When I wrote about New York Life’s program for grieving children a little while back, I asked the audience to share other stories with me of insurers who have likewise done good deeds for the public. One such program is Aviva’s Youmanity initiative, which is much more than a one-off good deeds effort. It is part of an overall rebranding Aviva has been undergoing for well more than a year now, in which the company is making a concerted effort to ensure it is people-focused.

Sound like marketing blather? It might. But having looked over Youmanity on several different occasions, I have to say that this is a serious effort that demands attention not only from the public, but from agents and rival carriers as well. There are multiple aspects of Youmanity worth talking about, but the one I want to focus on today are these little tokens Aviva is handing out to promote random acts of kindness. The first ones were largish wooden coins bigger than a half-dollar. The new ones are slicker, yellow and the size of a poker chip.

On each token is a serial number you can use to register the token on Aviva’s Facebook page for Youmanity. The tokens themselves represent a random act of kindness. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in Starbuck’s, and give them this token to encourage them to pay it forward. And, hopefully, to also register the token number on the Facebook page. There, you can actually track where each token goes geographically. Each user who registers the token can also put in a little story about how they got their token. I got mine from Steve Carlson, public relations manager at Aviva, who also lent me a pen during our meeting (which he let me keep, BTW. Thanks, Steve!). I will be traveling to Rhode Island today to attend a memorial service for a dear family friend. I am looking forward to passing along my token on the way up there. When I do, I’ll try to get some feedback from the person to whom I give my token, and I’ll update this post accordingly.

The Youmanity token idea reminds me of Rachel’s Challenge, an initiative started in memory of Rachel Scott, the first Columbine shooting victim. My daughter, in sixth grade, just went through a school assembly on Rachels’ Challenge and on one of its initiatives, called Chain Reaction. Basically, it too is a random act of kindness effort, in which what you do for another is recorded on a slip of paper, glued into a loop to form the link of a chain. Subsequent acts are added to the chain; the idea is to make a chain as long as possible. One class in the Midwest, my daughter told me, made a chain 27 miles long.

27 miles. That’s a lot of goodwill.

I hope that Aviva’s various Youmanity tokens travel far and wide, doing much good. Yeah, the tokens bear Aviva’s name, and yeah, they ultimately serve a cause to promote Aviva as a person-facing company. But as far as self-interest goes, this is really trivial. And if the corporate message Aviva is trying to communicate here is that no, really, it’s got an honest-to-goodness interest in altruism, then so much the better.

If you do business with Aviva, then ask them to hook you up with a bunch of their goodwill tokens. According to Aviva, these things aren’t just getting traction as goodwill items, they are also effective recruiting tools. After all, it’s easier to get folks to sell one’s products when there is physical proof that the company doesn’t just think of altriusm as a handy gimmick, but as a reason for being.

This kind of nobility is inherent in the products and services this industry is responsible for. While National Underwriter takes its lumps every time it raises uncomfortable questions to the industry, the larger reality is that this is an industry deeply dedicated to two causes: getting people better from illness and injury, and getting people through the tumult of mortality. No wonder, then, that this industry has in its ranks a fair number of crusaders, do-gooders and folks who see their job not as an occupation but as a calling. Older agents have expressed to me no small amount of concern that the next generation of industry professionals who will fill the gap left by the silver tsunami might not be so hip to the notion of doing good for good’s sake. If efforts like grief counseling for kids and paying forward random kindness are any indicators, there will always be those companies out there that don’t just practice goos business, the also practice the business of being good.

Is your company doing good deeds that merit attention? E-mail Bill Coffin with the details.