Let's face it, working for wildlife can at times be frustrating, or even downright depressing. Getting more people involved in your campaign with will not only strengthen your collective voice, it will provide emotional support when times gets tough. Broadening your base through a community coalition will infuse fresh energy into your campaign. In addition, coalitions can diversify your campaign, which in turn may attract even more people to your cause.

A coalition is a broad group of individuals or organizations cooperating to develop effective strategies for accomplishing a common goal. Coalitions will help you work more effectively because each group or individual comes to the table with unique talents and skills that they can lend to the campaign. In addition, they allow you to divvy up tasks — such as media outreach, grassroots organizing, and public education — so that you or your group are not bearing the entire burden. Coalitions also assist you with reaching people who may not be closely tied to the wildlife protection movement but who might otherwise be sympathetic to your cause. And since some media and lawmakers often portray wildlife activists in an unflattering light, coalitions allow you to present your message with different messengers and different perspectives.

So instead of having the same twenty core activists attend a town hall meeting with a lawmaker, try to recruit religious leaders, county supervisors, ranchers, labor representatives, and a class of elementary school children to join you in speaking for your cause. A diverse chorus of voices will reach those who may tune out wildlife advocates and will blunt your opposition's efforts to marginalize you. A headline in the paper that reads, "Reverends and Ranchers Against Aerial Gunning of Wolves" will certainly turn heads and help garner more support.

No doubt, finding and working with allies can be a challenge. But the rewards are worth it. Don't ignore organizations and individuals merely because you may disagree on other issues. A coalition is formed for one purpose: to achieve a specific goal (e.g., banning the use of neck snares for trapping wildlife). Most other agreements or disagreements can and should take a back seat. While a rancher may never agree with you about animal welfare, he or she may think trapping is, indeed, cruel.

The first step of coalition-building is to research your community and identify local groups that may be interested in joining your efforts. At first glance, faith groups, garden clubs, small businesses, Rotarians, animal rights activists, and conservation organizations may appear to have little in common. In fact, these groups and many others may sympathize with your campaign to end cruelty toward carnivores. And don't overlook local counterparts to national organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the National Council of Churches. Local college campuses are also fertile territory for clubs that may be interested in your cause.

One of your top priorities should be recruiting groups or individuals with the greatest political influence. If they won't join or don't want to publicly support your campaign, seek their help in the form of behind-the-scenes backing or simply consult with them for strategic advice. They may have political connections that you don't and may offer to quietly press your case.

Prepare your pitch before contacting any group. Research the size of the group, its purpose, activities, offices, and structure. When asking for help, package your request so that your needs mesh with the group's program. For instance, many churches have programs that teach about revering creation; they may be open to helping you end the use of leghold traps because such cruel practices are at odds with their religious teachings. And there are a growing number of faith-based groups, such as Humane Religion (
and Caring for Creation (, that are natural allies to traditional wildlife conservation organizations because they believe that compassion toward animals is a fundamental tenet of their faith.

Since every group will have different resources, providing a specific list of activities allows them to choose the ones that they feel they can accomplish. Such a list could include: hosting phone banks, triggering their phone trees, distributing an action alert, adding their organizations to a sign-on letter, getting names on petitions, meeting with editorial boards or lawmakers, or sponsoring an event. Groups with limited time or interest may still be willing to educate their members about your issue through their newsletters, speakers bureau, or meetings.

Building a coalition can be a crucial step in any successful campaign. Its takes tact, hard work, and a little creativity. But you may be pleasantly surprised by how much support and momentum your campaign will gain by adding voices to yours.