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Nonprofit groups are essential to the community

When 340 KeyBank employees volunteered recently on Neighbors Make the Difference Day, they highlighted the importance of nonprofit organizations in contributing to the quality of life in our community.

Just as financial capital is essential for building businesses and communities, the social capital that binds us together and creates quality of life is also crucial. Nonprofits have a vital role in creating social capital; social capital builds quality of life, and quality of life makes economic development and prosperity possible.

A good quality of life retains and attracts those whose talents and energies facilitate the success of our businesses and our community. The people climate is more important than the business climate to many companies recruiting workers, according to writer Richard Florida, who tells in his book "Rise of the Creative Class" how a creative class can transform a community into a thriving, vibrant place.

Quality of life attracts creative-class workers, who then attract businesses seeking these employees. Nonprofits build social capital through a simple equation anyone can appreciate. If someone gets acquainted with a stranger in the neighboring seat at Shea's Performing Arts Center one month, that same person is no longer a stranger when they meet again the next month at a Buffalo Niagara Partnership dinner or volunteer board meeting.

Business people have an important responsibility to invest in nonprofit success, as board members and volunteers contributing time, talent and resources while affirming nonprofits as important assets for our community. This is a fulfilling opportunity to act on our values and to invest in Buffalo, our commercial marketplace and quality of life.

Making financial contributions by sponsoring events and donating to organizations is also an important responsibility in supporting nonprofits. Here in the Buffalo area, there is no shortage of deserving organizations that provide important services that improve our quality of life.

KeyBank's recent Neighbors Make the Difference Day illustrated the importance of supporting nonprofits. Of the 340 KeyBank employees who volunteered that day, 140 worked with 20 community leaders in the "KeyBank: Taking It to the Streets" effort. Working with the mayors of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the Bailey Avenue community, the Hertel Avenue community, the Niagara Falls community and its Weed & Seed Program, KeyBank people took to the streets to improve neighborhoods.

However, supporting nonprofits is not a one-day effort; it's a year-round responsibility. We must all volunteer in the work of these nonprofit quality-of-life organizations and contribute to them financially, as we sell Western New York to businesses that may invest, expand and relocate here.

Our future depends on recognizing that nonprofits are essential.

Sterling Kozlowski is president of KeyBank's Western New York District.

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