Building a Coalition

A coalition is a group made up of people, organizations, and constituencies working together to achieve a goal.

  • Coalitions can include individuals as well as representatives of other organizations, such as police departments or emergency services providers.
  • Coalitions are often more effective than individuals working alone - or even different organizations working independently.
  • Coalitions can develop stronger public support for an issue by increasing visibility and public awareness.

Working together is the foundation of the Toward Zero Deaths program.

The state and federal agencies that started the TZD program have formed a coalition that enables them to do more than they could do alone. Working with other residents in your community and local organizations you will have more resources and a bigger voice to get your ideas put into practice. 


To help county coalitions carry out the Toward Zero Deaths mission, grant funding is made available through the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). Grants are written for a one-year period. To apply for funding, eligible entities must complete a proposal through the Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Application information is available on the OTS website during the first quarter of each calendar year.

Coalition-Building Basics

Before you start...

Find out is there is already a group in your area involved with traffic safety issues. If so, consider combining your resources, which may be more effective than starting from scratch. 

Identify stakeholders 

What groups have a clear interest in reducing deaths and injuries on the road? This is a goal that many people can agree on; focus your efforts on people and organizations that can commit time and resources to your effort. Also, do some research to see which groups—such as younger drivers, or residents along certain stretches of road—are most affected by traffic crashes. 

Build alliances 

Locate allies—core community members who will be able to help attract people to your cause. Also, understand the work of other groups in your area; how can you work together without stepping on each other's toes?

Encourage diversity

Educators, police officers, grassroots activists, cultural organizations—tackling the problem from all sides is more effective than focusing on a single narrow strategy. Try to include all interested parties and get different perspectives on the problem; you may be surprised by the variety of possible solutions. 

Structure your activities

After finding the groups and individuals who will form your coalition, develop a system for making decisions and getting things done. You will need at least a steering committee and probably a spokesperson as well to serve as the voice of your coalition.

Put it in writing

Define a mission statement for your coalition—a short and simple statement that sums up what your coalition is all about. The mission statement helps focus your efforts and can also serve as a great tool for raising public awareness of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Set goals and priorities

Start with a few fairly simple activities that can be accomplished in a short time. This will give the members of your coalition an opportunity to work together and strengthen their sense of teamwork.

Establishing both short-term and long-term goals is a good idea. Short-term goals are milestones on the way to your ultimate objectives. Use short-term accomplishments to measure your progress.

Keep your momentum going

Even if the members of your coalition are highly motivated in the beginning, some may drop out over time. Communication—through regular meetings, newsletters, conference calls, etc.—keeps members involved. Also, recognize coalition members’ achievements.

Get the word out

Don't keep your work a secret—your efforts have an impact on your whole community. Local news media, community groups, and schools or colleges can help educate the public and recruit new members.

Your First Meeting

Be prepared

Write up an agenda ahead of time and bring copies to distribute—this will keep everyone on the same page. Elect a facilitator to lead the group through the agenda and keep your meetings from going off-track. If you're not comfortable standing up in front of a crowd, talk to someone in the group who has experience leading business meetings or social events.

Choose the right location

Meeting in a group member's home may be fine for small groups, but you may have to deal with kids, pets, and a lack of seating space. Find out what facilities are available in your community; public libraries, city or county buildings, and established community organizations can often provide rooms with chairs, tables, and even audio-visual equipment.

Make a good first impression

Your first meeting is an opportunity to get the group excited about your mission and motivate members to make a difference. If your meetings are efficient and well organized, and if everyone feels they have an opportunity to participate, your group has a much better chance of success.

Getting the Facts

What your coalition needs to know about crash data in your area

Gathering data is a crucial step toward reducing traffic injuries and deaths in your community. Even if individual members of your coalition are familiar with local traffic problems through personal experience or media coverage, it pays to do your homework and analyze the traffic crash and injury statistics maintained by the State of Minnesota. Doing so will give you a clear picture of what areas need the most improvement, so you won't waste your resources tackling less-important problems.

The Safe Communities Data Tool Kit was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the University of Georgia to help local organizations find and understand data related to traffic crashes. Using templates that can be customized for your community, the Data Tool Kit tells you:

  • Why you need to collect data
  • What you need to collect
  • How you can use it
  • Your best sources of information

The Data Tool Kit also helps community groups identify their most important safety issues using the "Big 3" concept. This helps you set priorities for your coalition and avoid wasting resources on less-important problems.

The State of Minnesota has several resources to help you access and analyze traffic crash and injury data.

The Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) publishes Crash Facts, a detailed annual report that summarizes all kinds of information related to crashes and injuries statewide. In addition, Crash Facts breaks out information on alcohol use, seat belts, motorcycles, school buses, pedestrians, and trains. Crash Facts is available on the Internet and in printed form.

In addition to Crash Facts, OTS also reports on additional findings related to seat belt use and alcohol impairment as factors in crashes.

OTS can provide access to several other sources of state and nationwide crash, injury, and fatality data.

For information on traffic volumes and vehicle characteristics, the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Office of Transportation Data and Analysis maintains reports and maps that are available online.