Celebrating 27 Years of Giving Back: The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) was founded 27 years ago by executives looking to help others. Now, the foundation’s reach has spanned across the U.S. and overseas.
By: | September 7, 2021

The insurance and risk management industries include many professionals, voices and minds. From risk managers to brokers to carriers, every component is needed to ensure the industry operates as a well-oiled machine.

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But when you dive deeper and expose the true core of the industry, it’s quite simple; the industry is filled with people who have an innate desire to help others.

Many professionals like to take this philosophy outside the four walls of their offices and join a group of like-minded individuals who also have a strong desire to give back.

Enter the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), an organization in which insurers and brokers are doing way more than just providing coverage for clients.

“The core of our industry is social good,” said Hank Watkins, board of governors chair for IICF.

“Whether you’re volunteering or paying claims, it’s all about social good. How many industries can truly say that?”

Founded in 1994, the IICF serves as a philanthropic outlet for the insurance industry and the people who work within it. Members of the insurance industry can come together, regardless of their positions or organizations, to give back to those who need it most.

“There was a very simple philosophy that’s evolved through the years: helping communities and enriching lives as a united industry,” said Bill Ross, CEO of the IICF.

Everything to Know About the IICF’s Philanthropic Foundation

The IICF began as a group of industry executives who wanted to prioritize work within local communities and nonprofit organizations.

Now, 27 years after its inception, the IICF is made up of six divisions, with one located in the UK. Six hundred industry professionals serve as board members, of whom are made up of “carriers, brokers, reinsurers, wholesalers, some agencies and other businesses and associations,” Ross said.

Hank Watkins, board of governors chair, IICF

The IICF works to contribute to the work of nonprofits in their respective communities, either by providing fundraised grants or running campaigns in which members can have a more direct volunteer impact.

From fundraising galas to charitable initiatives, the IICF strives to push the envelope and expand its reach to those outside of the insurance industry.

One of its most popular campaigns is dubbed the “Week of Giving,” in which various members of the industry engage in volunteer activities, either through the IICF in collaborative effort.

The annual event, held in October, is designed to celebrate the industry’s year-round efforts related to charitable giving and volunteerism

Another volunteer opportunity is called, “Share Your Thanks,” where industry professionals are encouraged to send a card or note to children who have parents who are deployed anywhere in the world or are in recovery.

These initiatives display the true nature of the IICF.

Members are encouraged to volunteer at the level that works for them. And their variety of campaigns proves a notable quality of the foundation: It is here to help.

The Links to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

As the insurance industry starts to broaden its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, the IICF is on track to bolster its own initiatives as well.

In fact, the IICF was ahead of the game when it came to D&I.

In 2013, IICF launched its Women in Insurance Conference series, which then focused on female insurance professionals and their roles within the industry but has over the past several years broadened its scope to reach all individuals across the industry

Since then, the series has expanded to the Inclusion in Insurance Forum and Dialogue for Diversity.

The conference serves as a place for industry executives and employees to not only learn about various D&I concerns and issues, but also how individuals can proactively respond.

Different resources, such as articles, videos and speakers discussing D&I, are also available. Ross emphasized the importance of this work following the racial reckoning around the globe in 2020.

He said, “The Inclusion in Insurance Forum and Dialogue for Diversity enables us to explore some of the issues presented in the various social justice movements that have really taken the spotlight this past year or so.”

In addition to the IICF’s own D&I efforts, it also partners with other industry organizations that have similar aspirations.

One such foundation is the AIG Foundation.

Bill Ross, CEO, IICF

The AIG Foundation operates as a separate entity from AIG but works specifically in “making strategic grants to organizations that are driving meaningful and measurable societal changes in support of a more sustainable, inclusive, equitable and secure world,” said Laura Gallagher, AIG Foundation president.

And while the AIG Foundation works independently from the IICF, moments of collaboration are plentiful and beneficial.

“AIG has a long history of giving back, and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation really gives us an opportunity to do so collectively, as part of a larger, more cohesive, and more meaningful effort,” Gallagher said.

To take its D&I ambitions further, the IICF has also established the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Council.

The mission of the council is to expand the conversation around diversity & inclusion, because there are still improvements to be accomplished in the space.

Cheryl Rosario, head of D&I and CSR at Munich Re and IDEA Council member, noted the importance for this work to continue.

“When we ensure employees feel valued, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, ability or sexual orientation, and create opportunities for diverse voices to be at the table, creativity and innovation thrives,” she said.

And despite a need for this continued work, Rosario made one thing clear.

“It’s great to collaborate with IICF, which continues to be a leader in bringing these important initiatives to the forefront,” she said.

Responding to the Impact of COVID-19

2020 will always be remembered as the year of the pandemic.

In one calendar year, many disparities already present in our society became glaringly obvious thanks to COVID-19. The IICF got to work in aiding those who needed it most.

The foundation recognized the impact the pandemic was producing in terms of food insecurity, especially when many children relied on their schools for breakfast and even lunch.

The IICF launched its COVID-19 Children’s Relief Fund, and with the help of members of the industry, the organization provided 2.5 million meals for children across the U.S. and UK.

At the same time, it was imperative for the IICF to assist nonprofit organizations that rely on in-person events for much of their funding.

“As challenging as 2020 was, it not only required the industry to pivot to a virtual setting, but it required several nonprofits, including the IICF, to fully transition to this virtual platform as well,” Ross said.

“How do you still support these important issues while also sustaining your nonprofit?” he further posited.

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Like many, the IICF had to become creative when hosting events, like its large fundraising galas that typically raise over $2 million collectively.

Nonetheless, the foundation remained successful in its virtual events.

“People missed not being able to come together,” Ross said. But that didn’t seem to slow down the need to give back.

“We saw not only great participation but also supporters joining from broader areas since, with virtual events, there are no geographic limits.”

Perhaps the most notable and admirable part of the IICF is its innate ability to bring a variety of professionals together.

“In IICF board meetings, you’re sitting next to industry colleagues, many of them competitors. But the stripes come off when we enter the room as the focus turns to the mission on hand,” Watkins said.

“There aren’t a lot of industries that can offer that experience to their stakeholders.” &

Emma Brenner is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]