Factors Affecting Member Perceptions of Coalition Impact

by Rebecca Wells, Mark Feinberg, Jeffrey A. Alexander, and Ann J. Ward, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, vol. 19, no. 3; Spring 2009.

What is it that makes a successful coalition – and what is the X-factor that makes its members believe they are achieving a real impact? This academic paper investigates these questions by bringing together and extending research on perceptions of social impact.

The authors’ research focuses on coalitions – which are defined as large collaborative efforts to address a widespread social ill such as HIV infection, cardiovascular disease, domestic violence, or binge drinking. Coalitions typically include nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies working together.

The research shows that participatory processes matter greatly to perception of impact. Boosting members’ perception of impact, the authors write, leads to stronger coalitions able to achieve impact over time. The authors acknowledge that coalitions are fragile and that building true coalitions requires time. Even more time and commitment by members is required for a coalition to produce tangible change.

To study how coalition members felt about the social returns for their efforts over time, the authors examined forty-five youth-oriented coalitions. They surveyed perceptions of how much change had occurred in the previous year in community awareness of youth-prevention issues, collaboration in support of community-based programs, the quality of such programs, and community well-being.

Their results indicate that the perceived impact of the coalition’s efforts did not depend upon member knowledge or skills. Instead, what mattered was the degree to which members’ perceived they were engaged in the decision-making.

This research provides a tactical tip for coalition leaders: encourage your members to be engaged and to be part of the change you seek.

To order the full text of the article see: www3.interscience.wiley.com

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