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Gary Bernstein shares advice for developing positive relationships in nonprofit.

After spending many years as a nonprofit executive, I have had numerous experiences interacting with folks of all ages, backgrounds, religions and interests. As many know, there are a multitude of ongoing pressures and challenges for a nonprofit leader. Whether it is balancing the agency’s annual operating budget, supervising and managing a diverse staff, working with a discriminating board of directors, or overseeing the multitude of facility and building concerns, the agency executive certainly has to juggle a number of balls in the air at one time.

However, I always felt my main goal was to create a safe, inclusive and nurturing environment where people could connect with people and where families could join together for play groups, special events and shared holiday celebrations.

Building positive relationships is vital for your nonprofit career success. Relationships can positively or negatively affect your satisfaction with your work, your ability to advance and gain recognition for your achievements. When you build positive relationships, you feel more comfortable with your interactions and less intimidated by others. You feel a closer bond to the people you spend the majority of your time working with.

Learn More: Ethical Leadership – Leading with Character, Values and Effective Communication

However, for a lot of people relationship building isn’t natural or easy to do. Most refuse to admit this is a concern because it’s such a basic, common sense concept. They assume they already know how to do it. Don’t fall into that trap. Everyone – even the most outgoing and engaging personalities – can improve his or her skills in this critical area.

Sometimes we forget our personal and professional success depends as much on the quality of our relationships with others as it does on how effectively we perform our tasks. In an era when we rely so heavily on email, twitter and other technological forms of communication, people still respond to one-on-one, face-to-face interaction as a means of building strong relationships and making meaningful, lasting connections.

For professionals in the recreation, leisure studies or sport management fields, you should ask yourself: “What business am I in?” The answer is quite simple: if your business has anything to do with people – and all businesses do – you are in the people business, the business of building and developing positive relationships. Some people think if they sell things, they are in the business of selling. They aren’t. They are in the business of building relationships because that’s how you sell things.

Those in management are also in the business of building relationships because that’s how you get things done. Getting things done through others.

Learn More: The Role of an Effective CEO in Nonprofit

Lastly, developing robust relationships with your clientele is critical to effective and dynamic customer satisfaction and retention. The true achievement of your organization depends on your ability to build positive relationships. Your customers are at the center of this relationship, not your organization.

To be highly effective, you must focus on them. Respect and understand the needs and motivations of your customers. This means you have to really get to know them. Communicate your programs and activities and their value to them. Follow-up, cultivate and nurture this relationship. Cultivation activities include customer recognition, personal meetings, and events where you hang out and talk with them.

Gary Bernstein

Gary Bernstein currently serves as CEO of the Jewish Community Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania and an Advisory Board Member of Community Rec Magazine. Gary Bernstein has proudly authored the textbook, "The Fundamentals of Sports Marketing" with Sagamore Publishing and "Nonprofit Sport and Recreation Programs: Principles and Practices of Leadership and Management" by Sentia Publishers. For more information, call 757.667.0293 or email gary.bernstein@nepajca.org.

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