Neighborhood Builders in Our Community: Insight from Nikki Salzillo

Neighborhood Builders in Our Community: Insight from Nikki Salzillo

From left to right are Jennifer Cantu, Donna Emery, Elizabeth Hunt, Alan Graham (ML&F President), Nikki Salzillo and Rachelle Everett. Photography by Licarione Photography.

Guest post from Nikki Graham Salzillo (Leadership Austin Affiliate, 2008). Nikki is the Austin market president of Bank of America.

The nonprofit community in Austin is vibrant and thriving, but faces some of the same foundational issues most philanthropic organizations across the country struggle with: funds for their impactful work, and leadership development for their most talented employees.

In response, Bank of America began Neighborhood Builders® 10 years ago to help build the capacity of nonprofit organizations. Since its inception, this program has become the nation’s largest philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership development with 800 nonprofits benefitting from over $160 million in funding.

Each year, a committee of Bank of America employees and local community leaders select an Austin nonprofit to be recognized as a Neighborhood Builder, providing them with $200,000 in flexible funding and training for the nonprofits’ top two leaders. Through this initiative, $4 million has been contributed in Austin to over 15 different organizations whose missions range from addressing affordable housing to empowering at-risk youth through education.


One example of success of Neighborhood Builders is Capital IDEA, which lifts working adults out of poverty and into living wage careers through education. Every month, they leverage the $200,000 grant as their working capital fund against their contracts. By the end of the year, this helps them access over $2 million in government contracts to help the people they serve. According to Steve Jackobs, executive director of Capital Idea, “the training was even more valuable than the grant. Emerging leader Eva Rios-Lleverino and I spent a combined total of five weeks with peers from around the country and the most talented developers in the country.”

This year, Bank of America was pleased to name Mobile Loaves and Fishes a 2014 Neighborhood Builder. They plan to radically transform the nations’ approach to the chronically homeless – starting with Austin, which has a homeless population of around 3,000, over 900 of whom are chronically homeless. Led by Founder and President Alan Graham (Essential 1995), they have truly incredible plans in the works, and we have no doubt that this investment will empower them to build their leaders and expand to meet our city’s evolving needs.

With Austin’s rapid growth, it’s becoming increasingly important that local nonprofits are able to keep pace with the rise in demand for services. In addition to the 44 nonprofits we funded in 2014, we’ve found that providing flexible financial support to an organization, coupled with leadership training that will promote effectiveness among their much appreciated staff and collaboration within their fields, can be truly transformative.

Each nonprofit’s mission is valuable, and a strong philanthropic community provides services that are vital to Austin’s future.

Bank of America is the Presenting Sponsor of Experience Austin.


NOTE: The opinions of Leadership Austin alumni, faculty members, and guest bloggers are their own, and do not represent an official position of the organization.