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Partnership Pitfall #3: Unrealistic expectations for coalition members vs. staff

Are you struggling with coalition engagement? Do you get frustrated when your coalition members are not doing as much as you would like them to do? One of the most challenging aspects of coalition and partnership building is that most coalition members are serving as volunteers with the coalition. Although some members will be more involved than others, most of the work to keep the coalition progressing toward its purpose and priorities come from paid staff. If you are finding that only a few people are responding to your requests or your coalition members are not following through with their coalition commitments, you may have unrealistic expectations for coalition members. If this describes you right now, do not worry! There are some things you can do to address this partnership pitfall and adjust expectations. Here are three steps you can take to begin to overcome this partnership pitfall.

  • Review what you are asking your coalition members to do. What role are your coalition members currently playing? Be specific about the names, workgroups and specific roles. Is one coalition member serving as a facilitator, is someone else providing expertise or hosting the meetings? Try to think of as many specific roles and coalition members as you can.
  • Highlight specific areas where you may have unrealistic expectations. Think about the list or table you created in #1. Are there any of those roles or coalition members who have had a difficult time fulfilling those roles? Are there specific workgroups or subcommittees that seem to have a more difficult time than others in fulfilling expectations? 
  • Interview 5-7 coalition members to discuss realistic membership expectations. Consider asking both coalition members who are actively engaged and seem to be able to follow-through easily as well as those who may have interest but are unable to fulfill expectations. Here are some potential types of questions. Modify and tailor these to work for you.
    • What are some realistic expectations for coalition members? Coalition leaders?
    • What are some ways that we have been unrealistic in our expectations? 
    • What are some recommendations do you have for us in setting realistic expectations for coalition members?

So what about you? What are you going to do to assess whether your expectations are realistic for coalition members?

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