In the first phase of its COVID-19 relief efforts, KeyBank made grants totaling $1 million that were distributed to 26 KeyBank local communities in more than a dozen states. KeyBank contributed to collective response funds as a way to meet immediate needs of the most vulnerable people and communities.

In April, the KeyBank Foundation made grants totaling $1 million that were distributed to 26 KeyBank local communities in more than a dozen states across the U.S., from Alaska to Connecticut. The grants are just the first phase in the bank’s relief efforts. The funding reflects KeyBank’s dedication to its communities—while demonstrating the inspiration it draws from them.

For this initial phase of COVID-19 relief, the KeyBank Foundation contributed to the collective response funds that have been established in many cities. That approach, KeyBank determined, would be the most timely and effective first step. Community foundations and United Way organizations largely led the efforts, which were designed to meet immediate needs of the most vulnerable people and communities. The initiatives also attracted widespread support from local foundations, corporations and individuals.

What has resulted from this approach? Innovative solutions and responses driven by nonprofits and encouraged by the collaboration of funders. At the core of the solutions is capacity building—the nonprofit organizations are aiming to not only meet increased needs now, but prepare for the long-term outcomes of COVID-19 as well.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold of the communities we serve, we’ve embraced our role as a friend and neighbor would: by paying close attention to what people need right now and lending a hand,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Director of Corporate Philanthropy at KeyBank.

Gurney continued, “One of the most advantageous benefits of these collective groups coming together is the perspective of seeing and learning about the most-pressing issues of our regions under one centralized umbrella. It allows us to evaluate all of the needs collectively, recognize overlap, identify gaps and recommend partnerships that would not have existed otherwise.”

Examples of how the COVID-19 response fund is being put to use include these four from New York state. They illustrate the spirit, passion and ingenuity the recipient organizations across the country are bringing to their relief efforts:

  • In eastern New York, The Capital Region COVID-19 Response Fund—hosted in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region—found a way to deliver breakfast and lunch from local school meal programs to the students in low-income communities. Parents and caregivers—either still working or without access to a vehicle—were unable to pick up the meals, resulting in waste. The Capital Region COVID-19 Response Team helped address this gap through a partnership with the local transit authority, CDTA (Capital District Transportation Authority), which redeployed drivers and buses from routes canceled due to the pandemic.
  • The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is a central hub of food distribution to the 23 counties it serves. Facing a significant increase in the need for food assistance, the organization is using the COVID-19 response funding to expand its outreach and distribution. Its food pantries are now delivering services where they used to rely on drop-in visits. In addition, they have expanded their school backpack program—that provides students with food over the weekend—to also include senior citizens in need.
  • The South End of Albany, New York, is an at-risk neighborhood with the highest concentration of health issues in the region. The COVID-19 response funding helped establish a network of Block Ambassadors, a “boots on the ground” effort facilitated by AVillage, in partnership with other nonprofits. The group of mutual aid volunteers deploy into the neighborhoods to provide residents with timely and accurate information on health, food and material resources.
  • Using the COVID-19 response fund, Heart, Love and Soul—serving Western New York—hired three temporary workers to assist with kitchen and pantry operations. Since beginning emergency operations on March 16, Heart, Love and Soul has been able to feed lunch to an average of 120 people each day. Among the three hires was a food service professional who had been laid off from his previous job. Rather than collect unemployment, he joined Heart, Love and Soul to support an organization he loves and believes in.

These initial grants totaling $1 million from the KeyBank Foundation represent the first phase of what will be a total investment of $18 million to COVID-19-related efforts over the next several months. Also included is a program where KeyBank matched employee donations to COVID-19 initiatives, which to date, generated almost $2 million—with nearly 800 employees donating to more than 1,200 nonprofit organizations. KeyBank is further assisting its communities by helping employees connect to them through virtual volunteer opportunities.