Section 2: Building and maintaining a campaign coalition
An effective campaign coalition is almost always key to success. The most triumphant coalitions are convened and managed by a core of diverse consumer and provider groups who are willing to:1) share the work, the power and the blame; 2) contribute cash, staff or materials; 3) agree to mobilize their members; and 4) commit to making decisions through a governance process that prohibits side deals. Although many tobacco tax campaigns are launched by health access and tobacco control groups, enlisting organizations for doctors and hospitals as core partners can be extremely effective because of their clout and credibility with lawmakers.
To build the trust and strong relationships needed among the groups, it helps to have a staff able to direct coalition members to a role in the campaign that showcases their strengths and makes a significant contribution.
Recruit diverse organizations
- You will need partners who:
- are policy advocates for Medicaid and health access
- are policy advocates for tobacco control and prevention
- can mobilize a grassroots base for a policy campaign
- can raise funds to support a campaign
- have credibility with lawmakers
- Use resolutions, case statements and presentations to attract potential partners to fill any gaps in these categories. Partners include consumer advocacy groups, tobacco control organizations, policy think-tanks, organizations for low-income, disabled or older people, disease support groups, labor unions, and health providers including doctors, hospitals and community health centers. Make sure potential partners understand the coalition’s overarching goal to direct new tobacco tax revenues to reduce smoking and increase access to health coverage.
- Identify the core concerns or policy priorities of each potential partner that would have to be included to ensure their participation. Assess any conflicts among those priorities.
- An example of an indirect conflict is that one organization wants to spend tobacco tax revenue to expand Medicaid eligibility and one wants to pay Medicaid providers more. This type of conflict can be resolved though a transparent and fair decision-making process.
- A direct conflict would be where one organization supports expanding Medicaid eligibility and another organization opposes it. This type of conflict is probably not resolvable.
Develop a governance structure
- Establish operating principles or ground rules.
- Name an executive committee or steering committee to manage the campaign and make quick decisions when needed. The committee should include a cross-section of coalition members.
- Establish working committees, representative of the coalition membership, for areas such as research and policy analysis; outreach to new groups; grassroots mobilization; media advocacy and communications; legislative and administrative advocacy; fundraising and development.
Maintain the coalition
- Develop core messages about the campaign (see media section).
- Announce the coalition with a news release or news conference, and plan public displays of unity through meetings with policymakers, Op-Eds in local newspapers, and advertisements.
- Conduct regular meetings, calls and email updates to keep members informed and to build trust.
- Develop a campaign work plan and budget.
- Plan a series of coalition-sponsored campaign activities, such as petition drives, letters to local newspapers or blog entries, community meetings with key legislators, rallies and lobby days at the state capitol.
- Set up action alert systems.
- Develop a fund-raising strategy that includes a list of possible donors and a formal proposal for presentation.