Conflict amongst charity trustees

Conflict amongst charity trustees

Friday, 28 June 2019

Welcome to month six of our publication, Using Conflict as a Catalyst for Change – A Guide for Embracing, Managing and Mitigating Conflict Within Your Charity. This month we focus on conflict amongst charity trustees.

A board of trustees is normally made up of a diverse group of people, with differing skill sets and backgrounds. Having a diverse board brings many positives, and indeed charity trustee diversity is encouraged by the Charity Commission.

As a result, it’s not surprising that charity trustees will have opposing opinions and there will be conflict.

Conflict is healthy. It generates genuine debate that results in good decisions. If all charity trustee agree, or a dominant individual is not challenged, this may result in poor decision making which can be detrimental to the charity.

Managing conflict

Knowing how to manage tensions for the benefit of the charity, and not allowing them to turn into a dysfunctional conflict that disrupts every meeting and paralyse the charity, is important.

Points to consider include:

  • Listen – communicate – feed back. Listening to each other is a way to manage conflict before it takes hold. Perhaps have an annual agenda point to reflect on communication values and how they can be improved?
  • Realise that the boardroom is not always the best place to resolve conflict. That may mean meeting in a different environment, in smaller groups, or perhaps on a one-to-one basis.
  • Consider a code of conduct for charity trustees and also a conflict resolution process.
  • Soft skills – dispute resolution skills should be on the list of abilities of the Chair.

Other tips to manage conflict

  1. Have a code of conduct that sets out protocols for meetings, perhaps including timing and format of papers to present. This can help prevent individuals or topics dominating meetings.
  2. Do charity trustees know each other’s background and the other demands they face in life? This may help them understand their points of view.

How do I find out more?

In the full article we discuss the areas where conflict can arise, provide a real life case study of a fractured board of trustees, and what they did to overcome it, and provide tips for your own board of trustee.

Need help?

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss this with us in more detail, please speak to your usual MHA Larking Gowen contact. Call 0330 024 0888 or email

Chris Yeates


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