Community Tobacco Prevention and Control Toolkit Coalition Capacity Building Basics

capacity building

Capacity building is the second step in the Strategic Prevention Framework. Capacity building involves increasing membership along with the ability and skills of individuals, groups and organizations to work together to address problems identified during the assessment stage. Training and education improve participation in the coalition, enhance cultural competency and expand leadership for tobacco-free communities. Member organizations mobilize resources to support programs and solve local tobacco problems.

The coalition becomes the operational structure for change. It is the intersection of many stakeholders – individuals and organizations with multiple interests – around a common concern of building healthy, tobacco-free communities. Members build action teams that create measurable reductions in tobacco use for the whole community.

Why Focus on Capacity Building?

A “typical” Texas community with a quarter million residents and a 20% adult smoking rate, for example, has roughly 50,000 current adult cigarette smokers. In the eyes of the tobacco industry, the remaining 200,000 residents are all “potential” smokers. It takes a solid base of people committed to change to impact the health of a community this large.

Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions (TPCC) can mobilize communities to reach a high percentage of the community with repeated initiatives that make tobacco use less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible. The coalition creates a larger workforce for its goals by building more resources, diverse skills, renewed energy and increased ownership of the problem.

What Coalitions Need to Build

Coalition building takes time. During the first few months your community should resist the temptation to jump immediately into taking tobacco prevention activities “to the streets.” Instead, organize for success. Emphasize the growth and development of a coalition. Create an infrastructure that is wide enough and deep enough to make a real difference. Effective coalitions build and maintain:

  • Organizational structure
  • Membership and participation
  • Leadership
  • Culturally competent organizations


Following are highlights from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s Primer on Community Capacity Building. Additional information can be found online through The University of Kansas Community ToolBox, Creating & Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships,

Organizational Structure

The level of organization depends on resources and goals – what the coalition has to start with and what it intends to accomplish over a given period of time. Most coalitions develop an organizational infrastructure that includes:

  • Rules of operation – financial & personnel
  • Quality assurance and conflict of interest policies
  • Organizational chart linked to goals and action teams
  • Formal action teams needed to carry out goals
  • Roles and job descriptions for staff and volunteers

A written organizational plan is also needed - one that can be shared among the membership. The plan does not need to be highly technical nor set in concrete but it is important to create a common vision to help move the coalition in the direction it wants to go.

Organizational Chart

The goal of the coalition is to help build a healthy community by reducing tobacco use and tobacco-related problems. The organizational structure should be strong enough and big enough to bring about population-level changes in the problems identified by the community. The organization you create should include a coalition management team, a community evaluation workgroup and various community action teams based on local goals.

Organizational Structure Texas Tobacco Prevention & Control Coalition

The relationships among partners where everyone shares in the responsibility to achieve common goals rather than a heirarchy.


  • Guides use of the SPF model, reviews instruments
  • Manages and analyzes data
  • Prepares reports for Community Evaluation Workgroup, action teams and DSHS


Community Action Teams

  • Review & interpret reports
  • Develop problem statements and recommendations for strategic plan
  • Conduct activities
  • Action Teams:
    • Tobacco prevention & cessation
    • Sustainability
    • Membership & capacity building
    • Secondhand smoke


Community Tobacco Prevention Coalition

  • Uses Strategic Prevention Framework to
    • Review & use recommendations to prioritize data-based tobacco problems
    • Recruit & train diverse membership
    • Expand resources
    • Select priority populations, gain support for strategic action plan


Community Evaluation Workgroup (CEW)

  • Assists with data collection & review
  • Prepares data-based recommendations on local tobacco problems
  • Identifies additional data needs

Membership and Participation

The strength of the coalition depends on the skills, resources and commitment of its members. Membership recruitment and stakeholder engagement should be an obsession as well as an ongoing process. This means getting the right people involved from the beginning. It means treating everyone as an equal partner and giving each person a voice in the partnership. It also means that there must be an ongoing effort by all partners to identify, contact, orient and bring new members into the group. Key to this process are developing an effective communications system with an online listserv and preparing and distributing brief notes on all meetings. Sharing meeting notes with potential members provides a history of where the group has been and helps orient new members.

Coalitions naturally build membership and promote participation when they meet the needs of their members. Following are six principles that can be used to nurture and engage volunteers.

Six “Rs”of Membership Building Tips for Membership Building
Recognition Give awards, credit and praise and recognize members at public events and dinners
Respect Respect member schedules and lifestyles, Schedule meetings outside of work hours so that grassroots leaders who have day jobs can attend
Role Create roles with real power and substance – not just token slots on a committee
Relationship Personal contact encourages people to join a group, Provide opportunities for people to make new friends and to network
Reward People will join in when the rewards of membership outweigh the costs, Provide opportunities to share resources and allow access to powerful people
Results People tend to stay involved when their involvement makes a difference – when visible projects and activities make an impact on their community

Adapted from Minkler M, Community Organizing and Community Building for Health, 2nd Edition, Rutgers University Press, 2004; 480 pages, ISBN 0-8135-3474-7.

Develop a Membership Plan

Membership plans help expand the coalition to include different community sectors – especially those most burdened by tobacco use. A written membership plan helps to establish new community relationships, and access more resources. It also adds to the talent pool. A membership plan answers the questions:

  • How many members do we need to impact our community?
  • What do we want members to do?
  • What sectors of the community need to be represented?

Locate potential stakeholder groups using the list of potential priority populations identified in the needs assessment. In addition to these groups, representatives from each of 12 community sectors can be invited:

  • Youth under 18 years old – smokers as well as non-smokers
  • Parents – smokers as well as non-smokers
  • Business community - include representatives of restaurant and bar/nightclub associations
  • Media – newspaper, radio, television and online
  • Schools – public and private, preschool to college
  • Organizations – especially those that work with youth
  • Law enforcement agencies and the judiciary
  • Religious or fraternal organizations
  • Civic and volunteer groups
  • Healthcare professionals
  • State and local government agencies with expertise in tobacco use (health departments, comptroller, hospital district)
  • Other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse

A membership plan should also answer these questions:

  • Who should be recruited?
  • How and where do we recruit new members?
  • Who is going to find the new members?
  • What should happen once a new member has been recruited?


Recruit with Purpose

A prospect list of potential members is part of a membership plan. Once developed, members prioritize the list and decide who within the group should contact potential members and then follow up with a letter of invitation and one-on-one orientation.

Prospect List for Tobacco Prevention & Control Coalition

Coalition Roles Potential Members Stakeholder Group/ Sector Contact Information Notes
Initial Coalition Planning Team        
Community Evaluation Workgroup (CEW)        
Membership & Capacity Building Team        
Tobacco Prevention Action Team        
Tobacco Cessation Team        
Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Team        
Health Communications Team        
Sustainability Team        
Other Action Teams as Needed        


Community volunteers at all levels benefit from understanding what they can do to contribute to the larger effort. The starting place for working with volunteers is creating a common understanding of who is at the table, what they can do, and their interest in ongoing professional development.

Specific training plans tend to emerge after the group has an understanding of current skill levels and what the group hopes to accomplish. Some people lead by example, others by their stirring words or organizational and relationship skills. Not everyone needs to have the same set of leadership skills. What is important is to have a reliable “set of skills” within the group along with a common understanding of goals and key concepts.

Leadership Development Plan

Leadership development is also an ongoing process. Everyone, regardless of who they are and what they already know, grows through continued development. Follow these guidelines to develop a leadership plan:

  • Ask coalition members to describe the “ideal” community team they want to have working on tobacco prevention and control. How many leaders are needed and what skills should they have? How will members support each other?
  • Administer the Texas Tobacco-Free Communities Needs Assessment – Part A to all coalition members. Skill sets can include both tobacco specific and non-specific skills.
  • Compare current leadership needs and skills to the “ideal community team.” Share the summary of coalition member training needs. Develop training goals to address the type of training coalition members want as well as any gaps between the current skill base and the “ideal” team.
  • Decide how to provide the training. Does the coalition need:
    • Direct instruction through a state, regional, or local health department consultant?
    • “Modeling” of skills by coalition officers and action team leaders?
    • Mentoring among team members?
    • Online trainings?
    • Leadership exchanges between other groups or organizations locally or by outside contract recipients?
    • Leadership retreats where a trained facilitator/instructor conducts the training?
  • Schedule professional development and technical assistance activities with trainers and coalitions members.
  • Direct new coalition members to the general leadership building skills included in the University of Kansas Community Tool Box Lessons 6.1 – 6.6 For more information see


Sample Training Topics for Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions

  • Problem of tobacco use
  • Strategic Prevention Framework
  • Comprehensive evidence-based tobacco prevention & control strategies
  • Tobacco-related health disparities
  • Changing social norms around tobacco use
  • Tobacco industry influences in communities
  • Cultural competency – creating shared leadership
  • Sustaining comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs
  • Evidence-based tobacco cessation programs
  • Health communications and earned media
  • Managing volunteers
  • Adapting resources for use with priority populations
  • Conducting, managing & using local needs assessments
  • What research has to say about successful coalitions
  • Developing a strategic tobacco prevention and control plan
  • Evidence-based youth prevention programs
  • Strategies for protecting the public from secondhand smoke
  • Enforcement of Texas tobacco laws

Sample Community Tobacco Coalition Leadership Development Plan

Goal Leadership Development Activities When
Support staff or volunteer will learn basic e-mail and Internet skills, including how to set up a listserv Training from agency technology director This month
All volunteers and staff will be able to recruit, interview and cultivate other coalition members See University of Kansas Community Tool Box, Increasing Participation & Membership Next month
Action team leaders will be able to plan, conduct and document meetings See University of Kansas Community Tool Box, Building Leadership Next month
Members will be able to use a shared leadership style on action teams Plan to rotate leadership of coalition; ask members to complete online Module 6 – Lessons 6.2 – 6.5 Ongoing
Action committee members will receive specialized professional development to assist them in their assigned roles Survey committee members using Texas Tobacco-Free Community Needs Assessment- Part A from the Assessment Guide to this toolkit to identify current and desired skills associated with their roles on the coalition Ongoing as new volunteers are recruited

Culturally Competent Organizations

Culture involves the shared traditions, beliefs, customs, history and institutions for a group of people. These shared practices result in a set of “rules” that influence how we interact with others. They also serve as a lens for interpreting what we see. While culture can mean ethnicity, language, nationality, education or religion, most of us are the product of several cultures.

In a global society it is necessary to function effectively with many different cultures in ways that are socially acceptable and respectful. As we begin to create tobacco-free communities, we must not only understand the role of tobacco use within a culture, we must also know how to build on this diversity to promote cessation among current smokers, reduce the impact of secondhand smoke on non-smokers and prevent youth from starting to use tobacco products.

Cultural Competency Plan

Early on in the history of the coalition, commit to a written plan that describes how the group hopes to create a culturally competent organization. The plan should include 1) lists of the various cultures present, 2) how they relate to the larger community, 3) key stakeholders who could serve as coalition members, 4) an analysis of coalition strengths and weaknesses in understanding each culture, and 5) ideas for building a culturally competent organization.

The University of Kansas Community Tool Box provides a background for building culturally competent organizations (go to; see “Do the Work”, Enhancing Cultural Competency). Online instructions give guidelines for conducting a cultural audit of the coalition. The audit encourages members to first identify community members by nationality and language and then list stereotypes typically associated with the group. Next the coalition identifies relationships of the various groups within the larger community and any possible difficulties the coalition may have because of cultural differences. Examples of ways to promote cultural inclusion and action steps for achieving cultural competency follow.

Tools & Quick Tips

Practical Activity - Communicating Value

One strategy for building and maintaining membership is to prepare case statements, or a “pitch” designed to address the unique needs of each constituency. A “pitch” is simply a clear expression of the importance of your coalition to your community.

Each pitch should reflect specific values of different cultures within the coalition. Efforts to gain and maintain coalition support will be more successful if you prepare several communication tools - one for each constituency on the coalition’s mission.

Each pitch should state:

  • Why the work of the coalition is important to the group and their work
  • What the coalition hopes to achieve and sustain
  • What kind of support the coalition needs


Preparing these statements also provides talking points for current members to make it easier for them to share the coalition message.

Use the following form to begin constructing your pitch. Use language that is easily understood by the average person on the street. Reformat the pitch for each constituency onto a single page.

Pitch Development Template
What is the coalition’s mission?  
What specific goals or objectives do you want to achieve?  
Who are your constituents? (list below) Why is your coalition important to them? (list specific to each constituent)
What benefits does your coalition provide the community?  
What successes have you achieved?  
What would be the consequences if your coalition went away?  
What resources are needed for your coalition to succeed?  

Adapted from the National Coalition Institute Sustainability Primer: Fostering Long- Term Change to Create Drug Free Communities

More Resources for Capacity Building

  • Mattessich PW, Murray-Close M, and Monsey BR, Collaboration: What makes it work, 2nd Edition, Fieldstone Alliance, 2001; 82 pages, ISBN 13: 978-0-940069-32-9.
  • Minkler M, Community organizing and community building for health, 2nd Edition, Rutgers University Press, 2004; 480 pages, ISBN 0-8135-3474-7.
  • University of Kansas, The community tool box, Online training on Creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships, Building leadership, Increasing participation and membership and Enhancing cultural competency. Accessed online 8-18-08

Sample Timeline for First Year Coalition Activities & Deliverables

By the end of the first year a coalition should have hired staff, recruited and trained coalition members, conducted and reviewed findings of a tobacco-related community needs assessment, developed problem statements, created a strategic action plan and conducted a small number of program activities. Investment in the first three steps of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) pays off during the second year when the coalition launches a full-scale comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program. While each group will need to adapt the timeline to fit local needs, a sample timeline and checklist follows:

Activity Months 1 - 2 Deliverables Date Completed
Months 1 - 2
Staff hiring complete
  • Program director, evaluator, program /administrative staff hired and trained
Provide overview of Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF)
  • SPF and core concepts for the SPF
  • Sample pitch statement
  • Existing coalition transformed
Provide training in Communities of Excellence (CX)
  • Leadership characteristics of potential coalition members
  • Organize for change
  • Sample capacity building plan
Evaluation overview
  • Initial evaluation plan
  • Process evaluation & BHIPS
  • Texas Tobacco Community Needs Assessment Parts A-D
  • Optional local assessments
  • Organize a community evaluation workgroup
Months 3 - 4
Training on health communications
  • Health communications overview
Coalition planning team meetings
  • Review grant requirements and customize timeline
  • Set up initial leadership structure, membership directory, communications and roles of action teams:
    • Community evaluation workgroup (CEW)
    • Membership and capacity building team
      • Tobacco prevention and cessation teams
      • Secondhand smoke action team
      • Sustainability team
  • Create pitch to use in recruiting members from different sectors
  • Draft first coalition meeting agenda and invitation
    Recruit coalition members (ongoing)
    • Use pitch to personally invite and orient new members; follow up with written letter of invitation
    CEW orientation meeting
    • Review evaluation plan, member roles and scope of work
    • Identify initial data collection priorities
    Initial coalition meeting
    • Review goals, comprehensive tobacco programs and SPF
    • Create common program vocabulary, working relationships
    • Describe roles of action teams, form and schedule action team meetings, administer Part A Needs Assessment Handouts: Participant Roster, Overview – Community Tobacco Prevention & Control Toolkit
    • Follow Up – email minutes to invitees; set up action committee agendas
    Months 5 - 6
    Conduct health communications event
    • Grassroots activity to increase visibility through earned media event
    CEW data collection and management
    • Texas Tobacco-Free Community Needs Assessment – Parts B, C, D
    Action team meetings
  • Orientation and trainings:
    • Culturally competent organizations
    • Membership and Capacity Building
    • Tobacco prevention and cessation
    • Secondhand Smoke
    • Sustainability
    CEW team
    • Identify data gaps, review optional data collection tools
    Action team meetings
    • Trainings and work sessions
      • Community evaluation
      • Membership & capacity building
      • Tobacco prevention
      • Tobacco cessation
      • Secondhand smoke
      • Sustainability
    Months 7 - 8
    Cessation activities
    • Number of health care providers reached
    Coalition meeting
    • Review draft CEW data report
    • Develop problem statements, identify data gaps
    • Progress reports from action teams Evaluator and coalition consultations
    • Achieve consensus on reporting formats, cultural competency and tobacco-related health disparities (TRHD)
    Action team meetings
    • Ongoing training core concepts and data reviews
      • Community evaluation workgroup
      • Membership & capacity building
      • Tobacco prevention & cessation
      • Secondhand smoke
      • Sustainability
    Month 9
    CEW team
    • Distribute local Tobacco Needs Assessment Report Findings Coalition meeting
    • Initiate strategic planning process
    • Identify data gaps and additional action teams needed for next fiscal year
    Months 10 - 11
    Coalition meeting
    • Continue strategic planning process Cessation activities
    • Number of healthcare providers reached Coalition summit and comprehensive tobacco control conference
    • Review evidence-based components of comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs and strategic planning process that addresses problems, TRHD, sustainability and cultural capacity
    • SPF booster training
    Month 12
    Action team meetings
    • Capacity building for year 2 – add other action teams as appropriate
    • For all action teams: update membership and leadership development plans
    • Finalize sustainability plan Cessation activities
    • Number of healthcare providers reached Coalition
    • Distribute strategic plan to community stakeholders

    Sample Roles of Coalition Workgroups & Action Teams

    Coalition Workgroups & Action Teams Roles
    CEW team Collaborates with evaluator to assist with data collection, review data summaries, identify data-based tobacco problems and recommend additional data collection. Workgroup should select its own leader
    Coalition planning team Initiates recruitment process, communications and action teams; develops initial agenda and pitch. As coalition membership develops, community leaders are elected as officers to assume organizational leadership roles
    Membership and capacity building team Develops membership & leadership plans, expands membership, trains coalition membership to recruit & cultivate new members in the 5Rs, identifies & facilitates training needs and coordinates opportunities for ongoing professional development, creates listserv, creates and circulates membership roster
    Tobacco prevention team Reviews CEW data relevant to prevention; prepares and presents to the coalition strategic plan for prevention; conducts tobacco prevention activities such as Tobacco-Free Kids Day; represents various stakeholder groups; educates constituency on tobacco problem, documents and monitors program implementation
    Tobacco cessation team Reviews CEW data relevant to cessation; prepares and presents strategic plan for cessation to the coalition; oversees implementation and conducts community cessation activities including distribution of Yes You Can! Clinical Toolkit for Treating Tobacco Dependence; represents various stakeholder groups, educates constituency on tobacco problem, documents and monitors program implementation
    Secondhand smoke team Assists evaluator and CEW group in collecting and reviewing local data on policies to protect the public from secondhand smoke, develops strategic plan for addressing secondhand smoke, presents strategic plan to the coalition for approval; represents various stakeholder groups, educates constituency on tobacco problem, documents and monitors program implementation
    Health communications team Reviews CEW data relevant to health communications, prepares and presents strategic plan for health communications to the coalition for approval, serves as spokesperson with local media, coordinates health communications events, documents and monitors program implementation
    Sustainability team Participates in orientation on sustainability, develops sustainability plan, defines what needs to be sustained, creates case statements, prepares lists of potential funding agents and implements sustainability plan

    Coalition Support - Contact List and Roles

    Contact List Coalition Supporting Roles
      Fiscal Agent
    Manages fiscal and human resources for the coalition, serves as a liaison with DSHS, trains and supervises paid staff who, in turn, provide staff support to action teams
    Participates in the statewide evaluation plan; convenes the CEW, guides use of the SPF, enters and manages local data; reviews local data collection instruments, facilitates use of local data to develop problem statements, prepares periodic reports to coalition and annual reports to DSHS
      Paid Staff
    Provide staff support to local coalition leadership through action teams, assist with new member orientations and meeting agenda development coordinate coalition activities, distribute meeting notes
    Regional Tobacco Coordinators
    PRC Tobacco Specialists
    DSHS Consultants
    Provide Yes You Can! Clinical Toolkit for Treating Tobacco Dependence and ongoing training, technical assistance and consultations on tobacco prevention and control as well as the Strategic Prevention Framework

    Quick Tips - Coalition Capacity Building

    Do This Don’t Do This
    Go online and read at least 2 supporting references:
    • go to “Do the Work”
    Assume that everything that you need on community capacity building is in this short document
    Create and distribute written plans for developing membership, leadership, organizational structure and culturally competent organizations Assume that current and future coalition members will figure this out. Written plans take too much time to develop
    Invest several months upfront in coalition capacity building. Recruit, cultivate and educate members to function as a team around tobacco prevention and control Skip this step and rely only on paid staff to plan and conduct comprehensive community-based tobacco prevention and control programs
    Treat recruitment and volunteer cultivation as an ongoing activity Invite a few people to the first meeting, don’t contact them in between meetings and complain when they don’t show up again
    File this document so you can find it when you need to locate professional development opportunities for new staff and volunteer coalition members Discard this guide as being irrelevant to the “real” work of community tobacco prevention and control
    Recruit members to be part of an action team where they have a meaningful role to play Simply fill slots on the coalition’s membership list without expectation of action

    Developed by Sneden GG, Robertson TR, Loukas A, & Gottlieb NH Department of Kinesiology and Health Education University of Texas at Austin
    Last updated April 11, 2011