Everyone can get involved in giving back — here’s how

Muscato column header

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This philosophy runs deep at KeyBank, where we find our truest selves in the service of our local communities.

In fact, KeyBank was recently recognized by Points of Light as one of America’s 50 most community-minded companies — for the ninth consecutive time. The Civic 50 provides a national standard for corporate citizenship and showcases how companies can use their time, skills, and resources to drive social impact in their communities and company.

While this kind of recognition is nice, our reasons for committing ourselves to our local communities have nothing to do with the accolades or attention we get. We give generously of our time, talents and money because successful partnerships between businesses and nonprofits are the key to building successful communities. We give back because it’s the right thing to do, and to be honest, we do it because it feels amazing to do even a small part to contribute to the greater good.

But giving back doesn’t always look like big companies writing out big checks. It takes all of us — large companies, small businesses, individuals and selfless nonprofit organizations — to help our most underserved and vulnerable populations overcome the challenges that have been set before them and to build thriving, engaged communities where we all want to live, play and work.

Small businesses, mid-sized businesses, and even families and individuals have an important role to play in community giving. Determining the best way to make the biggest impact can seem daunting — but it doesn’t have to be.

Narrow your focus

Deciding where, when and how to give is the first step toward meaningful giving. It’s important to determine a giving strategy, and ideally one with your employees’ interests in mind. Uncovering what is meaningful to them, whether through casual conversations or more formal surveying, is an effective way to engage them in the process and start to prioritize.

The KeyBank Foundation has identified three “pillars” of giving: neighbors, education and the workforce. Start by developing your own pillars. Determine what’s important to you, to your employees and the culture of your organization, and build your giving strategy around those causes.

Give in ways that work for you

While every nonprofit needs funding to survive, there are many ways to give back that don’t involve making a financial commitment. Volunteering time for a specific cause is equally valuable and provides a meaningful way for your employees to put their abilities to use.

Serving on nonprofit boards or committees is another important way to contribute. The valuable donation of time gives nonprofit organizations access to highly qualified leaders, while fostering an “external” focus within companies, enabling staff members to concentrate on more than just their job, but rather on the diverse issues and challenges in our communities.

Feel good about giving

While there are definitely business benefits to corporate philanthropy, the most significant benefits of giving back are intrinsic. It feels good. It brings people together. And at the end of the day, it helps build stronger, better communities in which we can live our lives and raise our families.

If you’ve been contemplating how to give back, I hope you’ll take the leap. It’s ok to start small, just start. Because every little bit counts.

Phil Muscato is Market President and Commercial Sales Leader with KeyBank in Rochester. He may be reached by phone at 585-238-4159 or email at [email protected].

Any opinions, projections or recommendations contained herein are subject to change without notice and are not intended as individual investment advice. This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyBank is Member FDIC. KeyCorp.© 2022.CFMA #220929-1745080



Recruiting talent, healthcare costs among companies’ top concerns

Phil Muscato
Phil Muscato

While the state of the economy is always top of mind, middle market companies are constantly confronted with many concerns. But which are most pressing right now and where should you place your focus? To find out, KeyBank surveyed over 400 middle market business owners and executives in our recent Business Sentiment Survey.

Attracting talent is the top concern of middle market companies, followed closely by healthcare costs and increased competition/pricing pressure. Not surprisingly, given the headlines, the risk of an economic downturn and trade agreements/tariffs were also high on the list.

Attracting and retaining talent

Attracting talent consistently ranks at or near the top of concerns in these surveys, with talent retention not far behind. Middle market companies are staffed by multiple generations of workers, each with its own set of expectations, priorities and habits.

More and more, companies are recognizing that they need to make changes in order to attract the right people. Successful companies recognize the differences among the generations and adjust accordingly. That doesn’t mean playing favorites; rather, it’s realizing that millennials and Gen Z are different than those who came before them and creating a work environment that appeals to them will result in improved recruiting and greater workforce stability. Employee development has always been and will continue to be a hallmark of successful companies, even if the programs and methods change.

Ultimately, the best way to recruit top talent is to know who you want to recruit before you start searching for candidates. That means defining the demands of the job and the fit factors for the job, including fit with key colleagues, superiors and/or reporting employees. Once that’s done, looking for employees is more a matter of checking the boxes, than a hopeless search.

Trade wars and tariffs

Trade agreements, tariffs and cybersecurity fraud also worry middle market companies, specifically, the uncertainty around the tariffs is what is concerning to many. This can impact what decisions are made and how companies price products or negotiate with suppliers. The impact of new tariffs on middle market companies has worsened as the trade war with China heats up. Among other things, the uncertainty and impact of the trade wars have caused companies to hold off on their expansion plans, raise prices and seek alternative suppliers.

There’s little doubt that it’s important to pay attention to the talk surrounding tariffs. But while you’re making your day-to-day decisions, don’t look into your crystal ball too deep so that what could happen has a greater impact on you and your business than what ultimately happens.


Cybersecurity remains a top concern for middle market companies. In fact, fraud cost U.S. companies $7.9 million in 2018, on average. The constantly evolving landscape of cyberspace means big growth opportunities for hackers, criminals and terrorists. From internal correspondence to operational systems, payment systems to collection of customer data, cybercrime is a real threat for just about every organization. And criminals are getting craftier as well. A recent study, sponsored by tax firm RSM, showed ransomware has become the most common form of cyber incident, but traditional hacking, malware and business email compromises are still very popular with attackers.

To combat fraud, our KeyBank experts suggest an extensive defense with in-depth controls, including fraud and cyber tools that create layers of protection. Other tactics include multi-factor authentication in both customer-facing content and the work stream, as well as shifting from prevention to detection policies for heightened anomaly and heuristic detection.

Acquisition considerations

Compared to the last two reporting periods, middle market companies indicated they are less likely to complete an acquisition in the next six months. This is partially attributable to increased competition, which is driving up company valuations and the cost of acquisitions, especially for lower-revenue companies. Uncertainty over trade and a possible global economic downturn also contribute.

In many cases, today’s middle-market deals are executed to either grow revenue or as a reaction to industry consolidation resulting from competitive pressures. When evaluating your options, make sure you’re looking at the acquisition, but also devote time, energy and resources to the integration and how your company will capitalize on the synergies and grow revenue.

Economic outlook

Despite their concerns, middle market companies remain mostly optimistic about their own companies and the U.S. economy. That optimism can be seen among the nearly three-quarters of respondents, who said that they plan to expand in the next six months.

Adding employees was the expansion method most commonly cited, followed by significant equipment purchases, adding new facilities and locations and expanding or renovating current facilities.

No matter what position your company is in, now is a great time to think about the opportunities and challenges you face on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. While the economy will no doubt impact your business and your plans, talk with your banker to develop a strategy that will help position your company for success now and help you capitalize on future opportunities.

Phil Muscato is Market President with KeyBank in Rochester. He may be reached by phone at 585-238-4159 or email at [email protected]