8 Tips for Building a Sound Advocacy Coalition

Engaging audiences as advocates takes perseverance and a compelling narrative

When people come together to deliver a message, important change can happen. That’s what coalition building is all about. Identifying, recruiting and engaging stakeholders is the basis of any coalition, but it takes time and focus to get it right. We have built and managed successful coalitions for a variety of clients so we understand what it takes to make an effective coalition work. Here are some #insights that will help you get started.

1. Set a goal

You are trying to accomplish something. So, what are you working toward? Clearly define and state your objective. Make your goal achievable and easy to understand. It will serve as a roadmap to guide the coalition.

2. Pick the right leaders

Identify a core group of coalition leaders. Evaluate what they bring to the table. Who do they know? What do they do? Building a coalition is all about relationships. These relationships are central to the coalition accomplishing its goals.

3. Build awareness

 Look for opportunities like face-to-face meetings, events, and email communications to engage prospective coalition members. Asking people to join is not enough. You need to sell it. Give them reasons why the coalition values their participation. Clearly state the expectations of membership so they are aware of the time commitment and feel motivated to serve as an advocate.

4. Build a compelling narrative

Once you’ve settled on a message, start sharing it. Having a well-conceived and articulated message will serve as an important guide for your coalition members. Messaging needs to be simple, clear, and consistent so they can deliver timely and effective advocacy that achieves the coalition’s objectives.

5. Be Different

At Quinn Thomas we pride ourselves on being different. There are many coalitions in the advocacy space so each must be unique in order to stand out. For example, to help us build awareness and recruit advocates for Oregon Families for Boating we helped develop a video about legislation to restore access to the Newberg Pool and support local families and small businesses. You want to deploy tools that will help audiences believe in your messages in a memorable way.  

6. Leverage social and keep members engaged

Coalition activity may ebb and flow, but don’t forget to stay in touch with your members. Sharing the results of their advocacy on social media, amplifying relevant news, or posting updates keeps them engaged in a subtle way. Social media is also a great way to share photos from coalition events and inform them of future advocacy opportunities.

7. Persevere

Coalition building takes time and effort. You may face setbacks, or even an occasional failure. Coalition members’ interest and engagement may wane. Don’t get discouraged. Learn from these challenges and keep moving forward. Persevering through adversity will make achieving your goal that much more satisfying.

8. Say thank you

Always thank your members for contributing their time and resources to the coalition. Oftentimes these are people acting as volunteers or professionals fitting advocacy into a busy workload.  Letting them know you recognize their contribution and value their participation will motivate them to help out again in the future.

Don’t forget to have fun! You have a cause that you care about and you have the opportunity to make real change happen. So, enjoy yourself and your coalition partners.