A popular alternative to state-led resource management is community resource management. This decentralised approach is potentially more efficient, but is not necessarily stable. We study this issue using coalition theory, arguing that some of the conditions for effective community resource management may induce the formation of a coalition of community members - rather than the community as a whole - that cooperate in resource management. We employ a classical model specification from the literature on international environmental agreements to analyse the stability of such coalitions. A novel observation that we make in this paper is that coalitions may be the target of intervention in order to boost community conservation effort. To analyse this possibility, we extend the model with a payment to the coalition, which can be interpreted as a payment for the provision of ecosystem services. Our results show that such payments can stabilise larger and otherwise unstable coalitions, and thereby increase community conservation effort. Moreover, we solve the selection problem of optimal payment by an external agent and we show how this optimal payment relates to the communities' opportunity costs of conservation. These results are relevant for the theoretical literature on coalition theory, the empirical literature on community resource management, and the policy debate on the potential impact of incentive mechanisms for community-based conservation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.