How we support students, bereavement, and social justice in America.

Two men taking care of customers in a barbershop.

While the New York Life Foundation has always supported underserved and diverse communities through educational enhancement and childhood bereavement support, in 2022 a third pillar was added: social justice. Inspired by a long tradition of service and our core value of humanity, the formalization of this third pillar acknowledges an established commitment to address societal issues in communities across the country where New York Life policy owners, agents, and employees live and work.

Integral to the New York Life Foundation is supporting underserved middle school students and helping them prepare for high school and to graduate on time. Research shows that funding high-quality after-school, expanded-day, and summer programs leads to greater academic achievement, better school attendance, and more engaged students. Through the Aim High grant program, the foundation has partnered with the Afterschool Alliance to fund local youth development organizations that provide educational enhancement and social and emotional support during out-of-school time. Beginning in 2021, the foundation has offered a specific grant category dedicated to supporting programs in their efforts around advancing racial equity and social justice.

In 2022, the New York Life Foundation awarded $1.65 million in new grants to 40 youth development organizations across 22 states and the District of Columbia, making it the largest group of grantees to date both in number of grants and total dollars awarded. One quarter of the grants awarded focus on racial equity and social justice.

Supporting grieving children and families

The New York Life Foundation established childhood bereavement as a funding focus area in 2008 and has since served as an active partner to a wide range of nonprofits and initiatives, helping to raise public awareness about grief’s impact as well as build a community of support for this field. The issue is at the heart of our company’s mission and day-to-day business, resulting in robust employee engagement across the country in support of grieving children.

The death of a parent, sibling, or other important person is one of the most disruptive events a child can experience. We recognize the critical need to provide greater support to grieving children and their families. That’s why the New York Life Foundation has partnered with Judi’s House, a community-based nonprofit that conducts research and provides therapeutic grief services for children and their adult caregivers.

With funding from the foundation, Judi’s House developed the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM), which brings understanding to the magnitude of the issue of child bereavement by approximating rates of U.S. children and youth who will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the time they reach adulthood. In 2022, results from 2020 data showed a 25% increase in bereaved children, largely due to pandemic-related factors. The foundation also funded research into mortality rates related to race and ethnicity. Understanding these disparities is essential to providing more resources in affected communities.

Increasing bereavement services

In 2011, seeking to address gaps in funding and resources, the foundation partnered with the National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG), a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the needs of children and teens who are grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who supports them, to create the Grief Reach grant program with the following goals:

  • Increase access to bereavement support services in local communities, especially diverse communities
  • Enhance the capacity of organizations providing bereavement support services
  • Expand bereavement support services to address unmet needs
  • Support communities dealing with grief and loss with tangible resources

In 2022, the foundation launched a special Grief Reach grant cycle for DE&I focused on capacity building, in particular for innovative programming to increase bereavement services to traditionally marginalized communities. Along with funding, the NACG provided grantees with additional training, programming, and resources.

Helping to preserve African American history

In 2022, the New York Life Foundation provided a $1 million grant to the International African American Museum, which is set to open in 2023 in Charleston, S.C., on Gadsden’s Wharf, where it is estimated that 40% of enslaved Africans landed. Specifically, much of our funding is going to the museum’s Center for Family History, a research center with a special focus on African American genealogy. Our grant will help individuals and families trace their ancestry and preserve important history. This is the latest effort in our company’s ongoing support of the preservation of African American history. Over the decades, New York Life has demonstrated its commitment to the African American community by donating company archives to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, funding impactful organizations and initiatives like the PBS series “Slavery and the Making of America,” and helping to establish The New York Life Endowment for Emerging African American Issues at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at CUNY.

Supporting social justice 

The New York Life Foundation provides general operating support to a number of social justice organizations, including:

  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Lambda Legal (protecting LGBTQ+ rights)
  • Latino Justice PRLDEF
  • Ms. Foundation for Women
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • National Organization on Disability

“Since our inception, the New York Life Foundation has put the power of our people, financial investments, and other resources behind organizations and initiatives that address economic and societal inequalities,” says Heather Nesle, Senior Vice President and President, New York Life Foundation, and TWI member. “Our social justice pillar gives us a platform to dedicate more resources and support and continue to invest in the programs needed for marginalized communities and communities of color to create an equal and just society for generations to come.”

Since our inception, the New York Life Foundation has put the power of our people, financial investments, and other resources behind organizations and initiatives that address economic and societal inequalities.”

— Heather Nesle, Senior Vice President and President, New York Life Foundation, and TWI member

Understanding the number, as well as the racial and ethnic identity, of children impacted by death is essential to help every bereaved child find hope and healing, so we started working with Judi’s House to come up with a standard statistic for the prevalence of childhood bereavement and to shed light on the communities most affected.”

— Maria Collins, Vice President, New York Life Foundation and LEAD member

Middle school is a time of great social, emotional, and physical development. Out-of-school programs fill a critical need, helping kids explore their interests, learn who they are, advocate for themselves, and begin to realize their potential in a safe, nurturing space, free from the rigid structure of school, with caring adults serving as mentors. We’ve been partnering with the Afterschool Alliance for the past six years and are proud to say we’re making a difference and creating real impact in our communities.”

— Marlyn Torres, Corporate Vice President, New York Life Foundation and former co-chair of LEAD

Supporting students of color in NYC.

Learn how we're partnering with The Steve Fund to support students of color in NYC.

Stopping AAPI Hate 

The New York Life Foundation partners with the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in their support of social justice initiatives. For example, a key pillar of the Asian Pacific Circle (APC) ERG’s mission is to educate all New York Life employees by raising awareness of Asian American Pacific Islanders’ (AAPI) diverse cultures and advocating for the AAPI community and social justice issues. The APC forms meaningful alliances with external partners such as Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition whose mission is to “advance equity, justice, and power by dismantling systemic racism and building a multiracial movement to end anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate.” In 2022, APC and the foundation partnered on fundraisers for Stop AAPI Hate, building on the foundation’s $100,000 2021 grant. 

Download the entire New York Life DE&I Report.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937