Why do American companies create separate private foundations? There’s less public scrutiny of corporate giving programs embedded in the overall business, and certainly less administrative work.
One rationale for having a corporate foundation is sustainability—protecting the company’s ability to support the communities it serves when times are hard.
Stability is a special obligation for insurers, whose businesses are based on trust and the ability to stand behind policyholders when crises hit. Maybe that’s why, on the whole, the insurance sector’s corporate social responsibility efforts generally feature foundations. Of the 22 leading life, health, property and casualty insurers noted below, 80 percent have established foundations, many going back decades.
Now, as COVID-19 creates disruptions across the board, the insurance sector is a port in a storm, providing support in a number of ways. Like the financial services sector, many have focused heavily on their hometowns and the geographies where they conduct business. The sector has also joined banking in adopting food insecurity as the most common funding priority, both through national organizations like Feeding America, and an array of local partners.
A number of insurance foundations have played to their strengths in responding to the pandemic. A leader in funding domestic violence interventions, the Allstate Foundation, focused its funding there, at a time when sheltering in place has sparked higher abuse rates. And the USAA Foundation, which works to build military family resilience, has aimed the majority of its funding at supporting military communities.
But the sector’s philanthropies have also shown a willingness to work together to address the pandemic. Recently, the New York Life and Cigna foundations launched the Brave Fund, which will provide financial and emotional support to the survivors of frontline U.S. healthcare workers who lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19. Each foundation seeded the initiative with contributions of $25 million, and the New York Life Foundation will match the first $25 million in individual donations—all toward a goal the partners hope will exceed $100 million.
Here’s how other insurers and their foundations are responding to the pandemic:
Georgia-based supplemental insurance leader Aflac contributed a total of $5 million to support the pandemic’s frontline healthcare workers. Three million was directed at Direct Relief to coordinate the delivery of PPE across nonprofits, public health authorities and businesses in all 50 states. And $2 million went to the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI), which is using innovative 3-D printing to stem medical device and protective shortages, particularly ventilators and masks. Aflac also provided $200,000 in funding to local organizations mounting COVID-19 efforts in Georgia and South Carolina.
The Allstate Foundation stepped in with a $5 million contribution targeting victims of domestic violence, first responders and at-risk youth. Two million of that will fund local causes in areas where Allstate has a significant employee presence: greater Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Phoenix and across Illinois. The National Network to End Domestic Violence is receiving a half-million dollars to support victims that may be sheltering in place with their abusers. First responders are also receiving $1 million in support. And the foundation funded resources for youth experiencing uncertainty through the National Runaway Safeline and Inner Explorer’s mindfulness program. Allstate also doubled its employee matching funds to $2.8 million.
American Family Insurance
Between American Family Insurance, its group companies, the private American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation and the public Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, AFI’s collective response to COVID-19 is expected to top $6.8 million. That total includes accelerated annual grant distributions and a two-to-one match on employee and agency owner donations. New COVID commitments center on Dane County, including $50,000 to the United Way of Dane County/Boys and Girls Club COVID Support Fund and a total of $275,000 to relief funds in nine other operating areas.
The Anthem Foundation is standing behind communities impacted by COVID-19 by supporting organizations on the frontlines of prevention, treatment and recovery and food insecurity. Investments include $1 million to the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, $75,000 to Direct Relief’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, and AmeriCares’ PPE and health worker COVID training.
To address food insecurity, the foundation signed on as a Leadership Partner of Feeding America, and is working with local Boys and Girls Clubs to redirect up to $2 million for those who rely heavily on school and club meals. In South Carolina, a $25,000 grant will fund a disability-focused food pantry initiative with partners Portlight and Kelly’s Kitchen.
Assurant launched a COVID-19 Emergency Relief program to provide financial support to its employees experiencing financial hardship. The fund was seeded by a $500,000 allocation from the Assurant Foundation, and has raised an equal sum from employees and management. While self-dealing regulations generally prohibit foundations from making grants that directly support employees, corporate foundations can provide such relief without pre-approval from the IRS for “qualified” disasters, as federally declared by the president. Trump proclaimed the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency on March 13.
St. Louis-based Centene announced a series of social investments to address the health of vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19. It built on its partnership with Feeding America by funding a million meals a month for a year, as well as SNAP program application assistance, and local donations within its markets. The Centene Foundation is also helping to expedite the expansion of FirstNet, the nationwide high-speed broadband platform dedicated to first responders and public safety workers in rural and underserved communities. Grants will assist with the upfront costs of devices and equipment in four pilot states: Arkansas, Kansas, Georgia and Mississippi. The company is also donating essential healthcare and educational supplies through local providers and community resources, which will distribute 50,000 gift cards of $35 each.
The Chubb Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of property and casualty insurer Chubb, committed $10 million to domestic and global pandemic relief efforts. The support will be directed at a range of nonprofits working to meet the acute needs of frontline workers, healthcare facilities, community food banks and displaced workers. Specific partnerships include $1.7 million to the International Medical Corps to expand hospital capacity in under-resourced areas, $1.5 million to the Global FoodBanking Network, and $1 million to Project Hope to support frontline health workers.
The Cigna Foundation initially committed up to $300,000 to support patients and health care providers impacted by the coronavirus. An existing philanthropic partner, Give2Asia, received $250,000, and employee contributions to the organization are being matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. Then on April 21, it joined the New York Life Foundation in making a $25 million contribution to seed the Brave of Heart Fund, which will provide for the families of healthcare workers who gave their lives fighting COVID-19. The fund will be administrated by the nonprofit, E4E Relief, and hopes to raise $100 million to provide financial and behavioral support to survivors.
Farmers Insurance quickly deployed resources to the front lines across the country. In California, it donated $535,000 to help the Los Angeles Fire Department arm itself with essential supplies to combat COVID-19 and $25,000 to Ventura County Food Share, to fund “pop-up” food truck deliveries to vulnerable populations. The Veterans Community Project in Kansas received $25,000 to support the homeless during the pandemic, and the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation received $25,000 to establish mobile testing sites. In Michigan, Farmers donated $25,000 to the Spectrum Health COVID-19 Fund, which is helping healthcare providers boost supplies of PPE. And in Hawaii, Farmers donated $15,000 to fund increased staffing, equipment and supplies at four Hawai’i Pacific Health medical centers.
Guardian Life Insurance
Guardian Life committed $500,000 to local and national efforts supporting vulnerable populations impacted by the outbreak, primarily in the area of food insecurity. Investments include $250,000 to Feeding America and a total of $100,000 to local impact funds in five cities where it has offices: Appletone, Wisconsin Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, New York City, Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Spokane, Washington. The remaining $150,000 will establish a two-to-one match for employee contributions to Feeding America through its employee giving program.
The Hartford is recognizing the role that health departments, health and relief workers are playing in combating COVID-19 by contributing a total of $1 million to four organizations: Feeding America, the CDC Foundation Emergency Response Fund, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG) COVID-19 Response Fund, which focuses on expanding capacity to combat coronavirus in the 29 towns that comprise Greater Hartford, Connecticut.
John Hancock partnered with Off Their Plate to provide 8,500 meals to frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers in the Boston area as part of a “You Are Essential. We Are Grateful” initiative that also lit Boston landmarks like South Station and City Hall blue. The company’s $1 million pledge to the Boston Resiliency Fund was among the earliest the fund received.
Liberty Mutual has committed $15 million to date to coronavirus relief efforts. During the first wave, it invested $4 million in current nonprofit partners, both as emergency grants and lifted restrictions—allowing them to meet immediate remote learning, health and training priorities. Nearly 900 “Serve with Liberty” employee service partners received $1,000 each, and the company doubled its employee giving match through March to 100 percent. The company also honored approximately $300,000 in sponsorship commitments for 22 canceled events, contributed $1 million to the Boston Resiliency Fund, which is coordinating support for Boston residents impacted by the virus.
The latest wave of $10 million will also support frontline organizations in Boston that are treating patients and meeting basic needs like food and shelter, particularly in low-income communities. So far, grants of $1 million each have been awarded to Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Boston Medical Center and Pine Street Inn. Friends of Boston’s Homeless, St. Francis House and the Greater Boston Food Bank have each received $500,000.
MassMutual supported its hometown areas by seeding the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) COVID-19 Response Fund with a $1 million lead gift, and the Boston Resiliency Fund. It also launched and funded HealthBridge, a three-year life insurance program for frontline healthcare workers in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The MetLife Foundation initially committed $25 million to supporting the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the communities in which it operates. Immediate grants will support urgent needs like food, healthcare, childcare and direct financial support—and help its existing partners aid small businesses and low-income populations. Globally, the foundation and other MetLife entities pledged support for relief efforts in Asia, EMEA and Latin America. Longer-term efforts will be directed where they can “make the biggest difference” in boosting the recovery.
The Nationwide Foundation is contributing $5 million to local and national charities that support medical and economic responses to the pandemic. Initial gifts include $1 million each to the American Red Cross, Feeding America and the United Way. The company has also donated PPE to local hospitals: Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio Health in its headquarters city, Columbus, and Mercy One and UnityPoint hospitals in Des Moines.
New York Life
The New York Life Foundation started working with local and national organizations to address the epidemic early, investing $250,000 in the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund, $250,000 in the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s CDP COVID-19 Response Fund, and almost $240,000 in an existing partner, First Book, to deliver 500,000 books to students in low-income communities during school closures. The foundation will also match employee and agent gifts to any of the three organizations or its employee assistance fund to a total of $250,000. As reported above, it recently committed a total of $50 million to launching the Brave of Heart Fund, which will provide for the families of healthcare workers who gave their lives fighting COVID-19.
The Pacific Life Foundation removed restrictions from all 2020 program grants distributed in January, allowing 212 grantees to direct more than $2 million in funding to acute needs or general operating support. It also earmarked $1.7 million to support short- and long-term COVID-19 response strategies, including emergency grants in Orange County, Omaha and Lynchburg. In Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank, Community Action Partnership and the United Way of Orange County’s Pandemic Relief Fund each received $100,000. The Food Bank for the Heartland in Nebraska and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Virginia also received $100,000 each.
One of the country’s largest car insurers, Progressive, acknowledged the uncertainty facing impacted customers, employees and agents with a comprehensive “Apron Relief Program,” building on the brand’s symbol of protection. The Progressive Foundation made contributions of $8 million focused on hunger, health and homelessness. Program partners include Feeding America, the American Red Cross and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Progressive also helped establish the Independent Agents & Brokers of America’s Trusted Choice COVID-19 Relief Fund with a $2 million commitment, and donated $2 million in direct cash to active Auto and Commercial Lines Network shops for use at their discretion.
In addition to donating PPE to local hospitals and matching employee gifts, State Farm committed a total of $2 million to relief organizations: $1 million to the Illinois COVID-19 Relief Fund, $500,000 to Feeding America, $300,000 to the Employee Assistance Fund and $200,000 to the Red Cross.
Travelers announced a $5 million commitment to helping families impacted by COVID-19 in North America, Ireland and the United Kingdom, and the most vulnerable populations in the communities in which it operates. Nonprofits that provide emergency assistance for hourly workers, food and shelter for at-risk people, stability to small businesses, and learning opportunities will receive $3.5 million. Up to $1 million will support the continued benefits and wages of eligible third-party contract employees assigned to the company’s offices, including maintenance and food service. And Travelers created a special $500,000 two-for-one employee match for designated relief organizations including Americares, Dublin Simon Community, Food Banks Canada and Team Rubicon.
Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group committed a total of $60 million to fighting the pandemic, focusing on healthcare workers, hard-hit states, seniors and vulnerable populations experiencing hunger or homelessness.
The United Health Foundation supported healthcare workers with $5 million in partnerships with the CDC Foundation, Direct Relief and the American Nurses Foundation. The CDC Foundation and Direct Relief each received $2 million to arm workers with PPE and supplies, and the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund received $1 million to build a virtual support system to advance the resilience of nurses working the front lines. It also pledged $5 million to support urgent national needs for people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, including a $2.5 million partnership with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and $1.5 million each to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America.
USAA and the USAA Foundation have committed more than $4.4 million to COVID-19 response. It initially funded local causes, committing a total of $1 million to five local nonprofits in its headquarters city, San Antonio, and another $1 million to local nonprofits in southeastern Virginia, Phoenix, Tampa, Colorado Springs and Dallas/Fort Worth. More recently, it sustained its core philanthropic focus on the military community by investing more than $2.3 million in support of military-focused, national and local nonprofits responding to the pandemic. Partnerships include the Association of Defense Communities/Blue Star Families COVID-19 Military Support Initiative (CMSI), Fisher House Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, USO and the We Care for America Foundation. Funds will provide meals and emergency financial assistance for military families, and care packages for troops.
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