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Section 6. Coalition Building II: Maintaining a Coalition

Tool 1: Diagnosing the Health of Your Coalition

Developed by Gillian Kaye, President, Community Development Consultants, Brooklyn, New York.

We hope that the maintenance principles we have described are clear to you. But our real goal is for you to use these principles to improve the work of your own coalition.

To help you do so, we offer this maintenance checklist below. It was developed by Gillian Kaye, President of Community Development Consultants in New York City. Gillian's checklist is comprehensive, but also easy to use; it should give you a good overview of where your coalition stands right now. (There are several additional diagnostic tools and checklists in the coalition literature as well. Others you may wish to review and possibly use are found in Chrislip and Larson (1994), the King County listing (no date), and Mattessich et al. (2001), whose full citations are in the Resources section directly ahead.)

There are many ways you can use this maintenance checklist (or others), but to get the most value from it, you might consider following the steps below:

  • Take a brief look at the checklist, to see if it seems right for you and your coalition.
  • If you think it does, take the time to respond to the checklist items. Respond to each item thoughtfully, and tally up the scores. This should take no more than 15-20 minutes.
  • Consider giving the checklist to other leaders, and perhaps other members, of your coalition. Generally speaking, the more the better; get them involved in the maintenance process.
  • Summarize and communicate the results.
  • Present the results in a meeting of the coalition, allowing sufficient time for discussion.
  • If needed, form a group to make recommendations based upon the results.
  • Vote upon the recommendations offered.
  • Follow up to ensure that the adopted changes are implemented in actual practice.
  • Review and possibly re-administer this checklist on a regular basis, perhaps once a year. Ask yourself: Have the adopted changes been carried out? How do this year's scores compare to the ones before? Is the coalition moving in the right direction?

To carry out these steps will take some effort, that is true. But it will mean taking maintenance seriously, the way it should be taken. More to the point: We believe the time invested in maintenance procedures such as this will be a sound investment, one that will pay off well in improving the long-run effectiveness of your coalition.

But don't take our word for it. Try it yourself and see!

Diagnosing the Health of Your Coalition

Using the scale below, rate each component of your organization, then tally your score on the worksheet provided at the end.

Strong or Always                                                               Weak or Never

          5                             4                       3                          2                   1

1. The clarity of your coalition's vision, mission and goals.

___ A. Your coalition's vision (your dream) and mission (what you are going to do) take into account what is happening in the community.
___ B. Your vision, mission and goals are written down.
___ C. Residents and institutions are aware of your coalition's vision, mission and goals.
___ D. Your coalition periodically re-evaluates and updates its vision, mission and goals.
___ E. Your coalition's activities are evaluated in relation to its vision, mission and goals.

2. The effectiveness of your coalition structure.

___ A. Your coalition has a regular meeting cycle that members can count on.
___ B. Your coalition has active committees.
___ C. All of your members have copies of the bylaws.
___ D. Your executive board and committees communicate regularly.
___ E. Your executive board meets on a regular basis with good attendance.

3. The effectiveness of your outreach and communication.

___ A. Your coalition has a newsletter or another method of communication that keeps the community updated regularly and informed about your activities.
___ B. You use a survey or other method to collect information about members' interests, needs and concerns.
___ C. You always publish survey results and use them to guide your coalition's projects.
___ D. The survey is conducted every year or so because the community and residents change.
___ E. Your coalition "goes to where members are" to do outreach, including where people live, shop, and work.

4. The effectiveness of coalition meetings

___ A. Members feel free to speak at a meeting without fear of being confronted for their views.
___ B. Your coalition advertises its meeting with sufficient notice by sending out agendas and fliers in advance.
___ C. You provide childcare and translation when needed.
___ D. You accomplish the meeting's agenda in meetings that start and end and on time.
___ E. You hold meetings in central accessible, and comfortable places and at convenient times for all members.

5. Opportunities for member responsibility and growth

___ A. Your coalition makes a conscious effort to develop new leaders.
___ B. You offer training and support to new and experienced leaders, either through your coalition or through outside agencies.
___ C. Your "buddy system" matches less experienced members with leaders to help the former learn jobs and make contacts.
___ D. You give committees serious work to do.
___ E. Leadership responsibilities are shared; for example, you rotate the chairing of a meeting between members.

6. The coalition's effectiveness at planning, implementing and evaluating projects

___ A. At the beginning of each new year your coalition develops a plan that includes goals and activities to accomplish during the year.
___ B. These plans are based at least in part on information collected from member surveys.
___ C. After each activity or project, the leadership or the committee evaluates how it went in order to learn from the experience.
___ D. Your coalition always organizes visible projects that make a difference to members.
___ E. When you undertake projects, you develop action plans that identify tasks, who will do them, and by what target dates.

7. Your coalition's use of research and/or external resources

___ A. Your coalition works with other coalition in the community on common issues, and with city-wide organizations that address critical community concerns.
___ B. Your coalition utilizes the resources and information of other organizations that can help the community, such as training workshops.
___ C. Your coalition keeps abreast of issues affecting communities across the city and state.
___ D. Outside speakers come to meetings to address topics of interest to members.
___ E. When your coalition wants to work on an issue, leaders know here to go to get necessary information such as statistics, forms, and so forth.

8. The coalition's sense of community

___ A. Your coalition builds social time into meetings so that people can talk informally and build a sense of community.
___ B. You plan social activities.
___ C. Everyone in your organization is treated equally.
___ D. You recognize and reward all member contributions, large or small.
___ E. You make all residents welcome in the coalition regardless of income, race, gender, age or education level.

9. How well the coalition meets needs and provides benefits

___ A. You make resource lists and important contacts available to members on a regular basis.
___ B. You hold workshops with experts who can provide specific services to members.
___ C. Your coalition helps members out with issues of individual need.
___ D. If a member survey indicates that personal issues (such as child care or landlord-tenant problems) are interfering with member involvement, your coalition responds to those issues.
___ E. Your coalition holds meetings and workshops in which residents can meet elected officials and city service personnel to voice their opinions and learn about resources and programs in the community.

10. Your coalition's relationship with elected officials, institutional leaders and other power players

___ A. Coalition leaders know how to negotiate successfully with elected officials and institutional leaders about member concerns.
___ B. Your coalition has one or more regular representatives who attend important community meetings.
___ C. Coalition leaders and members understand the lines of authority, decision-making power, responsibility, and other aspects of the community power structure.
___ D. Your coalition meets with officials on a regular basis about the issues that concern members.
___ E. Your coalition participates in city-wide activities and demonstrates focus on community issues.

Coalition Evaluation Score Sheet

Fill out this score sheet using the total numbers from each section of the organizational diagnosis.

Section                                                               Total Score:

  • Vision, mission and goals                              ________
  • Coalition structure                                         ________
  • Outreach and communication                       ________
  • Coalition meetings                                        ________
  • Member responsibility and growth               ________
  • Projects                                                          ________
  • Research and external resources                 ________
  • Sense of community                                     ________
  • Needs and benefits                                       ________
  • Relation with power players                         ________

For each section, follow the guidelines below:

If you scored between:

5-15 Watch out! You may need an overhaul in this area.

15-20 Checkup time! It's time for tune up to get everything in good working order.

20-25 Congratulations! You're running smoothly and all systems are go. Keep up the good work.