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Coalition Building Do’s and Don’ts

Coalition Do’s and Don’ts

Here are a few do’s and don’ts I’d suggest your community coalition consider.  Hope this is helpful.


  • Be inclusive – don’t limit the types of organizations and individuals to approach for membership, based upon your personal interests.  If it’s a “community” coalition, invite the community stakeholders, even those who have a different opinion than you.
  • Develop relationships beyond your comfort zone.
  • Define coalition purpose, structure, and processes.
  • Use technology (i.e. Social Media) to your benefit.
  • Understand the needs and concerns of each prospective members and organizations. Make sure everyone understands what the coalition is trying to accomplish and how you think they can help. Larger organizations usually need time to plan and include coalition activities within their current work. Be patient — this seems to be a recurring theme, but a necessary one.
  • Be very clear about the roles and responsibilities of the coalition. People need to understand what is expected of them. They can help develop a work plan, but that should be included in their roles and responsibilities. Ambiguity only leads to confusion and this can cause people to drop out of the coalition.
  • Develop specific activities for members to accomplish. The best way to keep people involved and motivated is to give them responsibilities to fulfill and make sure their tasks are short and sweet.
  • Ask for ideas, suggestions, and help. When asking for help and assistance, the organizer or leader needs to be a facilitator, not a speaker. That individual also needs to make sure all coalition members offer their views, and that people who might be shy are called upon to give their opinions.
  • Keeping track of every suggestion. Make sure that everyone’s opinion and view is counted.
  • Listen to the community.  Let people know their opinions are valued and their contribution is important.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.  Consistently keep your members informed and up-to-date.


  • Allow funding to de-rail your coalition efforts and cause mission drift.
  • Expect everybody to drop everything to join your coalition.
  • Trick people into serving on your coalition.  Tell them the Good, the Bad and the Ugly up front.
  • Be demanding – you can’t make anyone do anything. Patience is a virtue in Coalition building.
  • Violate the trust of members and/or the community at large.
  • Confuse people — state plans clearly and concisely.
  • Lecture — you are not in a classroom. If you’re facilitating this effort, you need to listen more than you talk.
  • Waste time — people are too busy.
  • Forget reminders – when sending out a meeting notice, follow-up with a phone call the day before the meeting to remind people.
  • Meet just to meet.


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