Posted on 13 Jan 2014
The New Year’s celebrations are over. By now, you might have completed your first round of successes (or failed attempts) of resolving to eat less, exercise more or do something that you meant to do last year. For community leaders, January also is the perfect opportunity to look to the future with renewed optimism and make important changes to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your coalition or nonprofit group. So, take a look at the seven resolutions that follow and choose one or two to really implement.
Resolution #1: Take Time to Take Stock
One year is ending and another is beginning, giving your coalition a reason to take stock of all it has accomplished. Revise or create a new action plan and follow up with a report card that grades your progress toward outcomes at the end of the year. Slow down and organize a planning retreat for your leadership team to help them invest and commit to the work ahead. It’s time to put on your creative hat. If a strategy or method isn’t working, stop using it and move on. Look at new trends and figure out ways to make your coalition or nonprofit stand out. Perhaps you’ll breathe a bit of life back into your organization and attract new volunteers and donors in the process.
Resolution #2: Make Your Mission Clear and Tangible.
No matter how “complex” your work is, you can properly describe your mission and organization in less than two minutes. Another exciting idea is to make your appeals for supporters and funds tangible. By equating what a donation level equals to in terms of the mission, your volunteers and donors will have a better idea of what their contribution will give someone. If your organization is able to equate your donation ask to something tangible like a malaria shot or clean water to one person for a year, it connects the donor to the results of their impact. So, think carefully about what you can equate donations to in terms of specific products that your organization provides, living conditions you’re trying to improve, or policies you’re trying to change.
Resolution #3: Define or Redefine Your Coalition’s Brand.
Many organizations don’t see their brand (i.e. their logo, mission statement, colors, fonts or website design, etc.) as important as recruiting volunteers or raising funds. However, your brand is very important when it comes to your content and online marketing and fundraising strategy. Individuals identify with your brand when it’s consistent and clear. So, take an inventory this year of your marketing materials, including your e-newsletter, social media accounts, website, and blog. Making sure the organization’s logos and language are consistent will go a long way in retaining your audience and attracting a new one online.
Resolution #4: Show the Impact and Results of Your Coalition’s Work.
Take a step back and contemplate how you can show the results of your work, whether it’s what you accomplished last year or what you’re looking to accomplish this year. Supporters and donors want to hear about your success and how their contribution of time or money has made a difference. 2014 is the year to start bragging about all you accomplish to the world. Use your online channels, like your website and social media, and your content mediums, like video and your blog, to do this.
Does the task of promoting your coalition often slip to the bottom of your to-do list? If you want to attract attention to your cause, you have to make promotion a priority. Resolve to hire a marketing expert, or take the time to create a marketing plan on your own and follow through. If you’ve seen little success with traditional and social media, it’s time to step it up. If you want your supporters to help you spread the word about your work, give them content to share and a reason to share it via a medium that enables them. Try writing at least one blog post a week and link it to your Facebook page; increase Twitter activity to at least three times per week; and add 10 new social media contacts per week. Develop short catchy pitches that will grab traditional journalists’ attention and email them or call them directly. Provide videos that they can use online and images that will stir their readers’ emotions. You’ll not only benefit from the coverage, but they’ll thank you for the quality information and making their jobs easier.
Resolution #6: Be more productive
When you’re running a coalition, so many tasks must be done that it’s easy to think you need to do all of them. Then you wonder why you’re so tired and frazzled and have no time to do anything meaningful! Learn to delegate and let someone else do some of the tasks for a change. Look at tools that help you share documents, monitor time spent on social sites and in general, operate more efficiently. Pick a few of the following and resolve to use them in 2014: Google Docs for group projects, Dropbox for sharing files, Basecamp for tracking projects. Better yet, pick something to stop doing. Cancel a pointless meeting. Stop stressing about a grant. Do one less event. We all think that we need more time, money or resources, but really we don’t really need more time. But what we really need is to do less, so we can accomplish the few truly important things, with relish and energy. Doing less isn’t a decision to compromise, but a choice of pushing yourself to focus on what truly matters.
Resolution #7: Show Appreciation
Most coalitions would be nothing without the loyalty of their members and partners. One of the best ways to show appreciation is to offer loyal members something special. Some businesses do this through freebies, discounts or customer appreciation events that kick off the year. Coalitions and nonprofits can learn from these practices by acknowledging those who have contributed time or resources over the past year – small tokens or even personalized thank you notes show that you appreciate what your members and community supporters do to promote the work of your organization or coalition. Why not design an online recognition program, tweet about them and get votes for volunteer of the year. People love to be thanked and recognized for their contributions. The recipients will likely be so impressed that they’ll share the news with their friends and contacts, which may result in additional loyal supporters to thank next year. If you thank your partners and supporters more often, they’ll stick around and you’ll have to recruit and fundraise less.
Posted on 16 Dec 2013
I thought I’d get back to basics with this blog and define coalitions for those who might not know what they are. Although people use many terms to describe collaborative efforts, a coalition is a group of diverse organizations and constituencies who work together to reach a common goal or goals.
Coalitions operate at many levels—block/neighborhood, city, town, county, regional, state, national, international—and their scope, structure, and function varies accordingly. A community coalition serves a defined community recognized by those within it as a community (a common location or experience), but also may serve broader, diverse groups.
A partnership is similar to a coalition, but, it often is a more business-like and may involve only two organizations. As long as everyone agrees on its structure and purpose, the name of the collaboration is not critical. However, if made up only of individuals and not groups, then it is probably an organization or network and not a coalition.
Why do coalitions form? Community coalitions may form in response to an opportunity, such as the release of federal “stimulus funds” to promote healthy communities. Or they may be started because of a threat, such as the rising prevalence of bullying, autism or a campus outbreak of measles. Organizations form or join coalitions to boost resources, maximize efficiency, reduce duplication, and give them expanded access to media coverage, marketing services, expertise and influence.
How do coalitions work? Unlike networks whose members act independently, coalitions bring organizations together to act jointly. Coalitions form to address a specific, time-limited issue or they may sustain collaboration long-term. Members draw on assets from their organizations, as well as seek new resources. Roles, responsibilities, goals and commitments are written and links to outside organizations and communication channels are formal. Coalitions create decision-making and leadership structures that enable their members to speak with a united voice and engage in shared planning and action. I believe that coalitions work – that’s why used that phrase to name my company.
What do Coalitions do? Effective coalitions focus on changing policies, systems and environments to make the healthy choice, the easy choice:
- by engaging in cutting-edge media and communication campaigns,
- by creating policy agendas and advocating for laws and resolutions that promote health and well-being,
- by collaborating with directors and executives of public and private organizations to make accessible and higher quality services available to all, and
- by working with city/county planners and developers to change the physical environment (such as providing crosswalks, outdoor lighting, bike paths) to make communities safer and more healthy.
Stay tuned! In my next blog, I’ll focus on why coalitions are essential for creating a “culture of health” in America.