MetLifeFoundation: Strengthening Communities
With a commitment to increasing access and opportunity, the MetLife Foundation supports programs and organizations that empower people to lead healthy, productive lives and strengthen communities. Since 2010, the MetLife Foundation has partnered with NOD, supporting our work to advance employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities, including returning Wounded Warriors.
Here, Dennis White, President of the MetLife Foundation, speaks about the foundation’s grant making strategy and its relationship with NOD.
What is your overall philosophy towards grant making and how do you effectively measure impact?
At MetLife Foundation, we look to partner with creative and effective organizations that are taking a comprehensive approach to an issue or social problem. We also care about the basics—well managed, fiscally responsible, transparent organizations and a commitment to diversity.
We want to hear how our grantees define their success, but we also look for hard metrics, where possible, and focus on outcomes. Some work is obviously easier to measure than others. Measuring how many housing units have been created is a much different task than measuring the effectiveness of a program designed to reduce obesity. We’ll work with our grantees to develop the right metrics, and then we’ll hold them to it.
We’re also fortunate in being able to take a longer view on issues and sticking with groups as they execute on their plans. We know change doesn’t happen in 6 or 12 months, (and we certainly move on, when appropriate) but when we decide to provide support we’re typically willing to stay with a project through several funding cycles.
What was it about NOD that attracted you to the organization as a grantee?
We were familiar with [NOD President] Carol Glazer’s work from her time at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and we were attracted to NOD’s mission broadly---creating opportunity and access for people with disabilities, NOD’s comprehensive approach to employment, and specifically, their veterans work.
What do you think are the challenges facing organizations working in the disability field? In the Wounded Warrior field? In the employment field?
Disability is a difficult field to work in—funding is limited and the range of issues that have to be dealt with are daunting—physical access, workplace issues, and public perception, to name just a few. We were drawn to NOD’s Wounded Warrior program because they were taking a comprehensive approach and bringing the right resources and staff experience to a difficult problem and were aiming to scale it for greater impact.
Employment in the disability field is such a tough issue. The barriers are numerous but it’s a civil rights issue and an equality issue to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to fully participate in the economic mainstream.
What thoughts do you have about the future of corporate philanthropy?
There are a few major trends in corporate philanthropy right now including more emphasis on measurement and outcomes, engaging employees more and using the full range of corporate resources to impact change and certainly corporate citizenship beyond the borders of the US is of growing interest.