Phase I – Get Started
Step 3 – Establish Structure

Take Action! Establish A Structure

The structure of your coalition forms the foundation of your effort. Establishing a structure for your coalition is an important step and includes choosing an effective coalition model for your lung cancer efforts, identifying and filling key roles, and completing other important tasks such as meeting coordination and project management.

Establish a Structure Worksheet

Choose a Model

Choosing an effective coalition model for your lung cancer efforts is important because a good structure can focus your energies and resources and funding efforts on achieving your goals.

Model 1

  • Lung Cancer Committee within Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalitions


  • Established network of partners and existing coalition infrastructure
  • Potential staff support through the CCC coalitions
  • Potential access to state appropriations to support the work
  • Goal alignment with both the state cancer plan and coalition priorities
  • Connected to other public health chronic disease and prevention programs
  • Access to resources, including professional expertise
  • Access to announcements of new funding and opportunities
  • Alignment with CCC coalition advocacy agenda


  • CCC coalition scope and state cancer plans may not prioritize lung cancer
  • Potential restrictions on fundraising
  • Potential restrictions on lobbying and advocacy efforts

Model 2

  • Independent 501(c)3 Lung Cancer Coalitions


  • Fewer restrictions on fundraising
  • Fewer restrictions on engaging in lobbying and advocacy
  • Flexibility to focus on a scope or on work that is different than the CCC coalition scope and state cancer plan


  • Time-consuming to start a 501c3
  • Time-consuming to fundraise
  • Fundraising may be perceived as competition by existing partners and therefore counterproductive
  • Need to identify paid or volunteer staff
  • Additional effort to coordinate with the CCC coalition

Model 3

  • Grant-Funded Lung Cancer Project


  • Technical support/assistance from a program officer
  • Connections to other funded initiatives to form broader initiatives
  • Guaranteed funding for a set period


  • May need to identify a non-profit fiscal agent for funds management.
  • Potential restrictions to spending
  • May have salary caps
  • May not be sustainable beyond the funded project period

Identify and Fill Key Coalition Roles

A successful lung cancer coalition includes the roles shown below.




The champion is usually a passionate, charismatic individual who can provide expertise and intellectual leadership, connect the lung cancer initiative to a network of peer organizations, and legitimize the effort to spur the involvement of others

Convening Partner

The convening partner houses the initiative and helps to ensure clarity on the agenda and vision alignment. Neutrality is important. This means that the convening partner is not perceived to have a specific organizational agenda.

Project Manager

Designated project management support is critical to moving an initiative forward, especially when team members are not full-time staff on the initiative. Project management support could come from funding through a 501(c)3 organization or grant.

Complete Other Important Tasks

Other tasks are also important for keeping initiatives on track. The following tasks can be led by coalition members, task group members, or other support staff.

  • Coordinating and planning calls and meetings, including drafting meeting agendas and minutes
  • Following up with committee members on assigned tasks
  • Conducting project management
  • Finding and coordinating with speakers
  • Conducting background research/finding needed data
  • Confirming and orienting new members
  • Developing and maintaining a website
  • Maintaining relationships with policymakers, partners, and decision-makers
  • Writing grant applications
  • Managing fundraising activities and distribution of funds
  • Gathering data to demonstrate program impact
  • Drafting annual reports
  • Writing and distributing news updates
  • Coordinating program planning, implementation, and evaluation

Tips and Troubleshooting

This section provides insights from coalition leaders on how to overcome common challenges related to establishing a structure.

Common Challenge

  • Find a neutral convener


Consider an entity that could be considered non-biased as convener. Some additional work may be required to build trust and create a transparent approach.

Allow the convener with the most capacity to take the position but ask all supporting partners and institutions to provide time for building the coalition.

Have more than one convener. Make sure to clarify roles and how the co-conveners can operate as a team.

“If the partner with the most capacity to convene groups is not perceived as neutral, allow enough time to build trust and cohesiveness within your group to maximize the effectiveness of the group. Consider setting a trial period for the convener to house the initiative, and reevaluate their neutrality after the trial period is over.”

  • Building trust and overcoming differences in power dynamics

Be transparent and make sure all partners have agreed to the initial steps.

Take the pulse of the group frequently. Ask survey questions regarding clarity and agreement with current roles, mission, and direction. Provide multiple avenues for feedback (email, anonymous surveys, simple pulse, and hand-raising) as some people are not comfortable speaking out in a group.

  • Finding an existing structure to join

“Even if you don’t have the capacity to create a new 501(c)(3) organization, there may be an existing 501(c)(3) that would be willing to house your initiative. If a lung cancer initiative connects to their mission, they may also be able to provide staff time.”

  • Determining how persistent to be with invitations

If two communication attempts of any kind fail, seek out a partner who has effectively collaborated with an organization of the same type, or with that same organization for a different purpose. The organization/individual could be overwhelmed with requests and misses them, has a protocol in place for partnership requests, is not the appropriate contact, or prefers to partner with people introduced through common networks.

A Helpful Worksheet

Assess the Landscape Worksheet

This worksheet will help you establish a structure.