Getting Local with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation

December 15, 2014

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), established in 1994, helps communities by uniting the collective strengths of the industry to provide grants, volunteer service and leadership. Since its inception, IICF has contributed more than $23.5 million in grants to local community nonprofits across the nation. In addition, IICF volunteers have contributed nearly 200,000 volunteer hours to hundreds of community nonprofit organizations through its annual Week of Giving. Here’s a look at what IICF’s regional divisions are doing to make a difference in local communities nationwide.

IICF West Loves Elmo, Reading and Helping

The IICF has a long history on the West Coast and the charitable group says it has plans to continue to expand in size and influence in coming years.
Volunteers from the IICF’s Western Division came out in record numbers for Week of Giving 2014. More than 1,700 volunteers across Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon took part in a variety of projects ranging from a beach clean up to sorting donations at a local food bank. Twenty employees from G.J. Sullivan Co. spent an afternoon planning a vegetable garden and beautifying the grounds of Seneca’s Canyon Acres Ranch, a therapeutic facility assisting neglected and emotionally troubled children and their families.

Next year through its 2015 Community Grant Awards IICF will be awarding $254,000 to 29 nonprofits across the Western region. Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000.

The 2015 goal is a 27 percent increase over this year, and it’s a great deal more than the first year of grants in 1994, when $20,000 was raised for charities in the West, according to the group.

The eventual goal is to grow that to closer to a half million dollars over the three to five years, representatives of the IICF Western division say.

“It is truly impressive to have witnessed the growth and expansion of IICF,” said Melissa-Anne Duncan, executive director of IICF’s Western division. “What started as a small, local grassroots efforts has become a united, national movement. IICF has grown substantially in industry awareness, participation, and community impact and over the past few years.”

IICF’s Western division has thrown its weight behind “Every Day is Reading and Writing Day,” a partnership between IICF and Sesame Street Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street.

Earlier this year the group staged an event at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles to encourage local parents to read to and talk to their children. The effort is in response to the wide gap in literacy rates that prevails between children of high and low-income families, according to the groups.

The Insurace Industry Charitable Fund was first established in San Francisco in 1993. Ten years later it had grown to be the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation.

In 2008 the California division became the Western division with Wells Fargo as the founder. The Colorado chapter was founded in 2011, and in 2012 the Arizona chapter was founded.

Within California, IICF’s Western division has a multitude of fundraising groups and steering committees. Those groups include the San Diego Steering Committee, the Insuring the Children Program in Orange County, the Central Valley Steering committee and the Child Abuse Prevention Program in the East Bay.

There’s also the associate board, a group of roughly 30 emerging professionals that is split between Northern California and Southern California. The board holds its own fundraising events and projects throughout the year, as well as supports larger IICF goals.

In the Western division giving is focused on education, child abuse prevention, disaster preparedness and health and human services.

The group’s Week of Giving is an eight-day industry-wide volunteer event during which teams of insurance industry volunteers provide three-plus hours of volunteer service at neighborhood and community nonprofit organizations.

Upcoming IICF events in 2015 in the West include: Arizona Fundraising Event – Feb. 19; Club100 Dinner, Los Angeles – March 19; Colorado Bowling Tournament – April 9; CAPP Educational Forum, Walnut Creek, Calif. – April 16; Central Valley Golf Tournament – April 17; Casino Night, San Francisco – May 14; ITC Golf Tournament, Orange County – Sept. 22 (tentative); and San Diego Bowling Tournament – Oct. 1 (tentative).

“Giving back to our local communities is the core of IICF’s work,” Duncan said. “As such, we continue to work towards even larger awards in the coming years.” – Don Jergler

Newest IICF Division – Texas Southeast – Sets Record in Annual Fundraising

The newest division of the IICF – the Texas Southeast Division – is breaking records after just two years in operation.

Launched in 2012, the Dallas-based division serves Texas and the Southeast region of the United States.

Each division determines its own grant focus areas, grant guidelines, events and volunteer activities. The Texas Southeast Division targets its grants program toward charities that support at-risk children, education and veterans.

The division’s signature event, Lone Star Legends Benefit Dinner, set to take place Feb. 5, 2015 at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, is already breaking fundraising records thanks to this year’s honoree – President George W. Bush, says Sarah Conway, executive director, IICF Texas/Southeast Division.

“We are honored to have former President Bush join us as a special guest. The generosity of the industry and our sponsors will contribute to this being the most successful dinner to date. We have already tripled our fundraising efforts from the last two years, raising about $750,000 so far through sponsorships and table sales for the dinner.”
As part of IICF Week of Giving, volunteers in the Texas-Southeast Division at the Oak Cliff Branch of the Dallas Public Library engaged in activities including puppet-making, reading, bookmark making, writing letters, and computer games with over 500 children from low-income families. Industry volunteers showed kids that reading could be fun while exposing them to new words and ideas.

All proceeds from the event go directly to charities, and as of press time, the dinner had only 28 tables left.

Each year, the division awards eight to 10 grants, but Conway says this year’s fundraising efforts will enhance the grant program in 2015. “We are really excited about that.”

Behind the fundraising effort is a “giving” board of directors, Conway added.

At the helm is Board Chair Bill Henry, president of McQueary Henry Bowles Troy LLP. Henry has served as the board chair since its launch in 2012.

Today, the IICF Texas Southeast Division includes 26 board members consisting of industry leaders from agencies, carriers and associations, as well as an associate board of younger industry professionals. It just launched a new chapter in Atlanta, as well.

Henry says starting a new division of IICF has been extremely gratifying. “To see how generous the industry is and to see the hearts of our industry not only coming together to give money but to get out and work together on some of these projects over the last three years makes me really proud,” Henry says.

The fact that donations raised through the division stay local is important. “We are trying to give back to our local communities.”

Joining together as an industry in the Texas Southeast region is helping insurance industry donors “get the most bang for our buck in our local communities,” Henry says.

“When we get together as an industry and pool our resources we can be a much more meaningful contributor to local charities,” he says. “It’s one thing to write a check for $1,000 as MHBT to a charity; it’s another thing to write a check for $50,000 to a local charity as IICF.” – Andrea Wells

IICF Northeast Has Awarded Over $4.5M in Grants Since 2007

The IICF Northeast Division got started in New York City in late 2007 as IICF’s first expansion outside the West Coast. Since then, the division has endeavored to improve communities in the Northeast through grants, volunteer services and leadership.

The IICF Northeast Division’s primary fundraiser is its annual benefit dinner. This year, the event was held Dec. 10 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City and was on track to pull in more than $1.2 million. The dinner “celebrates the collective good work of the insurance industry,” said Lisa Tepper, chair of the Northeast Division board and regional president, Downstate New York/New Jersey, at Travelers.

“It offers one more chance this year for us to help others,” said Tepper.

Last year’s dinner provided nearly $1 million in grant funding to charities.

The event features celebrities who speak on behalf of charities they personally support. CBS Evening News anchor and 60 Minutes Correspondent Scott Pelley, former New York Yankee Bernie Williams and actress Bridget Moynahan are a few of this year’s speakers.

Since 2007, the Northeast Division has awarded more than $4.5 million to charities in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state region and plans to award $839,000 in additional grants in January.

The Northeast Division’s grant focus areas are education, health for at-risk children, disaster preparedness and the environment. All of the grants are at least $50,000.

The division also continues to expand. It started with 15 board members and now has 41. They represent insurance companies, brokers, reinsurers, companies that serve the industry and industry nonprofits.

The division launched its first chapter in Boston two and a half years ago and that now has 26 board members and many other volunteers, said Elizabeth Myatt, executive director of the Northeast Division.

The Northeast Division saw a big turnout for the Week of Giving this past October with more than 2,200 volunteers in the Northeast, with 900 of those volunteers coming out from Philadelphia, said Myatt. IICF Northeast Division volunteers lent a hand at the Somebody Come and Play exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts exhibit celebrating Sesame Street’s 45th anniversary. In addition, the division started an associate board of younger professionals in New York this year and will start an associate board in Boston in January 2015.

Tepper, chair of the Northeast Division board, said that last August, IICF also hosted its first New York City insurance intern networking event. “The goal of the event was to give the interns better information about careers in the industry and to provide them with networking opportunities,” said Tepper.

In June 2015, IICF will hold its Women in Insurance Global Conference in New York. This conference series began in 2013 in New York and drew more than 425 attendees from organizations across the world. The IICF organized four separate Women in Insurance Regional Forums this past June in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. – Young Ha

IICF’s Midwest Division Aiding 25 Local Non-Profits

The IICF has been blazing a trail in the nation’s heartland since the launch of its Midwest division in Chicago in 2011. It also has a chapter in Cleveland.

Kimberly Saccaro, executive director said the Midwest division’s focus is on education, safety and health. Specifically, the Midwest group supports educational organizations that ensure high school grads are prepared to earn college degrees, charities working to end homelessness and programs to assist victims of domestic abuse. They also target programs that promote access to healthy food and that offer ways for people to get active.

The Midwest chapter has supported more than 75 non-profits since its inception, Saccaro said. In 2014, the foundation chapter will grant funds to 25 charities.

While each division holds its own annual fundraising dinners on a different date, the goals of each division are one and the same – dollars raised in each division are distributed via grants to charities in the region.

The Midwest division’s annual event – Blazing the Trail – focuses on fundraising for its grant program. Each year the group follows a decade in the history of the Midwest. The next event to be held on March 12, 2015, will be the fourth and will be held at the House of Blues in Chicago.

This year, the chapter launched an associate board. “It’s for professionals that have been in the industry for about 10 years, generally speaking, that are up and coming leaders in their organizations,” Saccaro said. The IICF Midwest Division raises funds for four local nonprofits at the second annual Rock for Charity Battle of the Insurance Bands. “The idea is that we can start to get them comfortable with philanthropy, working with philanthropy and understanding the value of it so when they become executives within their respective companies they can carry that forward.”

The associate board has its own fundraising and awareness building events to encourage those in the industry to be philanthropic and to volunteer or donate.

In 2015, the chapter will encourage board member companies to volunteer throughout the year with the Early Literacy Initiative started by the IICF. In addition, the IICF plans to host another national women’s conference in 2015 that focuses on leadership development. – Denise Johnson