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Bank of America linking donors, nonprofits

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Todd Cohen

Bank of America today is launching a new section on its website that will let nonprofits search for grant opportunities among some of the foundations whose charitable assets the bank manages.

The new web feature reflects a stronger focus on philanthropic services at the bank in the wake of its merger with U.S. Trust, says Claire Costello, the New York City-based national practice executive at Bank of America Philanthropic Management.

With 150 professionals, the bank’s Philanthropic Management unit manages $35 billion in charitable assets, serving as sole trustee or co-trustee for 2,000 private foundations, and advising over 10,000 individual and institutional clients.

The unit, which distributes over $350 million a year to charities for its foundation clients and individuals with their own foundations, handles back-office tasks for them such as grant applications, tax filings and compliance with regulations, as well as issues such as family values, vision and expectations around their giving.

It also advises nonprofit clients on issues involving their boards and governance; the use of alternative investments in the allocation of their endowments; the use of non-traditional assets and their acceptance as donations: and strategies involving fundraising, spending and the allocation of nonprofit clients’ assets and endowments.

“We have footholds in both the institutional and individual world,” says Costello, the founder and former director of the Philanthropic Advisory Services group for The Citigroup Private Bank who joined Bank of America two months ago after working as an independent consultant.

The new “Search for Grants” web feature, located at www.bankofamerica.com/grantmaking, initially will let visitors look for grants information for nearly 80 foundations that are clients of the bank.

Visitors can find a foundation by criteria such as its name, geographic coverage area and focus area.

Visitors also can find information about the foundation, including its mission, regional application procedures, application criteria, proposal deadlines, contact information and grantmaking history.

And for foundations that agree to participate and are permitted to participate by state regulation, the website will feature a single application form that nonprofits can use to seek funding.

By the end of the year, Costello says, the new feature will include information on 100 of the bank’s foundation clients.

In mapping the business strategy for its philanthropic services, Costello says, Bank of America is responding to a number of trends in the charitable marketplace.

Philanthropy is growing, she says, getting more media attention and serving as an increasingly popular option for handling wealth.

Giving by wealthy individuals like Bill Gates, for example, has put philanthropy on the front page of newspapers

Americans are living longer, giving more while still alive, and increasingly involving their families in their giving.

And according to researchers, at least $41 trillion is expected to be transferred between generations over the next 50 years or so, the biggest intergenerational transfer of wealth ever.

“Philanthropy increasingly is an answer for that,” Costello says.

She also sees a “new intelligence around philanthropy” that has spurred growing demand by givers to see the results and impact of their giving.

And a higher level of complexity involving grants and tax deductibility, for example, has prompted givers to turn increasingly to professional advisers to help them find philanthropic vehicles “with the least amount of administrative burden,” Costello says. In addition to the administrative, investment and consulting services it provides to foundations, individual givers and nonprofits, Costello says, Bank of America also offers workshops, programs and publications that focus on philanthropy.

And as nonprofits and grantmakers look to be more effective, she says, the new grants-search feature on the bank’s website is designed to provide greater “transparency” in grantmaking.

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