Adam McDonough wants to make one thing clear: "Our title is the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, it's not the Property & Casualty Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation," says the head of IICF's Western Division development committee. Around for more than 15 years, the nonprofit organization has a solid representation among P&C firms that volunteer their time and give away about $1 million a year to charitable efforts. McDonough, president and CEO of Lockton, San Francisco, spoke with EBA about IICF's outreach to bring more life and health agents into the fold.
Give us some background on how IICF got started.
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation was founded by two key people: Jim Woods and Bruce Basso. They used to get together once a year and have dinner with some friends. They would throw some money into a pot and give that money to a nonprofit. They decided to formalize it, make it a foundation and seek to represent the industry as a whole by recruiting their friends and peers from other firms - both on the carrier side as well as the brokerage side - to contribute with them to nonprofits.
Grants have gone to, out here in the Western Division, mostly small nonprofits where we can have a really big impact. We felt that we can have more of an affect on our community by choosing to grant to smaller nonprofits.
In 2008, we established a division in New York and it has been very, very successful. New York has a different giving philosophy. They prefer to give larger grants and they average I think about $100,000 per grant to their nonprofits. So it's a smaller number of nonprofits but a much larger grant amount.
It's not just money, activities too?
Our mission is that we seek to improve our communities and enhance lives through three ways. One of them is granting, the second one is through volunteer projects and the third is simply through community leadership - being visible, being present and representing the insurance industry favorably.
Once a year there is what we call Volunteer Week where the foundation sets up projects throughout our main regions: Northern California, Southern California and the New York/Tri-State area. It's really amazing. At any given time there might be a dozen projects going on. For example, here in the Bay Area insurance industry representatives are building a house for Habitat for Humanity, serving food at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a beach somewhere, providing environmental beautification efforts, things like that.
It sounds like fun.
It's so much fun that my firm here in San Francisco has decided to do it quarterly, and then for Volunteer Week we pick a number of different projects throughout the Bay Area and we try to go for 100% participation. It's a great chance to spend time with your colleagues and your peers outside of the office, doing something good, having fun and giving back.
Where do you see IICF going in the future, expanding?
No question about it. Bill Ross is our CEO and Bill has a tremendous vision for the foundation to be a national foundation. It began with our foothold in the New York/Tri-State area in 2008. Later this year we're going to launch our division in Chicago. It'll be our Midwest division. That's going to be really exciting. We've got a couple of great partners who have volunteered to co-found that division; CNA and Willis have been instrumental in helping us get started there.
Our eyes are focused now on the Southeast. We're thinking perhaps Dallas, maybe Atlanta, where there's a very robust insurance community. In particular many of the companies that are represented in both the Western division and the New York/Tri-State area also have representation in those cities.
What is the plan for more life and health agent involvement?
The outreach efforts are robust. I think that we now have a toehold which gives us an opportunity to really build. The representation of Burnham Benefits and Humana, for example, gives us access to their colleagues and their peers in their industry to help us spread the word.
Our goal is to raise the visibility of the foundation and change the perception that we are a property and casualty foundation. We are not, we never have been.
We've always strived to represent the industry as a whole, going back to the founder. His firm did both property/casualty and employee benefits. My firm does both. So in a way we have sort of a built-in representation, but the more we can get life and health companies and their service providers and the brokers that specialize in that area, the better. So we are reaching out to them every way we know how.
What else is IICF working on?
We have retained McKinsey to do a survey of the industry's philanthropic efforts. It's going to be a comprehensive study of what does the insurance industry do when it comes to philanthropy - both in terms of giving as well as volunteering and the other type of indirect community efforts.
It's never been done before. There is no central database or source of information on the industry as a whole. There are so many good things going on out there. There are so many companies that do a lot and give a lot but don't get enough credit for it in our industry. In particular the industry as a whole doesn't get enough recognition for what it does. As you know, our industry historically has had reputation problems. People tend not to think of the industry as being a community giver, when in fact the opposite is the case.
So what we hope to do is aggregate all that data and put it out in the form of a white paper, a survey result, a resource book that both people within the industry and outside the industry can look at to see the extent of the industry's contributions to their communities. So that's going to be very exciting. It's the first time ever and it's attracted a lot of attention. The surveys have already begun. McKinsey is in the process of compiling the data and we hope to have some results later this year.
The second important initiative is as an industry foundation we have pooled together the various corporate foundations that exist within our industry. There are dozens and dozens of very large foundations out there and we found out that none of them have a forum to talk to each other and to share best practices and to collaborate to aggregate their information. So we decided to do that ourselves.
We built a platform; we call it the National Advisory Board. It's specific to the foundations and the foundation managers. We pull them together a couple of times a year. It gives them an opportunity to share information and get to know each other.
They've never had that opportunity before, which is very strange. Most industries that have common interests have a common industry association where they can get together and learn from each other, but the insurance corporate foundations have never done that. So they really value it. It also gives us an opportunity to possibly work with them or help them work together and have a bigger impact on what they're trying to accomplish.
You have a lot going on.
We do, and I have to give a lot of credit to Bill Ross, Melissa Duncan and Mary Reynolds at the foundation. The three of them work tirelessly to grow the foundation, help us expand both geographically as well as across the internal industry categories that we have: property, casualty and employee benefits. It's a common vision. The board shares it. We're very cohesive, we all have a similar mutual goal and when people come together with a mutual goal good things happen. We're definitely busy, but this has been the most exciting time in my tenure with the foundation, which goes back at least 10 years.
How can people best get in touch with IICF?
Multiple ways. We've got a very good website that provides a lot of information on who we are, what we do, who we do it for and who's represented in the foundation right now. Melissa Duncan is our development director internally and she's a great resource for information on how to get involved. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think it could be something as simple as participating in one of our volunteer projects. It could be something a bit more involved such as going to one of our events. We do fundraisers throughout the course of the year. The third way would be to actually join our board. Become a leader in the foundation and help us continue our growth strategy.
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