Nonprofits & Mediation

Sandy Balick of Consensus PointMediation LLC explains how mediation can help a nonprofit Board resolve conflict.Family mediation is ideally suited to resolving disputes for all kinds of “families.” A great example is presented by the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. (While nonprofits cover a range of causes/topics, the focus here is on those engaged in charitable or artistic pursuits.)

Boards are responsible for the overall direction of an organization. It used to be that serving on a board merged good works and social prominence. Board meetings were social occasions, and as long as the managers reported good progress, those present might share a good lunch, network a bit, and go home feeling that they had contributed to the forward march of civilization.

While there are still fulfilling aspects to board participation today, the world has changed for directors. Serving on a board is not taken lightly. Care is given to the selection of board members in the hope of finding people who may couple expertise with significant financial contributions.

This is an important – and all too often volatile – combination. The potential for conflict is clear. Large financial contributors will naturally expect to be heard at board meetings – inevitably, some may feel their contributions entitle them to a larger say in things. They may also feel that their particular knowledge or artistic point of view is superior to those of other board members and of management.

It’s important for boards to generate some heat. It’s important for board members to appropriately probe, challenge and question. Outside expertise may be invaluable. But if personality clashes are not managed, things may cascade downhill into sniping and open warfare, placing the organization and its mission at risk.

At a certain point, litigation may be appropriate – but at a significant cost of money and time.

Mediation, timely employed, is an effective means of avoiding the courtroom and safeguarding an organization’s mission, while allowing disputes to play out in an orderly and even useful fashion.

A useful start is with what I refer to as small “m” mediation – an informal approach by someone respected by the combatants, who is a good listener and able to be flexible in offering suggestions.

If this is not a realistic approach, a more formal Mediation may offer the solution. How and why? Stay tuned for my next installment.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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