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Why ALSF Was a Perfect Match for Northwestern Mutual's Fundraising Efforts

Northwestern Mutual

Giving back has always come naturally to Northwestern Mutual. Whether it’s a field representative in Denver running a food drive, or an employee at the home office in Milwaukee fundraising for a local school, Northwestern Mutual has always been a generous community partner.

In 2012, Northwestern sought to have a major impact on a national issue that was seriously underfunded. After researching different causes, Northwestern Mutual took up the fight against childhood cancer by supporting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

“There are too many kids suffering and dying from cancer, and we know research is the key to saving lives,” said Audra Brennan, Senior Director of Strategic Philanthropy at Northwestern Mutual. “Alex’s stands out as a national organization that is funding cutting edge and underfunded areas of cancer research.”

Northwestern provides Alex’s funding for the following key programs:

  • Young Investigator Grants, which fill the critical need for startup funds for less experienced researchers to pursue promising research ideas.
  • Young Investigator Summit, which brings together ALSF Young Investigators, “A” Awardees, and Center of Excellence Scholars to meet with other grantees funded by ALSF. Without Northwestern Mutual’s support, this summit would not occur.
  • Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) Program, which is designed for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students who have an interest in pediatric oncology research and would like to experience the field first-hand.
  • Travel for Care Program, which ensures children battling childhood cancer have the financial assistance needed to travel to clinical trials, experimental therapeutics, or treatment innovations not currently available at their local institution.
  • Childhood Cancer Data Lab, of which Northwestern Mutual was a founding funder, translates publicly available disease data into one consistent format so that all researchers can access and understand it. The Crazy 8 Initiative, which details roadmaps toward cures for specific, hard-to-treat childhood cancers.

Northwestern Mutual home office and network offices across the country play a major role in funding these initiatives.

“Like they did prior to our involvement with Alex’s, our network offices fundraise in all sorts of unique and creative ways, but we’re united in our support for Alex’s,” said Audra.

The difference now, explained Audra, is that the offices have resources and support from Alex’s that guide and enhance their fundraising efforts.

“Whether it is email, on the phone, or attending one of our fundraisers, Alex’s staff is there to listen, teach, and cheer us on,” said Audra. “It’s almost like Alex’s team is an extension of our childhood cancer team.”

The partnership between Alex’s Northwestern has generated impressive results. Since 2012, Northwestern Mutual has given more than $32 million to Alex’s, making them the largest supporter of Alex’s. Of that more than $32 million, Northwestern Mutual’s network offices contributed more than $9 million. 

“Our business is very relationship driven and working with Alex’s shows that we care about the communities where we work,” said Audra. “Even our offices in small markets can point to our work with Alex’s as a place where we are having a big impact.”

Northwestern field representatives frequently wear Alex’s lemon pins that spark conversations about the company’s support for the charity and provide regional reports that show the impact they are having in the community.

“Our offices want to share how the dollars they are raising are having a local impact,” said Audra. “Alex’s does too; they’re always working with us to help us help them.”

Alex’s makes it so easy to see the impact you are having because they are having a big impact and are so willing to work with our employees and offices. We’re always looking for ways to keep our field offices engaged and Alex’s is at the table helping us explore options and to help in any way they can.

Steve Guinan, Managing Partner Northwestern Mutual