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Insurance Industry Gives Back to Communities in a Big Way

Featuring Adam McDonough, Chair, IICF Western Division, & David Brinkman, Chair, IICF New York Tri-State Division

Posted on 17 Nov 10

About a month ago, the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) held its annual Volunteer Week when thousands of insurance industry volunteers in the western U.S. and New York Tri-State teamed up to work at local food banks, clean up beaches, serve at soup kitches, provide support at senior assistance living facilities and youth centers, build homes, and much more, to help make a difference in their communities. To get an overview of the Foundation and the impact it’s making in giving back to communities across the country through fundraising events, grants, and volunteer service, I spoke with Adam McDonough, Chair of IICF’s Western Division and President/CEO of Lockton Insurance Brokers, LLC, San Francisco; and David Brinkman, Chair of IICF New York Tri-State Division and Executive Managing Director of Aon Benfield.

IICF was established 16 years ago when a group of agency principals in California were interested in raising money for their local communities by capitalizing on the collective strength of the insurance industry. Today, the Foundation has a national reach with the expansion of California to the western U.S. through its Western Division and the establishment of a New York Tri-State Division. It is funded and directed by insurance industry professionals representing reinsurers, insurance agents and brokers, property/casualty companies, health/life companies and related advertising, public relations, law, accounting, computer and other companies that work closely with the insurance industry. Since its inception, IICF has raised over $16 million in grants for non-profit agencies.

Annie George: (AG): What types of organizations does the IICF provide funding to?

Adam McDonough (AM): “The Western Division primarily distributes grants to non-profit organizations struggling to obtain funding either through public or private avenues. We focus on child abuse prevention programs, disaster preparedness, senior issues, women’s issues, and support groups such as Habitat of Humanity, and Girls Hope Boys Hope. We also do a lot of work with food banks throughout the Bay Area. There are hundreds of agencies that we support.”

David Brinkman (DB): “We began a brand-new chapter of the Foundation on the East Coast four years ago. Our primary goal up until this year was to raise funds for non-profits in our communities from our annual gala event. The type of agencies that we give to are similar to that of the Western Division, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., among others.

“This year is the first time we expanded our efforts and participated in Volunteer Week, with a fantastic turnout. So many people wanted to work hands-on to help others, and Volunteer Week is a way for insurance industry employees to do just that.”

Volunteer Week is an eight-day industry-wide event with the IICF teams providing volunteers to participate in projects throughout their communities. All projects are arranged, coordinated, planned, and managed by IICF, making it easy for participating insurance organizations to review the project opportunities and sign up for those of greatest interest to them. The sign-up is done online through a web-based program, which allows the teams to organize themselves and provide the volunteer service that is needed throughout the communities. In the Western Division, volunteer services were provided to 61 agencies through 75 teams with a total of about 1,700 volunteers. When combined with the Tri-State Division, which had about 1,900 volunteers, the total number of hours of service for this year was 12,800, topping what was done in prior years. “Since 2001 when Volunteer Week was first launched, we have provided about 120,000 hours of service in addition to what we did this year,” said Adam. “With the support of our Tri-State Division, this has been the biggest volunteer effort we’ve ever had.”

AG: How do you get the word out for people to take part in Volunteer Week?

AM: “In a number of ways. The IICF is well known in our industry with participation coming from individuals from most of the major carriers and brokers who are on our board of directors or who are providing some other type of support, as well as through our annual gala and other events. Our network is very much embedded in the industry, which is our first source in getting the message out and in getting volunteers. We also do a fair amount of publicity and marketing, and have a very robust website.”

AG: What type of volunteer work is done within the communities?

AM: “Our team participated in a number of community services during Volunteer Week. For example, at a San Francisco food bank, we packed and sorted about 12,000 lbs. of carrots and 1,000 lbs. of rice, which were then distributed to various local pantries. We also volunteered at a food bank in the San Jose area. We participated in an environmental clean-up project at Chrissy Field, a beautiful stretch of beach in San Francisco. And we served over 1,700 people at the soup kitchen at St. Anthony’s.”

DB: “Our projects during Volunteer Week in the Tri-State area were similar. We ended up participating in 150 individual projects, many of which were multiple projects for individual charities. And again considering this was our first year we were thrilled with the outcome.”

The projects are selected based on geography, the day of the week and time of day so that the maximum number of volunteers is available to participate. The goal is to get 100% of the associates showing up and volunteering for a specific project. “We make it as easy as possible for the volunteers,” said Adam. “We’ll have one project in the afternoon, another in the evening, one on Saturday and one during the workweek as well as spreading the projects out in different neighborhoods so people can get to the locations easily.” The volunteer projects come from those non-profit agencies that have participated with IICF for years in addition to others that the Foundation approaches.

“What we do has an impact not only for the non-profits and those they serve who benefit from volunteer service, but also for all the volunteers who give of their time,” said Adam. “We get a lot of feedback from participants in Volunteer Week telling us how gratifying and humbling it was to be a part of a project, and how grateful they are for what they have. It’s not only about giving back, but also about learning and growing as individuals.”

AG: What fundraising events do you have coming up?

DB: “There are several throughout the year. Our major fundraiser is our annual gala event coming up December 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The honoree is Hank Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Company, and the Dinner Chair is Greg Case, President/CEO of Aon. The majority of the money raised at the gala will go back to the community, so it’s very important to get as many people attending as possible in order to get our message out about the great work IICF is doing. We’re also looking to not only expand our efforts with the retail agency and broker side but also within the life and health sector to get even greater participation. We’ve been working hard in this area throughout 2010 and the gala is an ideal platform to spread the word further. Last year we had 800 attendees at the event and this year we’re confident that we’ll have 1,000 people.”

AM: “The Western Division’s major gala takes place in the spring. Ours will be May 19, 2011 at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. We will be honoring Fireman’s Fund’s Heritage Program, which supports firefighters for safer communities, and has awarded millions of dollars to fire departments and fire safety and burn prevention organizations across the country since its inception in 2004. Michael LaRocco, CEO of Fireman’s Fund, will be the keynote speaker.”

AG: What is IICF’s plan in terms of expansion outside the Western or Tri-State Divisions so that even more of the industry participates?

AM: “We’re planning to open a division in Chicago in the first quarter of 2011. Once the division is in place, we expect to have participation from this area in Volunteer Week. Our longer-term goal is to also have a division in the Southwest, most likely in Dallas, Texas. Bear in mind that it was only 16 years ago that we began as a small grassroots organization, and we’re now opening divisions around the country and will be operating as a fully national organization shortly.”

DB: “From the national aspect we’ve created the Leadership Council for IICF member companies that have their own foundations to meet and discuss their practices. While we’ve done an excellent job in a short period of time in terms of what the Tri-State area has accomplished, we represent only the tip of what the industry as a whole is doing in terms of giving back, and this gives our members a platform to share ideas and liaise on projects. In addition to providing foundation leaders with this forum, McKinsey & Company has agreed to conduct a study for us to assess what the entire industry is doing in the area of philanthropy and community service. While we don’t know what that number will look like yet as this initiative just got underway, it will be millions of dollars in terms of hard-dollar donations and much more in terms of volunteer service.”

AM: “This is the first time that a firm will aggregate the collective philanthropic efforts of the insurance industry (property/casualty and life/health) so that as a group, as an industry, we can look back and see who’s giving, where they’re giving, and who is benefitting. No one really knows how much philanthropy is being done by our industry here in the U.S. This is the first attempt to get our arms around this. It’s important because as an industry we’re often maligned when there is, for example, a natural disaster and there are coverage issues that become headline news. No one is paying attention to the amount of money that goes into that disaster not only through policy payments but also in the amount of private donations coming from the industry during those disasters. The data from the survey will be helpful to us to see how involved we are in our communities, what more we can be doing, and if we’re focusing our dollars in the right places. Once the survey is complete, we hope to have it updated on an annual basis.”

The IICF is the one organization that represents the entire insurance industry – whether you’re a retailer, carrier, wholesaler, MGA/MGU, TPA, PA, vendor, any other type of entity – working together to make an impact in local communities individually and on behalf of the industry. There are many ways to get involved with IICF: volunteering, as a board member, donating, and attending events, such as the upcoming gala in New York. To find out how you can make a difference and give back, please visit: You can also contact Bill Ross, CEO of IICF, at 562.697.4002; or Betsy Myatt, Executive Director, New York Tri-State Division, at 917.544.0895.