For Corporate Giving Network’s June 9, 2022 edition of Learning@Lunch – Speaker Series, CEO and Founder Joy Stephens hosted a lively discussion with Tobi Shannon and Noah Salata from American Family Insurance (AmFam) Dreams Foundation.
Tobi, the Community and Social Impact Specialist, is a trained project manager and has a MBA and MPA in Sustainable Development from Presidio Graduate School and a Bachelor of International/Global Studies from Spelman College. At AmFam Dreams Foundation, she leads and scales enterprise-wide corporate volunteering initiatives for over 15,000 employees.
Noah is the Community and Social Impact Advisor- AmFam Dreams Foundation and The General. He has been with AmFam for over 10 years and holds an MBA in Organizational Leadership from Norwich University and a degree in English Language and Literature from American Public University.
Both discussed the many giving vehicles at the Dreams Foundation including its Grant Program ($2.75M+ in 2020) and Employee Volunteerism (12.5K + Volunteer Hours). The Foundation builds on a long-standing commitment and support of communities by offering unrestricted, general operating grants to eligible non-profit partners.
Noah stated: “AmFam’s approach to grantmaking is always evolving. We are committed to using trust-based values to create meaningful, impactful relationships and reduce the inherent power imbalances of the traditional funding model. Like many of our community partners, we are also committed to learning, listening, and changing through collaboration and trust”.
The Dream Foundation’s grant priorities are within the following areas:
Academic Achievement and Education: Programs and services that advance educational equity in learning and academic achievement through access to high quality education. This includes wrap-around educational programming from birth through college with an emphasis on the following: Early Childhood Education, Academic Support and achievement, STEAM and Reading and literacy.
Healthy Youth Development: Programs and services that support the ongoing needs of young people from birth through 25 including: Social-emotional learning, Mental and behavioral health and Reducing mental health stigma and discrimination.
Economic Opportunity Programs and services that increase employment access and opportunity, including: Job training, Financial literacy, Workforce and career readiness, Reading and literacy
Community Resilience: Formerly Basic Needs, these are programs and services that remove barriers to short and/or long-term needs of individuals and families. Specific areas of grantmaking include: Food Security through food banks and pantries, community gardens, and sustainable food sources; Housing via emergency shelter, and transitional/long term stable housing; Transportation and Daycare to pursue education and/or maintain employment.
Within their grant priorities, the AmFam Foundation places an emphasis on supporting organizations that work with individuals and communities that include: Economically disadvantaged; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); Youth (birth through 25) and young families.
Additionally, AmFam has an emphasis on funding organizations/programming through the American Family Institute. This arm of the company offers educational or workforce opportunities for individuals who are currently incarcerated, justice involved, or returning citizens experiencing re- entry into their community.
AmFam ensures that all philanthropy is intentional, authentic and sustainable by continually assessing how monetary and other contributions can be most effective and responsive to solve complex social problems and thereby advocate for societal and systematic changes. This means trusting nonprofits to make the best use of their funding by providing unrestricted funding and reducing or eliminating reporting requirements. Nonprofits expect better stewardship from funders, not just best practices.
AmFam invests in Business Resource Groups (BRGs) to promote DEI and be connected to communities inside and outside the company. AmFam’s nine BRGs provide a network for employees who share commonality or interests, and allies to those groups. In 2020, AmFam added four new BRGs: the Black/African American Business Resource Group (BAABRG), Hispanic/Latinx Business Resource Group (HLBRG), South Asian Business Resource Group (SABRG) and the Southeast/East Asian Business Resource Group (SEABRG).
AmFam is striving to be more intentional when providing volunteers to nonprofits by asking “how can we be most helpful to you” not just “here are the volunteers; what can they do for a few hours.”
Written by Pauline Stieff, edited by Joy Stephens