Avoiding Conflict in your Committee

Avoiding Conflict in your Committee

The secret to avoiding conflict in your committee is to adopt a ‘do-nothing’ policy – if nothing is on the agenda, then no conflict will arise, right?

If non-action is unacceptable to you (I hope you are saying yes!), you must find ways to work through the variety of opinions that will inevitably arise.  Decisions in a grassroots organisation are made by a democratic process that requires involvement from many people – and this can be a positive experience if you follow these simple rules:

Appoint a leader for each agenda item

This person can co-ordinate the discussion and move on from a deadlock.

Circulate an agenda prior to a meeting

Circulating the agenda a week in advance (or whatever suits your group) outlining key discussion points gives attendees time to digest what will be discussed.  Set clear ground rules and expectations.  For example:  “Any item that is not included on the agenda may be discussed if there is time but will not be voted on”. This avoids conflict and pressure situations.

Always keep criticism professional, positive and not personal

Use the ‘sandwich’ approach – ‘positive comment, criticism, positive comment’.  For example:  ‘The Bush Dance went really well, thanks for all your hard work there.  I’m a bit concerned that we are ordering too many glowsticks for the disco night.  If we could take another look through the order form, that would be good.  Well done for being so organised and getting everything prepared so early.’

Find points you can agree on

There is always something.  If you get desperate,  go back to basics and say ‘Listen, we are all here because we want the best for our children’.  This puts you on the same page and can help you to move forward in a positive manner.

Remove the heat from the discussion

If things get too tense, move on to the next topic and after the meeting, send a follow up email on the topic.  This email will outline the main points of the discussion and the arguments being debated.  Invite stakeholders to comment, saying you will add all standpoints to the document prior to the next meeting.  This gives people time.

The easiest way to avoid conflict in your committee…

Don’t limit discussions to only business matters, even if you are pressed for time.  Allow some time for chit-chat at the beginning – after all, we are not robots!  A friendly committee with goodwill ‘in the bank’ is in the best position to resolve a conflict.


Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun). Click here to learn more about school and club fundraising ideas in Australia.

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