The company’s private foundation has been helping to close the financial divide through strategic grant-making since 1978.
By Kara Corridan
2021 brought a significant milestone for The Prudential Foundation: Its latest round of grants pushed the Foundation’s total contributions over the $1 billion mark.
The Foundation, which started making grants in 1978, has a straightforward mission: “We provide grants to nonprofit organizations that help close the financial divide by creating inclusive workplaces and communities, and accelerating economic mobility for all,” explains Shané Harris, head of Social Responsibility and Partnerships in Inclusive Solutions and the president of The Prudential Foundation. “These organizations provide employment training and financial resources and tools. They examine how you create a thriving community by removing the barriers to economic mobility. And they think about it all from a racial equity lens, because these communities tend to be predominantly comprised of people of color.”
A recent grantee is Newark Opportunity Youth Network, in Prudential’s New Jersey headquarters city. This nonprofit takes a multipronged approach to improving the lives of opportunity youth, young men and women who are neither in school nor participating in the workforce. NOYN helps them master the skills needed to succeed in post-secondary education, career and community leadership.
Helping to equip young people with the right skills has long been a priority for Prudential. And in the wake of the pandemic, upskilling is even more critical for both individuals and employers — not only to help close the financial divide but to help American businesses thrive.
As the latest Pulse of the American Worker survey shows, 73% of workers say there is a gap between the skills workers have now and the skills they’ll need for the future. And 71% of managers with open positions say they’re receiving applications from workers who simply don’t have the right skills.
In from the get-go
True to the role of philanthropy, The Prudential Foundation is willing to invest in new ideas. Among the values that guide its grant-making is patient capital — its grant-making may persist for several years to build a nonprofit’s capacity and scale to deliver sustainable, long-term impact for people and communities. “We provide catalytic funding for new initiatives. We expect specific outcomes from our grants, but the nonprofits typically are able to use our funds for general operating support to keep the doors open and lights on, which is not common in philanthropy,” explains Sarah Keh, vice president, Social Responsibility and Partnerships, Inclusive Solutions.
What’s more, the Foundation often provides early, multiyear grants. This allows organizations to grow and focus on their work without having to continuously fundraise. With this early financial support in hand, the nonprofits can focus on enhancing their impact.
Purpose-driven, no matter what
Keh points out that The Prudential Foundation remains dedicated to making a societal impact especially during the tumult of the past year and a half.
“Think back to John Dryden, who founded Prudential because working families couldn’t afford to bury their loved ones. He saw a societal challenge and he created a company to meet it. The Foundation’s approach is a key part of how Prudential continues to live out Dryden’s mission of eliminating financial barriers and providing people with the tools to achieve financial security,” she says. “Through this work — along with other ways Prudential rolls up its sleeves to help tackle tough societal issues — we gain invaluable insight into community needs.”
Even though 2020 was a year of tremendous hurdles and an unprecedented health and economic crisis, the Foundation was able to make a real difference with its partners. Here’s what giving looked like:
This isn’t the first billion-dollar milestone for Prudential: In 2014 the company set a bold goal to grow and manage an impact investments portfolio of $1 billion in assets under management by 2020. Indeed, in February 2020, the company delivered on that promise by helping to find, fund and incubate unconventional solutions to societal and business challenges.
The Impact & Responsible Investing group invests in organizations and businesses that serve a societal purpose while generating a return for investors like Prudential. It focuses on these key areas:
Just as the work of Impact & Responsible Investing bolsters Prudential’s ability to tackle pressing societal issues, the company can amplify the Foundation’s impact through contributions from the corporation itself. Prudential’s latest round of grants — some funded by the Foundation and some by the corporation — focus on four key areas, all of which align to Prudential’s commitments to advance racial equity:
- Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Funding includes a corporate contribution from PGIM to Hampton University, which will provide access to technology that will help level the playing field for scholars. Contributions will strengthen schools’ operational capacity and support talent acquisition as well as provide direct student support by hosting an on-site HBCU Early Talent Summit and through grants to support student emergencies.
- Public policy, specifically voting rights, criminal justice reform and police reform. This includes supporting organizations such as the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Center for Policing Equity.
- Cultural institutions. In addition to continuing support for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Prudential is supporting the Obama Presidential Center, which recently broke ground.
- Small businesses. Take New Jersey Community Capital, for instance. The Foundation approved a grant to provide flexible loan capital to small businesses in downtown Newark to help with their post-pandemic recovery and growth — which brings the work that started back in 1978 in our headquarters city full circle, as it continues to be a priority today.