The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to get creative to continue serving their customer base and fueling their revenue streams.
Restaurants are serving family meals curbside, bars are offering cocktails to-go, and physicians are offering televisits. Nonprofits have had to get creative too as companies and individuals feel the financial sting of government business shutdowns.
Despite the challenges the new environment presents, the insurance industry has been particularly imaginative in its efforts to keep charitable giving and volunteerism at the forefront. We have all had to make tough decisions to cancel major annual networking events like the annual conferences of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) and the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB), as well as fundraising events, such as those hosted by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF).
Yet the industry has continued to find innovative ways to engage and motivate its professionals to continue to give back to their communities and those in need.
Finding opportunities in virtual volunteering
One thing that has been apparent in the industry is that a growing number of individuals want to donate their time through volunteering. A recent report IICF released in conjunction with McKinsey & Co. found that millennials and Gen Z, in particular, prefer to work with companies directly involved in charitable efforts and activities.
Insurance is, in fact, a business of service to people when they need it most. As a result, more and more insurance companies have been offering additional volunteer opportunities.
Recognizing the desire of the industry to continue volunteering during this challenging time, IICF has compiled a list of remote volunteer opportunities on its website. Opportunities include:
- Assisting The American Red Cross with their Missing Maps program or through blood donation
- Working with Covia or Family Elder Care to connect with isolated elderly individuals
- Making homemade face masks for healthcare workers or homeless shelters via various local organizations
- Recording audiobooks for students in need through Learning Ally
- Transcribing historical documents for the Smithsonian
- Providing virtual tutoring
- Writing letters to servicemen and women through Operation Gratitude or A Million Thanks
In another example of creativity among our peers, IICF’s Southeast Division created an educational video for ChildCareGroup’s Virtual Video Series, with industry members and their families recording 5-20 second video clips themed for each letter of the alphabet.
Making virtual fundraising fun
Typically, the spring and fall are major fundraising seasons. For example, IICF had numerous events planned which have been postponed, canceled or taken online. We have been working diligently to think of interesting ways to reposition our events so that we can continue our fundraising efforts, which are the backbone of our grants programs that so many nonprofits count on.
IICF has not been alone in its efforts to raise the fundraising bar in this environment. Companies led by inspired individuals have stepped up as well.
In May, Craig Dunn, executive vice president and branch leader for AmWINS Brokerage of Texas, Inc. and IICF Southeast Division board member, challenged his group to raise $10,000 to support the IICF Children’s Relief Fund.
To incentivize his team and spice things up, Dunn vowed to shave his head if they met their goal. Dunn is now sporting a cleanly shaven head after his AmWINS team quickly surpassed its goal bringing in $16,000.
In Philadelphia, IICF is hosting its first virtual softball tournament in place of the annual live insurance tournament and Beef n’ Beer. Because the money raised from this event is so important to the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, IICF and the Philadelphia Chapter have restructured the event into a virtual softball tournament where each team, representative of various insurance companies who had participated in previous years, will be a virtual team with their own fundraising page. The team that brings in the most donations for PCA will be named the winner. A similar event is also planned for IICF in New York City.
In other regions, IICF is busy planning events as well. For example, the Midwest Division and Colorado Chapter have created online trivia events. In New York, the IICF associate board launched its “five for five” event, where participants are asked to walk, run, bike, rollerblade, etc. five steps, 5K or more, give $5 and tap five additional individuals with donation requests.
Set to launch in July, IICF is also planning a step challenge designed to motivate participants to track their daily steps via their smart devices and compete with one another, across IICF divisions, including internationally. Participants, who can be teams of colleagues or friends, individuals or families, will be able to see their progress on a leaderboard that will be updated daily with results. The top three winners can designate the nonprofit or charity of their choice to receive a special grant.
In this atmosphere of social distancing, we also miss interacting with the organizations receiving IICF grants. Virtual grant site visits and reviews as well as virtual check presentations have helped to address that. IICF has recorded a number of award presentations and posted them to our website. There, viewers can enjoy the smiling faces, happy tears and excited reactions of these nonprofit leaders when they receive the news that their organization is receiving a grant check from IICF.
Networking through live virtual events
In-person forums and conferences are also a big part of how the industry connects and gives back.
This summer, like many organizations, IICF has had to reschedule its Women in Insurance Regional Forums to the fall. In the meantime, we’ve launched an interactive program called Dialogue for Diversity to help participants continue to feel connected and engaged.
Dialogue for Diversity is designed as a frequent mini-series with shorter speeches that include highlights from speaker remarks at recent IICF Women in Insurance events, as well as new insight from thought leaders in the space. Speakers will build on topics like the future of work and professional development – something we’ve discussed deeply before at our events but is now becoming even more relevant.
To mark the regional forums that were to take place this fall, we’ll be hosting a special Dialogue for Diversity Live virtual event with four remarkable speakers, talking about relevant topics, such as leadership during crisis and building toward a better future. The event is designed to be truly interactive with a live question and answer session.
We are hoping that with this free event, participants will feel connected, inspired and reminded that all proceeds typically raised from the summer Women in Insurance events go toward IICF’s grants program. For those compelled to do so, donations to the IICF Children’s Relief Fund will be accepted.
Looking toward the future
Likely, it will be quite some time before things are back to where they were in terms of many people gathering together in one room for an event.
Even in planning for 2021, we need to consider that some people simply will not be comfortable attending fundraisers, networking or volunteering in person, and we’re looking into ways to accommodate that as are many others. Likely, we’ll see more live events with accompanying virtual components in the future. All nonprofits are facing significant challenges amid the pandemic.
At IICF, we continue to be driven to help meet the basic needs of survival for the children in our communities. Our grants are directed toward children at risk of food insecurity, educational disruption, family homelessness and other circumstances worsened by COVID-19. We will continue to be as creative as possible to keep our community engaged and motivated to participate in our dynamic events, continue to learn and network, and share their time, talent and treasure.
Betsy Myatt is vice president and chief program officer for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, as well as executive director for the Northeast Division. Myatt has led IICF’s Women in Insurance Conference Series since its inception in 2013 and has been instrumental in organizing Dialogue for Diversity Live scheduled for June 25. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own.