When the pandemic took hold of the nation, KeyBank recognized the opportunity to transform its celebrated annual Neighbors Make the Difference Day® in-person volunteering event into a virtual experience, turning the one-day event into something with even greater impact.

KeyBank Celebrates the 30th Neighbors Make the Difference Day® with a Season of Virtual Volunteerism

June 4, 2020, was supposed to be a highly celebrated day in KeyBank’s history. And it lived up to that promise, even if events didn’t go quite according to initial plans.

The day represented the 30th anniversary of Key’s annual Neighbors Make the Difference Day, a hallmark of Key’s commitment to its communities and a leading corporate volunteerism effort in America. On this day every year, KeyBank employees from across the enterprise are inspired to get involved in a volunteer activity within their local communities.

This year, however, the traditional plans had to be reimagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is exactly what Key did, as team members adapted swiftly and with enthusiasm to Key’s efforts to promote virtual volunteerism activities worthy of the event’s 30-year history.

In place of the annual in-person and on-site experience, KeyBank opted to facilitate thousands of community-wide, organized volunteering opportunities that could be scheduled and even completed virtually, turning the one-day event into something with even greater impact.

Pivot to Virtual

Shifting to a virtual effort, Key engaged its 50-plus Neighbors Day coordinators across the company to quickly connect with Key’s not-for-profit partners in local communities, asking them to submit virtual volunteer projects available to Key’s employees during the spring and summer of 2020. Key also adjusted its internal portal to include these virtual volunteer opportunities for employees to review, consider and sign up for.

Some 175 opportunities were posted to the platform, including U.S.-based and international projects. The bank also supplemented that list with local projects through a roster of 10, third-party websites offering KeyBank employees over 8,500 additional virtual volunteering opportunities.

Through the platform, employees were able to sign up for a variety of opportunities, such as sewing masks for hospitals, providing career and student mentoring consultation, and participating in professional development sessions.

Much More Than a Day

In all, Key employees participated in hundreds of virtual volunteering events across the country this spring and summer. From June 1 through July 31, nearly 450 Key employees logged 3,000 volunteer hours, serving 255 nonprofit agencies. Their volunteer efforts brought assistance and comfort to countless others in their local communities.

Volunteerism events were both in-person and virtual, and represented both team and individual efforts. Not surprisingly, many of the projects were designed to offer assistance and comfort related to the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

For example, 10 individuals from multiple locations involved in the Key Young Professionals Business Impact Networking Group (KBING) teamed up to participate in the Virtual Women's Distance Festival 5K presented by We Love Rockland. The weeklong event was a virtual race benefiting the Center for Safety and Change in New City, New York. Participants on the KeyBank team represented KeyBank locations in Ohio, New York, Colorado and Connecticut.

“This virtual volunteering opportunity was extra meaningful for us because we decided to do something out of the norm, and we opened up the spaces on the team to all Key Young Professionals chapters across the Key footprint,” observed Kimberly Pennington, Executive Assistant to the Market President, New York, who participated in the race. “Our very diverse team of 10 ranged from KeyBank interns to seasoned professionals with 30-plus years of experience.”

Pennington and others also volunteered at an in-person event in which the Key Young Professionals Hudson Valley and New York City chapters teamed up to deliver over 100 meals and “red key” cookies to local healthcare heroes at Westchester Medical Center.

Personal Meaning, Personal Touch

Many other KeyBank employees got involved by selecting and volunteering at individual events or projects that were particularly meaningful to them. For example, in Cleveland, Brenda Kirk, EVP and Chief Information Officer – Commercial Bank and Enterprise Payments, opted to create wellness care packages for the front-line team at the city’s MetroHealth Medical Center, which she did with the help of her family.

To fill the packages, Brenda also reached out to small business clients, asking them to contribute items or gift vouchers for services, such as virtual yoga and meditation classes. Brenda, with the help of her husband and son, made and delivered 60 care packages to the Emergency Room team at the hospital.

Another Cleveland employee, Jamie Warder, Executive Vice President and Head of Digital Banking, and a member of the Key Executive Leadership Team, participated in multiple initiatives in honor of KeyBank’s virtual volunteerism initiative, many of which he has been involved with over the years. Besides serving as a board member of the President’s Council – An Engine for Black Business Growth, where he leads governance for the organization, Jamie also provides career mentoring for about a dozen individuals.

From Mask Making to Pizza Lunches

In Buffalo, Mairead Harold, Executive Assistant in the Western New York Region, got involved in virtual volunteering by joining her mother’s effort to make masks on behalf of Buffalo Resilience, a local nonprofit organization providing mask-making kits and supplies. Phil McNamara, the founder of the organization, secured materials for the kits by requesting donations of supplies and raising funds through GoFundMe. The organization continually seeks volunteer assistance in making the masks.

Mairead’s mother, who has been sewing all her life, was looking for a way to help make masks when she learned about the opportunity. Along with her sister, Mairead decided to join the effort, learning how to sew the masks with their mother’s help. They made more than 1,500 masks for the organization.

“It grew into a real family effort and has helped make this time easier, knowing we are helping where we can,” Mairead said.

And in Seattle, Washington, Cassandra Mitchell, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility Officer, worked with April Tomlinson, Merchant Sales Advisor and Hispanic-Latinx KBING Chapter Leader, to deliver a pizza lunch and treats for the essential staff and tenants of Mary’s Place Family Center, a shelter and service provider for families, and one of the bank’s not-for-profit partners. The pizza was delivered by Pizza Gallery, Burien, Washington, a KeyBank branch client.

Together, these and many other virtual and in-person volunteerism projects were made possible by this year’s shift to a virtual volunteerism platform, making the event a huge success for KeyBank and the communities it serves. And serving as a perfect initiative to mark the program’s 30-year history.