Coalition Building: Are you in it for the long haul?

A recent Roll Call article outlines key questions to ask when building a coalition. Of the five questions, there are two I think are absolutely necessary to consider:

Are you clearly stating your goals? If you are not explicitly articulating what your association wants to accomplish, don’t expect potential allies to interpret for you.

Are you appealing to a diverse group? Numbers are always important, but when a coalition includes a broad array of nonprofits representing different industries and professions, elected officials and policymakers take notice.

The reasons for answering those questions are obvious – you need to know your goals and you want to make more friends, not less.

However, there’s one more question I would add to the list – are you in it for the long haul?

Often public affairs practitioners treat coalition building akin to taking ingredients out of a refrigerator: We’re done with the mayonnaise, so it’s going back in the fridge.

While that’s one way to build a coalition – find the friends you need when you need them and put them on the back burner when you’re done – it’s certainly not the most effective. The best coalition partners are those with whom you’ve built a relationship over time. You have a deep understanding of their mission and you know what it takes to get them deeply engaged.

The fast-paced nature of Washington often allows us to forget the necessity of genuine relationship building when it comes to coalition outreach. When building coalitions for our clients, we always try to foster long-term success and look beyond our current scope of issues.

Read more about our coalition work here.