A methodology for conflict resolution

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Successful fundraising is always a team effort, and according to Del Staecker, who presented a session entitled Team Building and Conflict Resolution at the recent NSFRE International Conference, there are a number of common team characteristics; the need for identity, roles, and leaders; goals and objectives; spirit and culture; rituals; coaches, fans and cheerleaders; and of course, celebration!

Impressing the importance of integrating fun into effectiveness when dealing with fundraising teams, Staecker said that when things go wrong, they are frequently caused by disagreement about the actual facts and data (the what); process, method or strategy (the how); goals, objectives and priorities (the where), or team values (the why).

Managing the conflict calls for honesty and some courage, and armed with a plan on which people on the team may focus, rather than the problem itself, conflict resolution may be well in hand. His methodology:

  1. Analyze the situation. Try to achieve a common understanding of what the conflict is and establish some common ground.
  2. Describe the situation. Communicate the perception. Often, people don't talk to each other about the conflict, the result being no common description.
  3. Clarify the situation. What? Where? When? Establish fact vs.. opinion and the causes.
  4. Focus on common ground. Find out what the group does agree on.
  5. Focus on common goals. What are the results everyone wants? Try to put it back into the team perspective.
  6. Build agreement on actions. What will everyone agree to do?
  7. Establish an early warning system for future use. Develop methods to communicate.

Utilizing this system, professional fundraisers can go a long way to fulfill their obligation to promote healthy and productive communication, while dealing with problems. Conflict resolution, Staecker points out, is a difficult road to travel, and every step is an important one. Remember Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word, and the right word, is really a large matter -- it's the difference between the lightning bug, and the lightning!" And when it seems that a solution is in hand, ask yourself the following questions: "Will it improve the relationship(s)?", "Will it make people feel better about each other and themselves?", Will everyone benefit?", and, most important, "Will it work?".

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