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Northwestern Mutual Sustainability and Social Impact: Investing in Our Communities

We invest in transformational and sustainable community outcomes that improve lives.

Northwestern Mutual Sustainability and Social Impact: Investing in Our Communities

We invest in transformational and sustainable community outcomes that improve lives.

Published 05-16-24

Submitted by Northwestern Mutual

Originally published in Northwestern Mutual 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report

Through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, we invest in the future—allocating $23.5 million in 2023 to drive transformational and sustainable community outcomes. Our support includes not only financial contributions but also community partnerships, advocacy and volunteerism in the areas where our employees, financial advisors and representatives, and policyowners live and work. 

As a company, we’re committed to accelerating the search for better treatments and cures for childhood cancer. We work nationally to fund clinical research and support families during and after treatment, helping advance better quality-of-life outcomes. 

In our hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we’re helping to expand access to quality education, revitalize underserved neighborhoods, increase opportunities for homeownership and support premier cultural attractions—investing in a healthy, economically vibrant city, for today and tomorrow.


Every day, more than 1,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with childhood cancer. It’s the number one cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15 in the U.S., yet it receives only 4% of the federal government’s annual cancer research budget1. What’s more, studies show that 60% of families lose significant household income and are hit with financial hardship following a cancer diagnosis2. Since 2012, Northwestern Mutual has been committed to accelerating the search for better treatments and cures for childhood cancer, while supporting families undergoing treatment and survivors living with long-term effects.

Accelerating the search for better treatments, cures and quality of life 

Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations and clinical researchers, we seek to accelerate the search for better treatments and cures for childhood cancer while supporting families and survivors. 

Since 2012, we’ve partnered with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, whose mission is to change the lives of children by empowering everyone to help find a cure for childhood cancer. Our funding includes: 

  • Young Investigators grants, up to $50,000 a year for three years, providing vital startup funds for the best and brightest early-career researchers 
  • Innovation grants, providing seed funding for researchers with a novel approach to pediatric oncology scientific investigation 
  • The Crazy 8 initiative, detailing roadmaps toward cures for specific hard-to-treat childhood cancers 
  • The Childhood Cancer Data Lab, empowering researchers and scientists worldwide to collaborate, share and develop resources to accelerate new treatment and cure discovery 
  • The Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) program, for undergraduate, graduate and medical students from underrepresented populations, encouraging careers in pediatric oncology research

Scholarships to fulfill dreams 

We understand the unexpected costs and financial burden cancer treatment can place on a family. Our annual Childhood Cancer Scholarship Program gives survivors and siblings affected by childhood cancer the opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education. In 2023, we awarded $500,000 in combined scholarships to 50 students. Since 2017, we’ve awarded nearly $2 million in scholarships to more than 260 scholars.

large group of volunteers


Supporting education for Milwaukee’s youth has been a Northwestern Mutual priority for more than 25 years. As one of the Milwaukee area’s largest employers, we believe in creating access to quality education for all students, from all backgrounds. By investing in students, we’re creating the foundation for Milwaukee’s future leaders and professionals. When everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential, we all succeed.

Strengthening the K-12 pipeline 

Research shows that quality preschool education has a long-term positive effect, especially when combined with support for families3. We support early childhood organizations to ensure students arrive at school ready to learn and succeed. And we invest in initiatives for systemic change as well as targeted, smaller-scale projects to meet evolving needs of students and educators. 

Our 22 Milwaukee-area K-12 partner schools demonstrate high performance—and we want to help build on what’s working. Most of these schools serve more than 80% economically disadvantaged students, and many serve more than 90%. 

This year we committed an additional $5.8 million to support 40 Milwaukee-based nonprofits and schools, which includes a bridge loan to Notre Dame School of Milwaukee and two capital grants to St. Marcus School and St. Augustine Prep. This will help these schools expand and add about 1,500 quality seats to classrooms over the next few years.

Cultivating talent through college completion 

Since 2018, we’ve partnered with All-In Milwaukee, a college completion and career placement program that supports students through financial aid and advising. Northwestern Mutual has been proud to fund 81 scholars to date. This year we announced a $2 million, four-year grant that will enable another 100 students—many of them first-generation college attendees—to receive comprehensive support toward graduation. 

In 2023, 16 All-In Milwaukee scholars interned with us. We also hosted development days for more than 300 students at our corporate headquarters. In 2023, Northwestern Mutual also expanded our commitment to providing students from underserved neighborhoods access to quality education. Over the next five years, we’ll issue more than $2.5 million in grants and scholarships to a total of 136 students from local pipeline schools to pursue higher education through our new HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Connection Scholarship program and continuing partnership with All-In Milwaukee. Our inaugural cohort of nine recipients will receive $7,500 in both their freshman and sophomore years and have the opportunity to participate in paid summer internships after their junior and senior years.

Fostering tech talent and innovation 

Technology enables Northwestern Mutual’s client, field and service experiences and accelerates our business outcomes. Developing regional technology talent is essential to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and we partner with local organizations to amplify our impact. 

  • The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute (NMDSI) was created in 2018 by Northwestern Mutual, Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to establish Wisconsin as a technology hub. In 2023, the three institutions committed $35 million to NMDSI over the next five years, building on the nearly $40 million invested to date. 
  • Our technology outreach program, hi, Tech, introduces K-12 students to the possibilities of achievement through tech. 
  • Our high school Tech Minicamp & Internship immerses students from our partner schools in a tech skills development program. More than 50 employees volunteer as instructors and mentors. 
  • We hosted 60 middle school girls from Golda Meir and Hmong American Peace Academy at our downtown campus for hands-on tech activities and career guidance from our women leaders. 
  • In 2023, we kicked off a mentoring program with Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee that brings together 40 high school girls with 20 Northwestern Mutual women every month to develop tech and professional skills. 
  • As a founder of the nonprofit MKE Tech Hub Coalition, which seeks to build a vibrant, inclusive tech ecosystem, we hosted 2023’s 4-year anniversary event for 300 community members.

Revitalizing underserved neighborhoods 

Financial inequities in housing and income add to the racial wealth gap across the United States. We believe a long-term, resident-engaged approach is critical to reversing the root causes of these challenges. Working alongside residents and community partners in three Milwaukee neighborhoods, we’re supporting development of the tools and skills to achieve community goals. In 2023, we also focused on expanding opportunities for affordable homeownership, which can be an important path to building financial security and generational wealth.

Expanding opportunities for homeownership 

According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, Milwaukee has the lowest homeownership rate among its peer cities for African American/Black residents—just over 25%4. To address this gap, Northwestern Mutual dedicated $3.5 million in 2023 to help residents in Milwaukee’s underserved communities achieve homeowner status. The initiative includes: 

  • A $500,000 grant from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation to the Acts Housing’s Homeownership Acquisition Fund, which will purchase, remodel and sell homes to first-time buyers 
  • A $2.5 million investment from the Northwestern Mutual Impact Investment fund in the Milwaukee Community Land Trust to help drive affordable housing and ensure homeownership affordability over time 
  • Additional funds up to $500,000 for services such as homebuyer training, which prepares people for the financial and other obligations of homeownership

Partnering with neighborhoods 

We believe neighborhood revitalization starts with the development of strong community leaders who become champions for the residents and their shared goals. For more than a decade, we’ve partnered with Milwaukee’s Amani, Metcalfe Park, and Muskego Way neighborhoods to create long-term impact, investing more than $15 million toward sustainable transformation and economic empowerment. Those investments support resident-led revitalization plans, thriving neighborhood associations, deeper collaboration among nonprofit partners, and the development of a citywide shared housing strategy.


Milwaukee is home to iconic cultural destinations and leading organizations that give our citizens opportunities to engage and connect with each other. This year, Northwestern Mutual gave nearly $3 million to community partners, along with funding community giving campaigns, to increase access and help make Milwaukee a great place to live and visit.

Learn more about Northwestern Mutual’s commitment to investing in our communities in the 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report.


1National Cancer Institute, Types of Cancer in Children, September 29, 2023, and NCI Budget and Appropriations, January 24, 2024 

2Family Reach, “Survival at All Costs,” 2015

3Sarah Sparks, “Early Education Pays Off. A New Study Shows How,” Education Week, March 29, 2022

4“On Racial Equity in Homeownership, Milwaukee Ranks Last Among Peers,” Wisconsin Policy Forum, July 22, 2022

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Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual


Northwestern Mutual has been providing financial security for over 165 years through personalized planning and industry-leading products. The company manages over $570 billion in assets and provides insurance and advisory services to over 5 million people. 

As a purpose-driven company, Northwestern Mutual integrates sustainability and social responsibility into its operations, focusing its Sustainability and Social Impact on delivering financial security, strengthening its culture of belonging, and investing in communities.

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