Campaign Corner: The four groups in good local party membership strategy

I’ve written before about ways to recruit more party members and related issues such as the need to respond well to people who are interested in joining or helping. Underpinning that latter post is an important point – a good strategy for getting more people involved and helping isn’t just about formal membership of the party.

Pretty nearly all local parties recognise that these days. The idea that the “members newsletter” only goes to paid-up members, as used to be the case, is now a rarity. Instead they go to a wider group of people, including the non-member deliverers and donors who do so much for local parties.

That’s why a good local party membership strategy isn’t really just about members, it’s also about supporters who help.

There are, however, two other important groups. It’s something I’ve increasingly noticed in my various local party visits over the last few months. Whether explicitly or subconsciously, those local parties doing best on this target two other groups too.

First, potential future activists. Some of them are caught by the members and current helpers lists, but not all. Many of the places with the strongest and most diverse local candidate teams are ones which have deliberately gone out into the community to identify active liberals in the community who they then persuade to join the party. Even for those who are already getting the members and supporters newsletter and the like, some extra care and attention to personally invite them to action days, to encourage them to go to party conferences and so on often pays big dividends.

Second, members who are members of other local parties. It’s no coincidence that the local parties I’ve visited which are most successful relative to their size and situation are also (with one exception) the ones best at remembering to invite me back to future events.

I hope some of my talks and training sessions help make them more effective, but of course the causality is almost all the other way: local parties that punch above their weight do so because they’re good at getting people involved, and that includes remembering who comes to events and inviting them back.

Earlier in the month I went to the latest of Sutton’s annual Italian dinners. Why? Because a few weeks ahead of time I got a lovely, personal email asking if I would be coming. It was only a few sentences long, and in return for that brief but thoughtful effort Sutton got an entrance fee and raffle ticket monies off me – not to mention another warm body in the room, helping make the event feel a success for all concerned.

For a few far flung local parties, people in neighbouring parties are so far away there isn’t much mileage in this (I’m looking at you, Orkney and Shetland). Elsewhere it’s a very different story, especially in urban areas. That’s why wise local parties remember to tell neighbours about what is going in, advertise their events via Facebook and Flock Together – and make sure they get contact details so they can invite outsiders back time and time again.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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