The art of dealing with disruptive situations in non-profit organizations

Before I moved to Stratford with my family, I was involved with a number of non-profit organizations – at the local, national, and international levels.

During three decades of volunteer work, I learned a key lesson.

I learned that it’s essential that each organization has bylaws in place to ensure that, in the event a member of an organization – including a member of the board of directors – behaves in a way that others deem to be abusive or disruptive, procedures are in place to deal with such an event — at once.

This applies also to behaviour at conferences and the like.

In a number of organizations I’ve been involved with in the past, the bylaws make it clear that if a given member is disruptive, then by a vote of the board of directors that person can be removed from membership, at once – without delay. Such bylaws can take the form, for example, of a code of conduct.

In the case of a regular member or a board member who is disruptive, that member is removed at once, for example, by a majority vote of the board. If a procedure is in place, in writing, such a procedure can readily be implemented.

In the case of a smaller group which does not have a set of bylaws, a vote by members to address disruption, in the way that I have outlined, can similarly address the situation at hand, at once, and without delay.

Having such a procedure in place has been very helpful, in situations I have observed over the years. Otherwise, one or two members can create problems which can be huge, for any organization. The point is to have a procedure in place to ensure that an organization knows what to do, when disruptive behaviour occurs. In my anecdotal experience, having such a procedure in place is very handy.

“3P” Strategy

What I have described is among the most important things I have learned from volunteer work. Another key thing I have learned – from Councillor Jim Tovey (1949-2018) of Mississauga – years ago is the “3P” Strategy.

The strategy is outlined as follows:

Proactive: Be proactive in identifying what negatively impacts your community, and more importantly, what may negatively impact your community in the near or distant future.

Persistent: Be persistent in gaining, and sharing with your community, the knowledge required to make fair, informed decisions, and to be able to engage all stakeholders in the discussion.

Positive: Never offer a solution to a difficult issue unless it is a positive solution. If you cannot find a solution where there are no losers, revert to the second “P,” Persistent.

Some general comments – from a previous post:

The 3P Strategy takes the view that there must be a creative way to find solutions that do not create losers.

It has not always been possible to create the win-win situation but it is possible to identify core values and negotiate ways to protect those interests.

In the context of the Lakeview projects which Jim Tovey championed, the attitude associated with the above-noted strategy attitude shifted the mindset from the usual notion of asking authorities to fix problems to one of championing a positive alternative to the status quo.

Leadership succession

A related topic concerns leadership succession.

Click here for previous posts about leadership succession >

At previous posts, I’ve outlined the key role that this topic can play; one such post is entitled:

Some observations regarding the starting and running of neighbourhood associations

The above-noted post features four recommendations; the fourth reads:

Fourth: It’s imperative to have a plan for leadership succession, written into the constitution and bylaws, in place. When such a culture of leadership succession is set into place from the start, the culture in this area remains strong, as the years go by.

Such a culture can also be set into place later, if it hasn’t been set into place at the start, but that takes more effort and time. It’s better to establish a great culture for an organization right from the start. That’s another way of saying: Take the time to plan things well, right from the start.

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