Dynamic Solutions in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Services

How mediation can help a non-profit’s board resolve conflicts

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Mediation

Non-profit organizations are generally made up of well-meaning people who want to make a difference. However, individual may have very different views about how to accomplish an organization’s goals. Conflicts can occur at all levels. Some of the most serious may occur among the members of an organization’s board of directors.

Non-profits are unique organizations, and their board members can range from people seriously committed to a cause to those who primarily want to add a non-profit affiliation to their profile. This dichotomy in itself can lead to conflicts.

Conflicts can involve everything from issues with poor fundraising results to disagreements about how to accomplish the organization’s mission. Sometimes there’s disagreement on the mission itself and whether the organization should move in a different direction.

If the issue is only with one or two members of the board (for example, lack of attendance at meetings or inability to work with other directors), that may be resolvable within the board. If there’s a larger issue and the success of the non-profit is at stake, it may be worthwhile to try to resolve the conflict(s) via mediation.

What can a third-party neutral do?

Mediation involves a professional outside an organization (known as a third-party neutral) working with the parties to get to the heart of their disagreements and find solutions that everyone can live with. By having a third-party neutral with skills and experience in resolving conflicts, personal animosities that may be getting in the way of finding solutions can be mitigated.

A third-party neutral may get back to the basics, such as the organization’s mission, responsibilities, policies and rules. As issues are resolved, they can also help the board members put policies in place to prevent them from happening in the future. This may involve codifying regulations or procedures for all members to be able to refer to and new members to be provided.

It’s always natural to try to resolve issues internally, but that’s just not always effective. If they escalate, they can become public, which can harm a non-profit’s reputation and ability to raise money from donors and corporations. Even worse, they can end in very public and costly litigation. By choosing mediation, a non-profit board can keep their differences private as they work to resolve them.