IICF Gala Went on Despite Pandemic, USC Risk Management Program Honored



More than 200 guests joined the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation Western Division for the virtual Horizon Award Gala on Thursday.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s IICF gala, an event that often requires massive planning and volunteer efforts, was virtual. The event was broadcast via the Internet live, with table networking enabling guests to connect with colleagues throughout the region.

The IICF is a nonprofit that has served as the philanthropic foundation of the insurance industry for more than 25 years, contributing a reported $42 million in community grants along with 300,000 volunteer hours by more than 110,000 industry professionals.

The year’s gala recognized the USC Leventhal School of Accounting’s Risk Management Program. A nonprofit is also featured each year. This year it was the Covenant House California being featured. CHC is a nonprofit youth homeless shelter that provides sanctuary and support for homeless and trafficked youth.

Funds raised during the gala event will benefit the IICF Community Grants Program in the year ahead. Organizers anticipate the event raised nearly $170,000. A recording of the event has been posted on YouTube.

One unique component of this year’s event was the IICF Champion for LA competition. Guests were asked to show their industry pride and their Los Angeles allegiance in a fundraising competition between Team Cardinal & Gold and Team Blue and Gold – representing USC and UCLA.

Marshann G. Varley, managing director of commercial risk and health solutions at Aon, who is an IICF board member and was the event’s co-chair, said not only was the competition good for raising funds, it helped showcase the USC Leventhal School of Accounting’s Risk Management Program.

“It’s really going to provide us with the next generation of risk management professionals,” Varley said of the program, which was featured in Insurance Journal last year.

Varley said having a virtual gala for an industry as people-oriented as insurance was less than ideal.

“I think the transition to a virtual gala was not anything we wanted, we are a very social industry and we like seeing each other and connecting and networking with each other,” she said.

The platform used to host the gala, Remo, enabled guests to create a profile and to be seated at “tables.” Attendees could also leave to visit other tables.

“Within the first 30 minutes, I was probably able to visit four or five tables,” Varley said.

Aside from ample virtual networking opportunities, the event included a 30-minute video program with interviews of deans and professors from USC, while current and former students were also heard from.

“It was really well done,” Varley said. “It was really a little bit of everything.”

The year was marred by the pandemic, hampering the efforts of many charities, but the IICF still raised big funds. Last year, the IICF Western Division awarded $627,000 in grants, supporting 65 nonprofits, and the group reports it was also able to provide 2.5 million meals to children and families facing food insecurity as part of its Children’s Relief Fund.

Varley said a few weeks ago that she sat on a virtual zoom call in which the IICF presented grants to the nonprofits, and each of them in turn spoke about the impact the grants had on their organizations.

“I was actually very moved by how much of a impact this money makes on their nonprofits,” she said. “I would say more than ever, this is the year that they need our help.”

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