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Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


Community coalition sustainability has been a focus of scholars as community coalitions deliver vital programs and services for communities in need. Despite the value coalitions bring to U.S. communities, they often become vulnerable after federal funding is expended. Researchers acknowledge the need to build understanding of coalition sustainability and have identified factors that contribute to the sustainability of programs, but studies on the topic remain quite limited. Federal funding requirements are more stringent than in previous years, requiring evidence of sustainability planning, which increases the urgency to identify those elements that ensure sustainability. The purpose of this study was to explore, understand, and describe the elements that contribute to coalition sustainability after federal funding is expended. Butterfoss’s community coalition action theory was used as the framework for this study. Using a qualitative case study design, interview data were gathered from 10 coalition leaders of an active community coalition. The results of the analysis showed seven elements essential to community coalition sustainability: (a) the belief in a common mission, (b) strong relationships with members and the community, (c) the use of a strategic planning process to guide strategies, (d) sustainability planning that addresses potential risks and ensures successful outcomes, (e) a sense of positive community value, (f) diverse funding sources, and (g) maintenance of an effective leadership structure. The study’s implications for positive social change include demonstrating the value of community coalition programs to community members and policymakers, the latter of whom may be compelled to improve funding opportunities for dedicated coalition leadership positions.