As we pointed out a few months ago, charitable partnerships are on the rise and the insurance sector has really been stepping up its philanthropic game. The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) was founded in 1994 and is directed by insurance industry professionals representing a broad spectrum of the industry. But what’s interesting about this funder from a local perspective is that it has four divisions, each with its own specific giving priorities.
For example, the Texas/Southeast division grants have three focus areas: children at risk, education, and veterans. This division has been on the grantmaking scene since 2012 and has awarded over $1 million in community grants. To get an initial sense of this funder’s grantmaking, take a look at the 2015 Grant Recipient List.
Although disaster relief isn’t one of the division’s focus areas, IICF launched a flood relief campaign in Texas to give aid to those recovering from the devastating floods earlier this year. In total, IICF’s campaign raised $73,665 which was distributed to several Texas nonprofits, including the Austin Disaster Relief Network, Red Cross of Central Texas, the Salvation Army of Texas, and Texas Search and Rescue.
The foundation’s Week of Giving took place in October across IICF’s four regions. A record-breaking 8,577 insurance industry volunteers from 76 cities across 30 states provided over 25,000 hours of service to nonprofits during this week alone. More than 200 volunteer events took place across the country, and more than 35 of these were in Texas. A common theme among the Week of Giving events was a strong focus on early literacy programs for underserved youths.
Since the bulk of IICF’s Texas/Southeast giving goes to Texas nonprofits, I connected with Sarah Conway, executive director of the Texas/Southeast division, to learn a bit more about the group’s giving across the state.
In regard to your foundation's Texas/Southeast grantmaking, how much support do you provide to Texas nonprofits... compared to organizations in other parts of the Southeast? What other states/regions are part of your Southeast category?
We currently provide the majority of our grants within the state of Texas. Our division leadership focuses on making an impact in the areas of at-risk children, education, and veteran organizations. Our funds are reinvested locally, and the majority of our donors reside in the Lone Star state. With that said, we are growing our reach through the southeast and plan to see an increase in grants across the states in our region (Texas to Florida). For example, our newly launched Georgia Chapter, based in Atlanta, is beginning their first grant cycle and will be supporting local nonprofits in their state that champion children, homelessness, and veterans. We have also supported several organizations in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.
In your opinion, where are the greatest needs in Texas/the Southeast right now? Can you share a local Texas/Southeast grantee or two that your foundation has recently supported that is meeting that need?
In my opinion, our youth and their education is an area of significant need. One in four children in the state of Texas live below the poverty line. Reaching these children early is critical and one organization we partner with to make a change is Mi Escuelita Preschool. They are making important strides with this at-risk population. We have supported the school through our grant fund, as well as by providing volunteer service throughout the year. The five preschool locations provide three meals a day to their students (often the only time the students eat), focus on ages two to five, teach in an English-only speaking classroom, and instill core values and confidence that provide tools to be successful as they grow up. IICF provides this support and volunteer time to help lay the critical foundation for students’ literacy and English skills.
Another nonprofit we have partnered with the last three years is Momentous Institute. IICF Texas-Southeast has funded the Early Childhood programming for the school to give them funding to offer a creative and innovative solution to the achievement gap among disadvantaged students in the Dallas area. Our insurance industry volunteers have also become engaged with the students by volunteering time to read, do art projects, and even plant a garden this year to work side by side with these bright young kids.
Each of these grantees focus on children and their social/emotional development that is highly impressionable at this early age in order to give them tools for success, so that they can easily transition to elementary school and achieve instant and lasting, grade-level appropriate academic competency.
What is the theory of change behind your foundation's grantmaking?
Our division and foundation focuses on raising funds across the nation that are reinvested at the local level in order to make the largest and strongest impact. Our board members and industry volunteers do more than just write a check; we give our time and other resources back, as well. We want to be able to measure our impact on a project or program we are supporting and get to know the population an organization is serving.
What characteristics do your grantees tend to share?
Our grants committee and board focuses on certain criteria when evaluating our grant nominees, including charitable focus, organization size, geographic area, charity governance/operations, partnership & volunteer opportunities, and the measurable impact of the program or initiative we are funding. It is very important for us to grow with an organization and have the opportunity to utilize our robust group of insurance industry volunteers who are able and willing to give their time and serve the nonprofits we fund.
What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective grantees about your foundation?
The insurance industry is very generous, and the more we learn about your organization, the greater impact we are able to make. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to explore ways we can volunteer or partner with your organization to serve your various areas of need.
However, it’s important to note that the foundation does not accept or consider unsolicited grant requests, and proposals are accepted by invitation only. You can get in touch with Ms. Conway to discuss your organization and needs by calling her at 214-228-2910 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.