Potential Allies

Creating local support for your campaign will be key to its success, and working with partner groups is one of the best ways to build that support. Consider the list of tips below as you begin outreach to other organizations, and consult the allies section of this toolkit for a detailed list of additional partner groups.

Who Can Help
There are many organizations working to help kids grow up at a healthy weight. Some are singularly focused on one topic while others look at broader issues. While some groups may not perfectly align with your goals on this campaign, it is still worth reaching out to them, as they may be valuable partners for other programs you are pursuing or some of your long-term organizational goals. Be sure to review the Diverse Audiences sections.

Be sure to include organizations that are minority led or serving in your recruitment efforts. Work to make sure you include these groups in true collaboration and engage them throughout the campaign. Simply reaching out to ask an organization to sign a letter of support and not engaging any further is not supporting diversity within your campaign and your campaign will not be as strong as it could be because of that oversight.

Below are some suggestions for potential partners in your community:

  • Those looking to improve access to safe, public places for kids to play and be active
  • Those committed to helping kids access healthy food
  • Those focused on health and wellness for families with low incomes
  • Those focused on health and wellness for historically under-served communities
  • National and local school organizations
  • Groups focused on social justice and civil rights in communities of color
  • Local faith leaders
  • Minority-focused press and media outlets
  • Groups focused on child welfare
  • Groups focused on educational justice

Transportation Partners

Potential coalition partners may include:

  • RPTAs/MPOs/Local Planning Commissions
  • Bike/Walk Advocate Organizations/Coalitions
  • Traffic Engineers
  • Transportation Planners
  • Trail Advocates

Considerations: While transportation partners may seem like a natural ally, it will be important to take into account the various constituencies within the transportation circle. One potential pitfall is if bicycle, pedestrian, or trail advocates perceive dedicated Safe Routes to School funding as detracting from their pot of money. Emphasizing the benefits Safe Routes to School can have community-wide, cultivating a new generation of people walking and biking, and focusing on the traffic safety benefits can explain the role of this work to transportation partners.

Education Partners

Potential coalition partners may include:

  • Departments/Stakeholders within the State Department of Education
  • Universities
  • Local School Districts
  • State PTA Association
  • Other state education associations

Considerations: Although “school” features prominently in the program’s title, education partners may need some convincing that Safe Routes to School advocacy should include them. Highlighting the well-documented evidence showing a positive relationship between physical activity and measures of academic achievement, including grade point average,[1] rate of learning,[2] and classroom behavior,[3] as well as cognitive, social, and motor skill development,[4] may pique the interest of education partners.

Other Partners

Potential coalition partners may include:

  • Environmental Advocates and Organizations
  • Elected Officials
  • Foundations
  • Associations (ex: state association of mayors, realtor/real estate association, special business associations, etc.)
  • State/Local Law Enforcement
  • Parent Support Organizations
  • Child/Parent Advocate Organizations
  • Community Development Organizations
  • Private Businesses
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Civic Organizations

Recruiting the right (or wrong) members to your coalition table may make or break the success of your campaign. The right people can furnish the resources, knowledge, and political clout you need to succeed and ensure that campaign support is spread widely over the state. Diverse members bring a variety of views, ideas, needs, and skills to your group to guide strategy and priorities. Choose members wisely to keep your Safe Routes to School campaign sailing on course.

Although some potential allies will be publicly outspoken about their opinions on your topic, others will take a more subtle approach. Before making a decision on any potential partner or opponent, be sure to look at their goals, mission statement, programs, and activities to ensure they align with your priorities.

Key Takeaways

  • Partners can come from a wide variety of backgrounds—from broader faith-based groups to groups solely committed to helping kids grow up at a healthy weight.
  • Cast a wide net to make sure you reach as many potential allies as possible.
  • Make sure you understand your potential allies’ goals, priorities, and programs before engaging with them.


[1] Kantomaa, M.,Stamatakis, E., Kankaanpaa, A., Kaakinen, M., Rodriguez, A., Taanila, A., … and Tammelin, T. (2013). Physical activity and obesity mediate the association between childhood motor function and adolescents’ academic achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, 110(5), 1917.

[2] Hillman, C., Pontifex, M., Raine, L., Castelli, D., Hall, E., & Kramer, A. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044-1054.

[3] Davis, C., &  Cooper, S. (2011). Fitness, fatness, cognition, behavior, and academic achievement among overweight children: Do cross-sectional associations correspond to exercise trial outcomes? Preventive Medicine, 52, 65-69.

[4] Castelli, D., Glowacki, E., Barcelona, J., Calvert, H., and Hwang, J. (2015). Active education: Growing evidence on physical activity and academic performance. Retrieved from. http://activelivingresearch.org/sites/default/files/ALR_Brief_ActiveEducation_Jan2015.pdf.