The First Niagara Foundation dates back to 1998 when the Board of Directors of Lockport Savings Bank (LSB) established a charitable foundation, Lockport Savings Bank Foundation, to “set aside a portion of the capital of the Bank/Holding Company to be applied to the community betterment activities which would extend into perpetuity.”
In 2000 the name was changed to the First Niagara Foundation when Lockport Savings Bank was acquired by First Niagara Bank.
For many years, the Foundation focused primarily on youth and education and improving the quality of life in Erie and Niagara counties.
In 2007, the Foundation launched a signature program, “Mentoring MattersTM“ to invest in quality mentoring programs. Since 2007, the First Niagara Foundation donated over $9 million in support of mentoring. Additionally the Foundation supported Mentor: The National Mentor Partnership and many of its affiliates in an effort to promote the importance of quality based mentoring programs.
As First Niagara acquired several smaller regional banks, the footprint increased ultimately covering most of NY State, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Tristate, Western Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Foundation began a Regional approach to funding the communities where there was a banking presence and focused giving on the underserved by supporting not-for-profits primarily in the fields of youth and education and neighborhood revitalization.
From inception through 2016, the First Niagara Foundation contributed over $50 million dollars to not-for-profit organizations across its footprint.
When First Niagara bank was purchased by KeyBank (Key) in 2016, Key agreed to contribute $20,000,000 to the Foundation. Leaders from First Niagara Bank and Key subsequently agreed upon some basic principles that would guide the future course of the independent Foundation including:
- The Foundation and the KeyBank Foundation will work collaboratively to maximize their impact through thoughtful coordination of grants
- The Foundation's commitments will be branded as having been "made in partnership with KeyBank"
- Foundation grants will be predominantly, but not exclusively, focused on the Western New York (WNY) market
It is anticipated that the Foundation will operate for a period of up to ten years to preserve the legacy of giving in WNY and to help mitigate the loss of a hometown headquartered employer and leading corporate citizen in Buffalo.