American Family Insurance unveiled Free to Dream, a $105 million commitment over the next five years to continue its work to help close equity gaps and improve the quality of life for communities. American Family will sharpen its focus on five major societal issues – which the company is calling its Free to Dream pillars: economic empowerment, education and health equity, climate resilience, criminal justice reform and workforce diversity, equity and inclusion.
American Family believes the private sector must play a critical role in partnering with communities to expand equity. To this end, the company will significantly increase its already strong investment in the five pillar areas, so that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity, can live in an environment where they can thrive.
“We must use our voice and financial strength to help create an environment where all are free to pursue their dreams,” said Jack Salzwedel, chair and chief executive officer. “American Family will always stand with, and for, equity – it’s the right thing to do for our company, our employees and our communities.”
“Free to Dream is more than American Family. It’s intended to inspire, create and support partnerships with other companies, organizations and the public sector to effectively address these issues together,” said Telisa Yancy, chief operating officer. “The time is now to go beyond words and take deliberate and collaborative actions that result in profound change.”
American Family’s commitment to communities is mirrored throughout the organization. Continued pursuit of a more diverse workforce will position the company to better serve customers and communities and present more innovative approaches to problem-solving.
“We see diversity, equity and inclusion not only as a social issue, but also as a focus that creates a competitive advantage,” said Yasir Kamal, vice president of Inclusive Excellence, adding that American Family has set an aggressive and achievable goal to increase racial and ethnic diversity by actively recruiting, developing and retaining talent throughout its workforce.
Kamal said the company will continue its focus on increasing diversity through a variety of strategies, including deliberate and targeted recruiting, such as focusing on historically Black colleges and universities as well as partnerships with organizations that support development and recruiting of diversity at employee and leadership levels. The company also will build on its inclusive culture and on development and advancement opportunities that will help retain diverse employees.
Creating impact with Free to Dream
Over the next five years, the $105 million commitment will fund partnerships and investments in social impact startups by the American Family Institute for Corporate and Social Impact and financial support through the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation and Community Investments and Partnerships – existing company areas that currently lead programs to close equity gaps.
Through support and social-impact investments of more than $67 million in the previous five years, American Family has a track record of partnering to positively impact communities.
In 2020 alone, the Dreams Foundation provided grants focused on lifelong learning and basic needs to 230 organizations across the country. In 2021, the foundation will continue its work, concentrating on academic achievement and education, healthy youth development and economic opportunity, in addition to basic needs.
Since it was established in 2018, the American Family Insurance Institute has invested more than $15 million in 18 social impact startups focused on closing equity gaps, including those that help address climate change and support education, mental health, wellness and justice-involved individuals and families. As these companies grow, they have the potential to significantly increase their impact on individuals and communities, while providing financial return to the investors who support them.
“This work is at the core of our DNA,” said Bill Westrate, president and CEO-elect. “For more than 90 years, American Family has invested in initiatives benefiting our society. Our role is to partner to create the foundation for health, equity and economic prosperity in our communities.”
‘We’re proud of the work we’ve done to help strengthen communities and improve lives, but we’re far from done,” said Westrate. “We know even more can be accomplished by strengthening our commitment and increasing our investments.”
American Family’s Free to Dream pillars
Economic Empowerment – The wealth gap in America presents barriers for people of color as they strive to achieve their dreams. American Family Insurance will engage in innovative initiatives, investments and partnerships that allow more families to achieve financial success and pursue their American Dream.
Education and Health Equity – Education and physical and mental health inequities limit outcomes for low-income communities, which disproportionately include people of color. Education is a critical vehicle to break cycles of generational poverty for the students and their families. American Family Insurance will prioritize its investments, partnerships and innovative thinking to help address health and education gaps across the country.
Climate Resilience – Climate change has particularly impacted low-income and communities of color, many of which were already disadvantaged. American Family Insurance has invested in several mission-driven start-up companies that identified innovative solutions to positively impact these communities. Free to Dream will expand awareness of these companies and spur others to join in supporting environmental sustainability.
Criminal Justice Reform – American Family Insurance seeks to limit recidivism and broaden employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated and those with conviction and arrest records. Free to Dream will support these efforts and the company will advocate for public policy change towards a more just and humane criminal justice system.
Workforce Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – American Family Insurance is taking critical steps to center workplace diversity, equity and inclusion as a core standard in how the company conducts business and partners with the greater community. This is so important the company has built it into its five-year strategic plan. American Family’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is best demonstrated by its Inclusive Excellence program, with the strategic goals to create a diverse workforce that represents America from entry-level positions to the C-suite and the boardroom all the while cultivating an inclusive culture where all people can thrive.