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M&T, First Niagara detail significant charitable contributions

Buffalo’s two biggest locally based banks made significant community contributions in the past year.

M&T Bank reported making nearly $5 million in charitable cash donations in Western New York last year, among $21 million across its entire footprint. (The figure does not include “in-kind” donations.)

First Niagara Financial Group said it directed $2.26 million worth of its charitable giving to the region in 2014, out of about $10 million in contributions across its territory.

Both banks report annually on their community giving. The figures illustrate their sizable impact on the region, beyond their employment and their spending on operations and services.

M&T has grown over the years through acquisitions, and has in turn expanded the reach of its charitable giving. The bank in its community report said “helping those organizations that make life better is in M&T’s DNA.”

The $10 million First Niagara donated last year consisted of about $2.6 million in corporate giving plus about $7.4 million donated through the First Niagara Foundation.

First Niagara highlighted $500,000 in grants it allocated through a business development fund to support start-ups on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and nearby neighborhoods. The bank also donated $1 million worth of grants to support mentoring programs last year, including about $175,000 spread among nine local nonprofits.

“Though we have grown in recent years, we remain a financial institution with strong ties to our communities,” said Gary M. Crosby, First Niagara’s president and CEO, in a statement about the bank’s community giving.

The banks also added up volunteer hours donated by their employees. M&T says its employees donated more than 320,000 hours; First Niagara reported 26,000 volunteer hours donated by its staff.

While both banks make contributions throughout their territories, the figures also reflect the impact of a headquarters in Buffalo. Nearly one-quarter of M&T’s donations were directed to Western New York, and First Niagara made more than a quarter of its donations in its hometown territory.

A similar example comes from Cleveland, the hometown of KeyBank. The KeyBank Foundation last year made the largest gift in its history – a $4 million grant – to support the revitalization of Cleveland’s Public Square. It also directed about $600,000 in donations to the Buffalo area.