American Family Insurance to commit $105 million to help close equity gaps

American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel
American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel

Last updated on February 24th, 2021 at 12:49 pm

American Family Insurance will commit $105 million over five years through “Free to Dream,” an initiative that aims to close equity gaps across the country, the Madison-based insurer announced today.

The new initiative will focus on major societal issues that can be defined by five pillars: economic empowerment, criminal justice reform, climate resilience as well as education and health equity, according to a press release.

“We must use our voice and financial strength to help create an environment where all are free to pursue their dreams,” Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chair and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “American Family will always stand with, and for, equity – it’s the right thing to do for our company, our employees and our communities.”

The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, the insurer’s venture capital investment unit, will invest approximately $53 million in social impact startups while $52 million will be used for various community programming and initiatives, said Yasir Kamal, vice president of inclusive excellence at American Family.

“The key is really addressing societal inequalities of all kinds and these are complicated, but we have to be willing to take a stand and make sure we’re addressing equity gaps and making sure we’re providing opportunity for people in our community to succeed,” Kamal said.

The $105 million commitment builds on the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation’s previous 5-year commitment of $67 million, which included grants awarded to 230 organizations across the country that focused on lifelong learning and basic needs.

In 2021, the insurer says it will continue its work by concentrating on academic achievement and education, healthy youth development and economic opportunity, in addition to basic needs. Although Wisconsin and its communities will be included, Free to Dream has a much broader focus, Kamal said.

“We’re looking at this as an opportunity for us to invest and make an impact on closing equity (gaps) in the communities we serve as an organization,” Kamal said. “We want that focus (to be) on a nationwide level and really make sure we’re having a larger impact than just Wisconsin, but yes, Wisconsin is part of where we want to invest.”

Since 2018, The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact 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.

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Brandon covers startups, technology, manufacturing. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.

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