Wake up from the nightmare of conflicts between volunteers

The conflict war

It happens even to the greatest magician to let the rabbits create a mess in his training room. Skipping the metaphor further in the article, what we’ll try to clarify is how and why volunteer coordinators often struggle with conflicts between volunteers and within the organization. It’s in human nature, you might say, but that human nature can and should be adjusted when there’s a bigger cause.

Even if you can’t see it, the obstacle might lie in you. Remember; this is not making you an imperfect leader, but a leader in constant development.

Working as a volunteer coordinator includes so many parts and phases, that sometimes it’s just impossible to make everything function harmoniously. Having said that, you should learn how to prioritize the most important and that is: recruiting and managing volunteers. Take this as a one-piece puzzle with separable slices. In order to avoid conflicts between your volunteers, you must put an emphasis on the process of managing volunteers. This includes building thick threads of confidence between you and the volunteers and between the volunteers. But, be careful; a thread can easily break when pulled and stretched.

Two things we’re going to discuss in brief in the next paragraphs: how to recognize and define conflict, and how to solve it!

Recognizing and defining conflict

Conflicts vary from one to another volunteer organization, but there are few that can be defined as common:

  • An argument between two or more volunteers
  • An impolite and dictatorial volunteer when communicating with other members
  • Differences in understanding and practicing rules and regulations in the organization
  • Volunteers that see only the negative side in the organization, but offer no solution or ideas on how to resolve the issue i.e. a member that spreads negativity in the organization and among other volunteers
  • Different views on things and projects between you and the volunteers

There’s a chance that other types of conflicts could pop up in your volunteer organization, but as a volunteer coordinator, you should know these five as the most common ones.

Solving and removing conflicts

  • Never, ever ignore a conflict!
  • Never go for the ignorant attitude and never leave your volunteers to solve the conflict on their own. You’re their leader and you must stand up tall when things are falling apart!
  • Don’t proxy an issue to your strongest and most organized volunteer. Be there for them. Remember, you’re managing volunteers!
  • Discuss the issue face-to-face and hear everyone out.
  • Be prepared to hear different opinions.
  • Know that one conflict can cause a new one, so always have a conflict management plan.
  • Set limits! Cut off badmouthing, accusations and gossip.
  • Stay present and discuss the conflict until it’s resolved.
  • Be bold, direct and clear when talking to your volunteers; don’t scold. Teach! Again and again!
  • Offer solutions and changes that would have a positive impact.
  • Always practice a round table; each volunteer is given equal rights to participate in the discussion


The best thing about conflicts is that you end up creating a stronger volunteer management system, volunteer administration and you improve in the process of developing and managing volunteers.

How do you cope with conflicts?

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