Toyota Financial Services last year leaned on its proprietary app, Toyota for Good, to advance its community service initiatives amid the COVID-19 pandemic as shelter-in-place orders made in-person visits impossible.
Toyota for Good launched in March 2020 at the height of the pandemic and made it possible to engage team members in virtual volunteering opportunities, Ellen Farrell, vice president of general counsel at Toyota Financial Services (TFS), told Auto Finance News.
Going forward, TFS plans to continue their virtual connectivity along with in-person volunteering, in order to further expand the scope of the communities reached. In addition, virtual opportunities provide greater opportunity for team members to carve time out of their schedules for mentoring since they don’t have to account for travel time, Farrell said.
TFS focused on virtual visits with elderly people as a way to give seniors a “lifeline of community” at a time when little personal interaction could take place, Farrell said. TFS issued grants to close the digital divide by giving internet and computer access to seniors without virtual connectivity. Specific figures on the grant were not provided.
“We were working with our nonprofits to help make sure that more folks who otherwise didn’t have access could avail themselves if they wanted to have these kinds of opportunities,” Farrell said.
TFS also used virtual mentorships to continue their youth development work with the Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement and the Boys and Girls Club of America. Team members at TFS connected with youth virtually to discuss career education and financial literacy, Farrell said.
“Kids need to be career ready when they graduate high school, whether they go to college or they don’t. That’s really important to us and we’re focused on that,” Farrell said. “The education piece is something we are all in for, and that’s what promotes equity going forward in the communities.”
TFS also leveraged its strong position in the capital markets and expertise in virtual connectivity to help aid in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, issuing a $750 million diversity and inclusion bond to help diverse minority-owned underwriting firms show their capabilities in the capital markets, Farrell said. These include Blaylock Van, CastleOak Securities, Great Pacific Securities, Ramirez & Co. and Siebert Williams Shank, to name a few.
The bond’s purpose is to “help these firms get their names out there and build their business, because they share our values and give back to the community, so it’s a win-win,” Farrell said.
TFS also issued a $110,000 grant to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to help create an infrastructure allowing students to tour campuses virtually to learn what HBCUs have to offer, Farrell said.
Still, other initiatives supported by TFS were not so easily flipped to a virtual setting. In the past, TFS has sponsored the AIDS/LifeCycle event, which was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Despite this, TFS was still able to raise $100,000 for the organization through virtual fundraisers, Farrell said.
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