Who are the potential stakeholders to your business?

As we discussed, there are primary and secondary stakeholders, as well as key stakeholders who may or may not fall into one of the other two categories.  Let’s examine possible stakeholders using that framework.

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Beneficiaries or targets of the effort

Beneficiaries are those who stand to gain something – services, skills, money, goods, social connection, etc. – as a direct result of the effort.  Targets are those who may or may not stand to gain personally, or whose actions represent a benefit to a particular (usually disadvantaged) population or to the community as a whole.

Some examples are:

  • A particular population – a racial or ethnic group, a socio-economic group, residents of a housing project, etc.
  • Residents of a particular geographic area – a neighborhood, a town, a rural area.
  • People experiencing or at risk for a particular problem or condition – homelessness, lack of basic skills, unemployment, diabetes.
  • People involved or participants in a particular organization or institution – students at a school, youth involved in the justice system, welfare recipients.
  • People whose behavior the effort aims to change – delinquent youth, smokers, people who engage in unsafe sex, people who don’t exercise.
  • Policy makers and agencies that are the targets of advocacy efforts.


Those directly involved with or responsible for beneficiaries or targets of the effort

These might include individuals and organizations that live with, are close to, or care for the people in question, and those that offer services directly to them. Among these you might find:

  • Parents, spouses, siblings, children, other family members, significant others, friends.
  • Schools and their employees – teachers, counselors, aides, etc.
  • Doctors and other medical professionals, particularly primary care providers.
  • Social workers and psychotherapists.
  • Health and human service organizations and their line staff – youth workers, welfare case workers, etc.
  • Community volunteers in various capacities, from drivers to volunteer instructors in training programs to those who staff food pantries and soup kitchens.

Those whose jobs or lives might be affected by the process or results of the effort

Some of these individuals and groups overlap with those in the previous category.

  • Police and other law or regulation enforcement agencies.  New approaches to violence prevention, dealing with drug abuse or domestic violence, or other similar changes may require training and the practice of new skills on the part of members of these agencies.
  • Emergency room personnel, teachers, and others who are legally bound to report possible child abuse and neglect or other similar situations.
  • Landlords. Landlords’ legal rights and responsibilities may be altered by laws brought about by campaigns to stop discrimination in housing or to strengthen tenants’ rights.
  • Contractors and developers. Open-space laws, zoning regulations, and other requirements, as well as incentives, may affect how, where, and what contractors and developers choose to build.
  • Employers. A workplace safety initiative or strengthened workplace safety regulations, health insurance requirements, and other mandates may affect employers’ costs. Those that hire and make a commitment to workers from at-risk populations may also have to institute worker assistance programs (personal and drug/alcohol counseling, for example, as well as basic skills and other training).
  • Ordinary community members whose lives, jobs, or routines might be affected by an effort or policy change, such as the location of a homeless shelter in the neighborhood or changes in zoning regulations.


Government officials and policy makers

These are the people who can devise, pass, and enforce laws and regulations that may either fulfill the goals of your effort or directly cancel them out.

  • Legislators. Federal and state or provincial representatives, senators, members of parliament, etc. who introduce and pass laws and generally control public budgets at the federal and state or provincial levels.
  • Governors, mayors, city/town councilors, selectmen, etc. The executives that carry out laws, administer budgets, and generally run the show can contribute greatly to the success – or failure – of an effort.
  • Local board members.  Boards of health, planning, zoning, etc., through their power to issue permits and regulations, can be crucial allies and dangerous opponents.
  • State/federal agencies.  Government agencies often devise and issue regulations and reporting requirements, and can sometimes make or break an effort by how they choose to regulate and how vigorously they enforce their regulations.
  • Policy makers.  These people or groups often have no official power – they may be “advisers” to those with real power – but their opinions and ideas are often followed closely.  If they’re on your side, that’s a big plus.

Those who can influence others

  • The media
  • People in positions that convey influence. Clergy members, doctors, CEOs, and college presidents are all examples of people in this group.
  • Community leaders – people that others listen to. These might be people who are respected because of their position of leadership in a particular population, or may be longtime or lifelong residents who have earned the community’s trust over years of integrity and community service.

Those with an interest in the outcome of an effort

Some individuals and groups may not be affected by or involved in an effort, but may nonetheless care enough about it that they are willing to work to influence its outcome.  Many of them may have a following or a natural constituency – business people, for instance – and may therefore have a fair amount of clout.

  • Business. The business community usually will recognize its interest in any effort that will provide it with more and better workers, or make it easier and more likely to make a profit.  By the same token, it is likely to oppose efforts that it sees as costing it money or imposing regulations on it.
  • Advocates.  Advocates may be active on either or both sides of the issue you’re concerned with.
  • Community activists. Organizations and individuals who have a philosophical or political interest in the issue or population that an effort involves may organize to support the effort or to defeat it.
  • People with academic or research interests related to a targeted issue or population. Their work may have convinced them of the need for an intervention or initiative, or they may simply be sympathetic to the goals of the effort and understand them better than most.
  • Funders.  Funders and potential funders are obvious key stakeholders, in that, in many cases, without their support, the effort won’t be possible.
  • Community at large. When widespread community support is needed, the community as a whole may be the key stakeholder.