Northwestern Mutual Combats Childhood Cancer

The following is excerpted from Issue 15 of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how you can develop and execute a stakeholder engagement strategy, structure, and process to maximize business and social value, consider joining us in Phoenix, AZ on December 6-7, 2017 for our Stakeholder Engagement: Identify, Prioritize, and Act course.

The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2015 Community Involvement Study finds that nearly 60 percent of companies engage employees at all levels and one-third of companies engage stakeholders other than employees and customers to help determine which social issues to support (see Figure A). Through its foundation, Northwestern Mutual exhibits the importance of strategic stakeholder engagement through its community involvement efforts, especially its signature Childhood Cancer Program.


Over the past seven years, Northwestern Mutual—a U.S. life insurance and financial services organization—has worked to refine, focus, and narrow its community involvement efforts, which included building a new strategic philanthropy and community relations department. The restructuring allowed Northwestern Mutual to better engage and communicate with key stakeholders and to better align its corporate citizenship strategy with its mission—to improve the lives of children and families—through its Childhood Cancer Program.

Northwestern Mutual’s national initiative, the Childhood Cancer Program, accelerates the search for a cure for childhood cancer and supports families affected by the disease through funding and engagement of employee and field members. Northwestern Mutual neither decided upon its signature program overnight nor in a vacuum. The process included reviewing social issues that mattered to employees and representatives and aligned with the company’s mission—helping others build a secure future. After identifying childhood cancer research as a focus area, Northwestern Mutual commissioned a survey to better understand the current field of research, the results of which highlighted inadequate financial support. Northwestern Mutual selected best-in-class partners that aligned with its mission and would be able to serve communities where its people and clients live and work.

In addition to its Childhood Cancer Program, Northwestern Mutual is committed to improving the lives of Milwaukee children and families in need and does this through support of local neighborhoods, education, and investing locally in cultural destinations and events. These financial contributions are aided by a commitment to truly engage stakeholders in meeting the needs of these areas.


“They came to sometimes mundane meetings so they could hear what issues were important to residents and their wishes for solutions,” said Sister Patricia Rogers, the executive director of the Dominican Center for Women in Milwaukee. “By listening to all of that, they could align some of the monies for things to happen in the neighborhood and connect us with other organizations.”

“By involving multiple stakeholders in our corporate citizenship efforts, we foster transparent and synergistic relationships,” said John Kordsmeier, former president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “Increased participation by our stakeholders creates stronger programs that support our community and improves retention and reputation. The community and business benefits are clear—and are not mutually exclusive.”

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