How Kindness and Giving Prevailed in a Year Fraught with Challenges

By Bill Ross | January 6, 2021

This year has been unusually challenging, to say the least. We’ve been thrust into a virtual life of Zoom work meetings, virtual school, telemedicine and more. Many of us are tired of virtual life and uncertainty. We miss our colleagues and former routines. But what I find most interesting as I reflect on 2020 is this – we haven’t tired of helping others.

At the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, a uniting force in the industry, we have a unique vantage point to see the good our industry has done. We have served as the philanthropic voice and foundation of the insurance industry for more than 25 years, helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteerism and leadership. While we’ve had to pivot in 2020 in terms of how we host fundraising events, promote volunteer initiatives, and even present grants to our nonprofit partners, our supporters have not missed a beat.

And it’s not just the companies that have stepped up. This year, we saw more than 1,500 individual insurance professionals show their own commitment to those in need by generously supporting us with personal contributions. To that end, we will be piloting a global membership program for individuals to reinforce the tremendous need the industry has to give back on a personal as well as on a company level.

The success of IICF’s COVID-19 Crisis: Children’s Relief Fund is evidence of that unfettered spirit of giving. To date, the IICF Children’s Relief Fund has raised $1.3 million in the US and UK and provided 1.2 million meals to children and families made vulnerable by the pandemic. Those in our industry are conscious of how this crisis disproportionately affects children and have been focused on addressing food insecurity and lack of educational resources and access. This speaks volumes not only to IICF’s commitment in helping through its grants, but to the generosity of the industry and IICF supporters. As the pandemic continues and we see needs grow, we will launch a second Children’s Relief Fund in 2021.

While IICF has pivoted in its event and volunteer offerings, the industry has along with us. We presented new fundraising ideas and volunteer opportunities, and our supporters accepted the changes with open arms. For example, 1,000 individuals participated in IICF’s first International Step Up Challenge, which provided a safe outlet to promote mental and physical wellbeing and teambuilding for industry professionals, families and friends. The event, which encouraged steps for charity while working from home, raised nearly $50,000 for IICF’s Children’s Relief Fund and a second Step Up Challenge will be launched in 2021.

Companies and individuals have also embraced different volunteering initiatives, both virtually and in socially-distanced settings. We’ve enjoyed great successes with virtual food and essential needs drives, virtual book drives, as well as offering volunteer initiatives related to checking in on seniors, participating in mock interviews with veterans and creating audio books for students with learning diffe rences.

Further, without the ability to gather in person, we’ve had to get creative as we reimagined our fundraising and leadership events. Again, the industry has come through generously in helping us raise funds through virtual trivias, wine tastings, exercise classes and more. This year’s IICF Northeast Annual Benefit Event, one of our largest fundraisers of the year – usually held as a gala dinner in New York City – drew incredible support as industry professionals joined together virtually this month in raising more than $860,000 for local nonprofits and to honor the philanthropic leadership of Gallagher, the 2020 recipient of IICF’s Double I Award, accepted by J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., Chairman, President and CEO of Gallagher.

It seems that through this year of adversity, our industry has come to understand that when we work together to help those in need, the daily frustrations of this virtual life seem less wearisome. Individuals want to be a part of something larger than themselves. They want to be a part of something together united in a common cause, which is precisely what IICF fosters.

‘It seems that through this year of adversity, our industry has come to understand that when we work together to help those in need, the daily frustrations of this virtual life seem less wearisome.’

So, despite the challenges of 2020, I’m proud to say our industry has stepped up for those in need. At IICF, we’ve been steadily growing and anticipate awarding $2 million in grants in 2020, taking our total grants awarded to more than $42 million.

Business, education, and government may make up the economy but that fourth wheel is the nonprofit sector. COVID-19 has raised the profile of nonprofits, demonstrating that these organizations provide substantial support to underserved communities and individuals. The insurance community recognized this – the brokers, the carriers, vendors and individual supporters – and through IICF have collectively acted. Thank you to an industry who did not tire of giving during this tumultuous year and thank you for allowing IICF to be the voice that brings forward the face of the industry through charitable giving and volunteerism.

Republished from Dec. 21, 2020 Charity Issue of Insurance Journal Magazine.

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