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Recruiting and Retaining Active Coalition Members

UncleSamMembers are the lifeblood of a coalition or partnership. Recruiting individual and organizational members is essential to building a solid foundation for your community work. Consider the American Cancer Society’s Preparation, Planning, Recruitment, and Retention method.

Preparation – Member recruitment should be carefully planned and ongoing. Understand why your coalition needs members. What health or social change does this coalition plan to promote? What does the coalition need members to do? Analyze the volunteer trends in your community. People today lead busy lives and are looking for specific opportunities with definite timeframes and ones that offer concrete achievements and tangible results.

Planning – Assessing the needs of the coalition is critical when recruiting members. What strengths does the coalition have? What challenges does it face? What types of individuals and organizations would complement the coalition’s strengths and help overcome it’s challenges? Conduct a gap analysis – what organizations and individuals are missing from your coalition table that could make your coalition more diverse and responsive to community needs. Conduct a skills inventory to see what critical skills or resources are needed. Develop a position description and a formal letter of invitation to join the coalition.

Recruitment – Coalitions should develop a recruitment plan when seeking new members. Methods of recruitment include: personal contact or face-to-face meetings with community leaders, conducting or attending public meetings/trainings, door-to-door visits, street outreach, conducting community assessments and distributing recruitment notices via print or social media.

The most critical part of the recruitment plan is to use marketing principles to attract the right members to your coalition. Try the 4 C’s method:Were_recruiting_icon

  • Customer value – What benefits will the member get from this opportunity?
  • Costs – How long of a commitment is this position? How much time per month?
  • Communication – What is the most effective way to reach potential members?
  • Convenience – How can we make this position easy and attractive?

For existing coalitions, the same concepts apply for improving and diversifying coalitions to become agents of change for the community. Establish recruitment as an ongoing task for the coalition’s Steering Committee. When calling on prospective coalition members, use the buddy system – involve someone who has a relationship with the candidate. Rehearse your presentation prior to asking community leaders to join the coalition. When making “the ask”, be sure to:community members

  • Personalize the interview
  • Show your commitment to the cause
  • Provide a position description
  • Provide positive feedback about the candidates abilities
  • Focus on the benefits, while acknowledging the barriers of the position
  • Emphasize support for the position
  • Provide incentives

Sometimes, cold calling prospective coalition candidates cannot be avoided. Emphasize the candidates’ match with your mission. Acknowledge how valuable their time is and empathize with their readiness to commit. If now is not a good time, perhaps later would work better – leave the door open.

Retention – Membership is likely to be maintained in coalitions that pay attention to members’ needs and desires for meaningful involvement. Retention is all about cultivating a relationship with that member. Coalition leaders and members need to spend time with new member to get to get to know them. Team building and relationship building principles apply to this aspect of coalition management. New members need to feel acknowledged as valuable assets and the coalition needs to be flexible with its expectations. Research indicates that public recognition is vital to the majority of volunteers. Recognition may take many forms – formal or informal, tangible or intangible – but it must be the appropriate for the member. Consider having an annual awards ceremony or day of recognition for all coalition members.


Recruitment is a never-ending task – as soon as you become comfortable with your membership as it stands, you will miss opportunities for growth and positive change. Likewise, retaining members means being in tune with what members need to remain committed and active.

Coalitions Work Resources

Buddy Program for Member Recruitment. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/Buddy-Program-for-Member-Recruitment.pdf

Seven Tips for Retaining Coalition Members. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/SEVEN-TIPS-FOR-RETAINING-COALITION-MEMBER1.pdf

Coalition Member and Leader Inventory. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/SKILLS-INVENTORY-WORKSHEET.pdf

Coalition Member Gap Analysis. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/Coalition-Member-Gap-Analysis-Activity.pdf