There were challenges to building and maintaining a cohesive, powerful coalition, and we gleaned valuable insight from the process:
- Relationships are built with people, not organizations.
With staff turnover in each organization, it’s important to spend time bringing new coalition members on board and integrating them into group activities.
- Incentives drive participation, at least in the early years.
Organizations made time for staff and volunteers to participate, but they needed continued motivation and support from Hunt Alternatives.
- Trust is the foundation of true collaboration.
The special events working group couldn’t launch collaborative salons and other gatherings in the early years, as members were initially cautious about sharing donors. The success of the first Blooming Art event helped overcome their hesitation.
- Peer learning is most powerful when all parties share expertise.
Coalition member organizations varied widely in terms of size and resources, yet each brought distinct skills to the table, providing opportunities for peer learning. In particular, the group prepared a case study on coalition member Raw Art Works, illuminating innovative approaches to leverage funding.
- Clear parameters and shared goals fuel collective action.
Process issues are time- and energy-consuming for coalition members. Group-established operating guidelines helped members focus on developing and making the case for investing in youth arts to external audiences.
- Moments of discontent nurture deeper connections.
With a diverse and passionate group, discord is inevitable. Taking time to understand members’ frustrations, resolving issues, and soliciting feedback and implementing changes are essential for joint decision-making and sustained engagement.
- Maintaining integrity of purpose is important.
The first Blooming Art, our collaborative fundraising event, was so successful that donations exceeded the allocated matching pool. Some coalition members were initially upset that not all donations could be matched dollar for dollar. Upon reflection, however, they appreciated the emphasis on fiscal responsibility and helped create a compromise to award the matching funds proportionally.