The conflict between beneficiary needs and finite resources

Using Conflict as a Catalyst for Change: month 5

In month five of our 2019 conflict guide for trustees, we focus on the conflict between limited resources and meeting the demands of beneficiary needs.

Managing priorities

One of the benefits of the governance structure of charities is that it can deliver an opportunity for clear thinking.

Many people, whether staff or trustees, are involved in their charities because they have a real heart for their charitable cause. That can make decisions that have an impact on the ultimate beneficiaries are much harder to make.

Senior management team

The senior management team, who are at the front line dealing with the demands of beneficiary needs and delivering operational activity, are much closer to service users. They may feel more keenly the potential impact of a cut to services. However, as they are more involved in the process they can also recognise how a service requires a disproportionate investment of time or money for the impact it makes on the delivery of charitable purposes.


The trustees, in their strategic role, may be more detached from the day to day delivery and therefore take a more objective approach. The role of the trustees here might be to ask searching questions and to help refresh the approach to the conflict. On the other hand, trustees, particularly those comprised of service users, may have a particular affinity for a service and be passionate about trying to retain it.

Where there is good organisational governance, then trustees and senior management would be anticipating resource constraints ahead. They might already be reflected in the organisational risk register.

Trustees and senior management need to respect the different roles and use them as a resource to help reflect on how to manage the conflicts for the best outcome for the charity.

What to do when faced with a conflict

Don’t make an uninformed decision. Get all your facts straight and weigh up the different scenarios:

  • What impact does the service have?
  • How many service users does it reach?
  • What is the financial cost?
  • What staff resources does it require?
  • If you release resource from one area, does this have sufficient impact to add value to other areas?
Read more on Managing Priorities

In month 6 we will be taking a look at how you can manage the diversity of backgrounds and options on your board of Trustees.

If you would like to speak to a member of ourNot for Profit team about how we can help, then please get in touch on 01903 234094.