Celebrating a big birthday by giving a big gift

This year, the Allstate Foundation celebrated a big anniversary not by receiving, but by giving.  The Foundation first invited its key nonprofit partners to an Executive Summit where peers and experts shared ideas on how to build betterorganizations.  It then offered attendees $600,000 worth of special grants to help put those principles into practice.

“Due to the current state of the economy and scaled back donations, the need for nonprofits has never been greater,” said Allstate Vice President of Public Social Responsibility, Vicky Dinges. “Which means the groups themselves must be more efficient and more effective than ever. That’s what the Foundation’s 60th Anniversary Executive Summit was all about.”

The event brought together leaders from groups focused on the Foundation’s two signature issues — teen safe driving and financial empowerment for victims of domestic violence — as well as key nonprofits in Allstate’s hometown of Chicago.

They heard presentations and discussions on using social media, evaluating programs more effectively, understanding legal risks, mobilizing nonprofit boards, fostering financial sustainability, tapping generational diversity within their organizations, and more. Allstate CEO Tom Wilson led off the Summit by providing his personal insights on leadership.  He urged participants to define their mission broadly, but to execute programs in very specific, tailored ways. He encouraged them to focus on leadership development throughout the organization, and to embrace change in governance, authority and accountability.

As part of a surprise Allstate Foundation 60th Anniversary Summit Grant, attendees were asked to share insights about making their own organizations more effective. With collaboration from Summit participants, the Foundation created a one-time, competitive grant program totaling $600,000 to further the capacity of organizations present. The grant program focuses on leadership development, organizational development and digital development for the nonprofits.

Grants between $20,000 and $60,000 each have been awarded to 14 organizations all over the country. The Summit Grant awarded funding to a collaboration between a domestic violence organization, The Spring of Tampa Bay, and a teen safe driving group, More Health, to assess their leadership and organizational strengths and make important decisions about how to expand their programs strategically in order to best meet the needs of the families in their community.  The small Writers Theater in Chicago also received funding to create a sophisticated new digital ticketing and database system to help them effectively grow their audience.

At the end of a busy day at the Summit, attendees said they were energized and eager to put what they learned into practice. In a post-meeting survey, every respondent answered “yes” when asked if “The Summit helped me understand leadership challenges in ways that will benefit my organization.” As one participant put it: “You give new meaning to the phrase ‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.’ I appreciate your caring and professional approach to social causes, and the respectful way you treat your community partners.”