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Negotiate effectively

Negotiation skills are needed to get the best out of funders or partner organisations, or even staff and volunteers. They are all about getting what you want, or some of what you want, so your group can move forward.

Serves – any leader within an organisation
Preparation – be clear what your goal is; the person (s) you want to negotiate with, what their take on the situation is, or is likely to be.
Time taken – approximately 2-3 weeks, though could be longer in complex cases


  • Style of approach – “hardball” or “win-win”
  • Transparency
  • Control
  • Preparation
  • Goals
  • Trades
  • Alternatives
  • Relationships
  • Expected outcomes
  • The consequences
  • Power
  • Possible solution
  • Process
  • Compensation
  • “Gamesmanship”


  1. First, prepare a style of approach. This will depend on your circumstances. “Hardball” usually involves not being concerned if the other person loses out or not, such as a property transaction, or reaching a settlement figure for compensation. Usually you would not expect to deal with opposition ever again and you do not need their goodwill. Such an approach is not usually much good for resolving disputes with people with whom you need an ongoing relationship – it can undermine trust and damage relationships long term – so here its best to strive for “win-win”
  2. Whatever the chosen style, settlement is more likely if you employ transparency;
  3. If emotions risk running high prepare to keep them under control, perhaps discuss them as if they belong to someone else. Give the other side the opportunity discuss how they feel as well. If emotion is not discussed openly where it needs to be, then any agreement reached may be unsatisfactory and short lived.
  4. In your own mind, be clear about:
    • Your goals: what do you want to get out of the negotiation? What do you think the other person wants?
    • Your Trades: what do you and the other person have that you can trade? What do you each have that the other wants? What are you each comfortable giving away?
    • Your alternatives: if you don’t reach agreement with the other person, what alternatives do you have? Are these good or bad? How much does it matter if you do not reach agreement? Does failure to reach an agreement cut you out of future opportunities? And what alternatives might the other person have?
    • Relationships: what is the history of the relationship? Could or should this history impact the negotiation? Will there be any hidden issues that may influence the negotiation? How will you handle these?
    • Expected outcomes: what outcome will people be expecting from this negotiation? What has the outcome been in the past, and what precedents have been set? Perhaps the outcome may be compensation of some kind – the amount would itself be part of the negotiation
    • The consequences: what are the consequences for you of winning or losing this negotiation? What are the consequences for the other person?
    • Power: who has what power in the relationship? Who controls resources? Who stands to lose the most if agreement isn’t reached? What power does the other person have to deliver what you hope for?
    • Possible solutions: based on all of the considerations, what possible compromises might there be?
  5. Once you have addressed these points, begin the process of negotiation. This should be a careful exploration of your position and the other person’s position, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. People’s positions are rarely as fundamentally opposed as they may initially appear – the other person may have very different goals from the ones you expect!

In an ideal situation, you will find that the other person wants what you are prepared to trade, and that you are prepared to give what the other person wants.

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