SunTrust Foundation Makes Big Grants to Keep More Youth from Going Broke

There is little doubt that developing good money management skills early in life pays off over the long-term. Yet many youth in underserved communities have little, if any, access to tools that teach money management skills.

But one of the major foundations in the banking sector, The SunTrust Foundation, wants to put a dent in this problem. It has made a grant of $950,000 to Operation HOPE to enable more online access to its core financial literacy education and entrepreneurship programs. Operation HOPE is a nonprofit headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., with regional offices across the country, including Los Angeles, and is led by CEO John Hope Bryant.

Operation HOPE started in 1992 and has been working the financial inclusion agenda for marginalized populations ever since. It estimates procuring over $2 billion in order to provide financial services, primarily for people with income of $50,000 or less. Operation HOPE participated in Clinton Global Initiative Commitments to Action in both 2013 and 2015.

This new money will support Project 5117, HOPE’s multi-year effort to combat economic inequality, which will center on four main strategies: improving financial literacy, increasing business role models for youth, creating more job internships for youth, and boosting young people’s credit scores.

The plan is for Operation HOPE’s digital programming to be repackaged to reach new geographic areas and communities in the country. The program plans to be up and running by the middle of 2017 and will include content in multiple languages, including Spanish.

The SunTrust Foundation describes its mission as “dedicated to the company’s purpose of lighting the way to financial well-being by engaging organizations to advance financial confidence.” According to The Foundation Center’s database, SunTrust Foundation has made 6,249 grants from 2005 to 2014, with the largest number of its grants going to Virginia (1,520), Florida (1,226), Tennessee (869), Georgia (728) and North Carolina (709).

Grants are primarily focused on financial empowerment, but also range into areas of education, health, civic and cultural engagement. SunTrust reports making more than $100 million in grants, and is a strong supporter of United Way, Junior Achievement, and Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

This isn’t the first time the SunTrust Foundation has worked with a nonprofit to launch a web-based partnership and resource. In 2016, the SunTrust Foundation partnered with United Way Worldwide in an effort to fund research and distribute and disseminate financial education material. “Partnering with Operation HOPE to both digitize and translate their financial literacy programs will ensure more consumers have access to the education they need to reach financial confidence,” said David Fuller, president of the SunTrust Foundation.

Operation HOPE is a large and diverse financial inclusion nonprofit providing a range of services that include foreclosure counseling business development. Some locations for Project HOPE also have cyber cafes with free internet access.

With this new, large grant to Operation HOPE, SunTrust Foundation is striving to reach more young people. Through the Project 5117 platform, Operation HOPE estimates that it will be able to double its impact on youth, and has set a target of teaching 1 million adults and 5 million youth money management and financial empowerment in underserved communities by 2020.

And what does the title, Project 5117, stand for? Each number stands for one of the goals for the project:

  • Empowering 5 million youth with a new level of financial literacy;
  • Creating 1 million new youth entrepreneurs;
  • Opening 1,000 empowerment centers that will provide financial coaching and other supports for economic development in low-income communities;
  • Starting 700 credit score communities providing both individual and group support for developing financial skills and higher credit scores.

“Operation HOPE has implemented sustainable, proven programs that can be repackaged in the digital arena to reach new underserved geographies and markets,” said Bryant of Operation HOPE. “We are honored to receive this generous grant from the SunTrust Foundation to extend our global impact to deliver financial dignity and opportunity to disenfranchised young people and adults around the world.”

The SunTrust Foundation appears to be getting deeper into youth financial literacy funding. This past March, it made a $2 million dollar grant to Georgia State University to create the SunTrust Student Financial Management Center, a new program that helps students with financial issues, particularly those that may be presenting a barrier to their college completion.

The Foundation also made a $1.7 million grant in February of 2016 – the largest grant ever received by Junior Achievement Tampa – to launch Junior Achievement Finance Park, a financial literacy and career readiness center located in Tampa, Fla. The 16,000 square foot facility provides middle school students with real world lessons in money management through the process of running a “micro-city” for the day.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.