Conflict with Third Parties

Conflict with Third Parties

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Welcome to month eight 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 with third parties.

There is a range of third parties with whom charities may find themselves in conflict. Some common examples include:

  • Conflicts with regulators
  • Disputes with suppliers over the quality of goods or services provided
  • Disagreements with HMRC regarding the interpretation of tax law
  • Disputes with the press or media regarding potentially damaging reports
  • Conflicts with funders regarding project delivery and grant clawback, and
  • Disputes with landlords or tenants.

It is difficult for organisations who face any of these situations. Unlike internal conflicts, disagreements with third parties often carry a heightened risk of reputational damage to your charity. The stakes are therefore high and emotions can run deep. However, often the best course of action is to take a considered and dispassionate approach.

Acting in the charity’s best interest

At the heart of any decision must always remain the core principle of doing what is in the best interest of the charity. This is where the board of trustees can come into their own. Being detached from the front-line turmoil of a conflict, where matters of principle or emotions can cloud judgement, trustees can stand back and make the correct decision in the interest of the charity.

Get advice if you need it

No trustee board is fully equipped to understand the best course of action in every scenario. It is important to bring in specialist support to guide the decision where necessary.

What to do if you are in conflict with third parties

Although difficult and potentially time consuming, conflicts with third parties may also be an opportunity for growth and development and improving relationships. Most conflicts can be resolved by the charity themselves, sometimes with advice. However in serious cases the Commission may need to be involved.

We recommend you have plan to deal with conflicts, including managing the potential fallout. This won’t be able to cover all situations, but a planned approach allows you to act swiftly in a planned way, which can help resolve conflict and its fallout.  

If you are in conflict with third parties ask yourself questions like:

  • What needs to be done to protect reputation of the charity?
  • How, what and when should we communicate matters to stakeholders and the wider public?
  • Do we need to report anything to Charity Commission?
  • What do we need to do to prevent this happening again?
  • Did our conflict management plan work? How could it be improved?

To find more about how to manage and use conflict with third parties to your advantage read the Full Publication Now: Using Conflict as a Catalyst for Change

Next month we will be focusing on conflicts between treasurers and Finance Directors.

Need help?

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

Giles Kerkham


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