Although the general public's perception of the insuranceindustry may not be positive, the antidote can be found in thereality of the Insurance Industry CharitableFoundation (IICF).

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Founded in 1994 in San Francisco, the organization's missionstatement is to help communities and enrich lives through thecollective talent of the industry. Over the years, the Foundationhas awarded more than $16 million in localcommunity grants and contributed more than 140,000hours of volunteer service. This year's IICF OctoberVolunteer Week drew more than 4,000 volunteers who worked more than20,000 hours.

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The fourth annual IICF New York division annual benefitdinner, whichwill be held tonight at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City,has already raised more than $1.1 million for regional charitiesincluding Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Boys Hope Girls Hope NY,Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and World Cares Center.

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Read related, "Aon's Case to present sports stars at IICF dinner."

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AA&B spoke with David Brinkman,executive managing director at Aon Benfield and chair of IICF's NewYork division board of directors, on the organization and its plansfor the future.

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AA&B: What is the history of IICF?

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Brinkman: The Insurance Industry CharitableFoundation was started in 1994 by a small group of insuranceleaders from San Francisco. Their vision was to support localcommunity needs by giving grants, serving as volunteers andstimulating others in the industry and community toparticipate.

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For many years, IICF raised funds locally in northern Californiaexclusively to support the City of Hope. Now, IICF makes manygrants each year, and one of those grants continues to be for theCity of Hope.

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Read related, "IICF names Brinkman chairman."

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We've broadened in grant giving and geography. Today, IICF'sgoal is to help communities and enrich lives through the collectivestrengths and talents of the insurance industry. We represent manyinvolved companies and employees who make up this significantindustry. We are the strongest united philanthropic voice of theindustry today. As an organization, IICF is unusual in that itrepresents an entire industry.

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AA&B: How does IICF involvement help the insuranceindustry's image in the world at large?

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Brinkman: Insurance is the backbone of anyhousehold and community. The industry sets an example when it comesto community support, service and philanthropic activities.

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Unfortunately, very few people ever hear about the local agentfunding a children's hospital or the millions of volunteer hoursprovided by the industry around the communities of the world.Recently one of our board member companies (ACE) held a global dayof service. Through their quiet but caring employees they providedsupport, help and real work and support to communities in almostevery region and every community where ACE has employees. This isthe kind of leadership this industry and its employees provideevery day. Working together allows us greater visibility and helpsreinforce our individual community actions and programs. Thosethings happen all the time, but part of IICF's job is to let morepeople know about them.

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IICF provides a way for the industry to work together. It allowsus greater visibility and helps to reinforce our individualcommunity actions and programs.

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Read related, "Industry rallies to raise Haiti relief funds."

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AA&B: What are some of the main charitable causesyou helped fund and what are you looking to finance in thefuture?

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Brinkman: In 2009 the foundation awarded$664,000 (through the New York and Western divisions) to communitynonprofits such as Boys Hope, Girls Hope, Big Brothers / BigSisters, the Wounded Warrior Project, and World Cares Center.

The dollars raised within a region remain in the region. Eachdivision has its own grant focus areas. In the New York division,we fund grants for education, children at risk, the environment anddisaster preparedness.

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Volunteerism is a vital part of our mission. Now more than ever,our communities need volunteers, and the people working in ourindustry are eager to help. Volunteer Week--the October 16-23, 2010event that IICF organized in California and in New York, New Jerseyand Connecticut--drew more than 4,000 volunteers who worked morethan 20,000 hours. The beneficiaries were schools, food banks, soupkitchens, parks and other community organizations and charities.Next year's Volunteer Week is October 15-22, 2011.

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AA&B: Does IICF have any "favorite"charities?

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Brinkman: No. Every year, prospects who arebrought to us by our boards apply for grants. Our board grantscommittees conduct thorough reviews that include visits to thecharities. The grant committees make grant recommendations to thefull board, and the full board must approve the grants.

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AA&B: How do individual insurance professionals getinvolved in the organization? How many active members are therenow?

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Brinkman: We are not a formal membershiporganization, but we welcome everyone involved in the insuranceindustry, whether they're people working for insurance carriers,reinsurers, brokers, agents, law firms, trade associations orservice providers.

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We encourage companies to provide valuable leadership andknowledge to our foundation through board membership. To give you asense of the numbers currently involved in our leadership, we have22 companies and associations represented on our New York tri-stateboard, another 30 are represented on the Western division board,and we have a 10-person national board of governors.

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This year, we also formed a national advisory board made up ofphilanthropy professionals working for insurance-based foundations.We are looking within our industry to find ways to work togetherand help each other.

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Individuals and companies support the IICF in a number of ways:writing checks large or small, hosting employee fundraisers, andforming volunteer teams to work with a local agency throughout theyear or during Volunteer Week.

The ways leaders take initiative have been inspiring. One of ourcompanies provided a summer intern to rally employees for VolunteerWeek. Another insurer provided pro bono usage of its videoproduction department to prepare a video about our grantees for ourbenefit dinner. Another firm provides office space for our New Yorkdivision executive director Betsy Myatt.

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We want to join people together under an insurance industrybanner. The IICF is a catalyst. We want to be "the industry'sfoundation," through Volunteer Week, our grants program andfundraising events and activities we conduct throughout theyear.

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We want to serve communities where we live and work, butwe also want the foundation to be a source of pride for peopleworking in our industry.

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AA&B: How is IICF structured?

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Brinkman: IICF is a single united foundation.The New York tri-state division and the Western division have ashared mission. Each division raises its own funds to providegrants within its own region, each stimulates volunteerism locallyand each is led locally.

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There are about 350,000 insurance employees in the New Yorktri-state area, so we've just scratched the surface by having morethan 2,000 involved in our first Volunteer Week this year. We'vehad a very successful beginning, but the potential for growth isenormous. Imagine the possibilities and impact if even 10 percentof those employees were to participate in IICF Volunteer Weekactivities!

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Chicago and the Midwest will become our third division for theFoundation. We are close to launching this third division and aimto make an announcement early in 2011. Chicago is a hub of majorinsurance firms that already provide a significant local communitypresence. IICF plans to implement the same model of grants,volunteer service, and leadership--directed locally by peopleliving and working in the Midwest.

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Hopefully in a few short years the Midwest division will becomeequal to or greater than the New York division, which has alreadyraised more than $4 million in four years.

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AA&B: Please tell us about tonight's dinner eventwith Hank Greenberg.

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Brinkman: Our dinner chair Greg Case, presidentand CEO of Aon Corp., will present Hank Greenberg, chairman and CEOof C.V. Starr & Co., Inc., with the Insurance IndustryCharitable Foundation Double I Award for "influence in theindustry" and "impact in the community." Baseball great KenGriffey, Jr. and hockey legend Mark Messier will be specialpresenters. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be thekeynote speaker.

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The event will take place on Wednesday, December 8 at theWaldorf Astoria Hotel. For more information, call 212-763-8597, ore-mail [email protected].

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