
We sat down with Chiara Jaboli, Assistant General Counsel at Bank of America to talk about their work supporting both Room to Heal as well as Be Lifted Now.
Please tell us a little bit about a recent successful pro bono project
I have been doing pro bono work for a while and two years ago I approached a friend who decided - off the back of the Black Lives Matter campaign - to set up a charity called Black Heritage Fund (BHF). The charity essentially functions as an intermediary between organisations that work with and support local black communities and entities/people able and willing to help them with financial and non-financial support.
Each year in January, BHF nominates one or more recipient organisations. In 2023 they have been helping two organisations and we work with both of them. One of them – Room to Heal - helps refugees, and we provided them with assistance on employment law issues along with our panel law firm Clifford Chance, with whom we do a lot of work. The other – Be Lifted Now - provides support to women in Camden. We are helping them to figure out their preferred legal status and we have already provided some basic training on finances meeting face to face in their local school; the initiative was so well received that we are in the process of organizing a second session.
Walk us though how you launch a project internally
With a lot of patience! I connected step-by-step with the relevant people internally, including senior management, Bank of America pro bono committee and as well as the team which onboards the organizations Bank of America supports. I also approached Clifford Chance with this opportunity to help us (typically, it is the other way around) and add a layer of comfort to the whole endeavour as having an external law firm on board facilitates the internal approval process and takes care of the professional indemnity insurance.
How do you get from an idea to sourcing volunteers?
There are many internal groups that do pro bono, volunteering and ESG, so it was a little hard to navigate, but once I put together a presentation to the relevant teams and obtained the relevant sign off, we were good to go and the project was ready to be socialised amongst other Bank of America pro-bono initiatives. I have also made sure that - alongside Bank of America pro-bono team calls to volunteer - colleagues I personally know/work with were made aware of the project and encouraged to take part.
What made this particular project successful in your view?
My persistence in getting it off the ground! There are a lot of good intentions and focus on pro bono and volunteering but going from talking about it to actioning it was a lot of work. I try to keep the activities interesting and explain well why they matter. Conscious of everyone’s busy schedule, I also provide a clear indication of what type of activity is needed and how much time it will require.
How did you ensure volunteer engagement/senior stakeholder buy in?
Senior support was not difficult because there is a big push in Bank of America for pro bono and volunteering. In terms of response from colleagues, there is generally a lot of enthusiasm around these initiatives but sometimes days get too busy and there is little time left to dedicate to pro-bono and/or volunteering. Personally, I try to raise attention and disseminate information in a way that the recipient will not feel guilty if they don't participate. We have a lot of lawyers so there is always someone who can help!
What lessons did you learn from this project which you will apply to future projects?
Find and partner with an external law firm because it makes getting approval much easier and adds a layer of comfort.