Campaign Corner: How can we be better at handling possible new helpers or members?

The Campaign Corner series looks to give three tips about commonly asked campaign issues. Do get in touch if you have any questions you would like to suggest.

Today’s Campaign Corner question: Your mystery shopper survey of local parties criticises local parties for not treating possible new members better. We’re a small, struggling local party and it’s hard enough to run the basic operation. How can we be better without exhausting overselves?

You’re right to identify the difference between working harder and working smarter. Working both hard and smart is often required, but it is usually possible to do things in a way that gets more out of your time rather than simply needing always to spend more time on party matters. So here are three tips for how to treat possible new members or helpers well:

  1. Get them on your mailing lists: Some local parties reserve their newsletter mailing list for paid-up members and send occasional email updates to an even smaller group (such as just the local party executive). What a waste of the effort that goes into producing such communications! If someone is new and interested, get them on your newsletter and email lists straight away and do the same for helpers who aren’t members. Keeping in regular contact with such people secures more help from them in the long-run.
  2. Make use of other people’s mailing lists: Don’t think you have to do all the communication yourself. Most MEPs run a good email list for members and supporters in their region, as do holders of many other elected posts, such as the London Assembly team. If you get a new person on some of these (e-)mailing lists, then other Lib Dems will do part of the work of keeping in touch and informing people for you.
  3. Make use of events held by neighbouring local parties: Similarly, your own local party does not have to be the only possible place where new people can come to event. Many regions and party bodies organise good events and, in all but the most geographically sparse parts of the country, events held by neighbouring local parties are often as easy or easier for people to get to as your own. I live right on the border of my local party, so there is not only the neighbouring local party but also the local party that covers my place of work whose events I can get to as easily (in fact, often more easily) than my own local party. Get on the mailing lists for your neighbouring local parties and pass on news about their events.

Got any other tips? Please do share them in the comment thread below.

Want to know more about local campaigning? Campaigning In Your Community by myself and Shaun Roberts should be right up your street. It’s available for only £4 from ALDC and you can read an extract for free here.

Previous Campaign Corners have included:

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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5 Comments

  • George Laird 6th Feb '12 - 5:42pm

    Dear All

    The most important thing for new members of any political party is to ensure they have options in what political activites are available, to that end a branch has to establish a learning culture, so that politics is fun. Using people as unpaid postmen isn’t smart, although leaflet does play a role.

    We live ina modern age, so modern technology is the way forward, for example, a branch media unit, who rattle out personalised campaign videos of the candidate’s views on policies, the virtual manifesto.

    Mostly this is straight forward, can be done on the cheap and is cost effective, highlight in survey cards the email address option for contacts and then you can email your videos to people asking them to pass it on.

    So, make it relevant, informative and funny, in the cold light of day, parroting meaningless tat doesn’t win hearts and minds.

    Get locals into your videos, plus them, groups, the party and the area.

    Anyway, a free tip because politics should be fun for activists.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Dont drop 300 focus leaflets and a round map on their doorstep in lieu of an introduction.

  • I was thinking exactly of Tabman’s comments before I read it!

    Some members don’t want to be active – they just want to pay their dues and that’s it. Some might come to a meeting, or a dinner, and others might want to stand for the Council and be prepared to devote huge amounts of time to the party. The default expectation of the party seems to be the third of these options, while I suspect that the default of most new members is the first. What the party doesn’t do well is try to take people gently from one to the other, sometimes over months, sometimes over years – instead, it calls round to say hello with a bundle of Focuses or a pile of canvass cards and a rosette.

    Mark’s proposals are more likely to make members feel part of the organisation, and if that happens then we’re more likely to get the adtivity out of them – while respecting those who don’t want to do anything else.

  • Communication with new members is pretty well non-existent and is a huge bugbear for me. I joined the LDs and was met by a positive wall of silence – but that’s not because I was making it hard. I’ve had phone calls asking for money but nobody in my local branch has ever bothered to get in touch.

    When I was a member of the Labour party they bent over backwards to involve me in the local party – far more switched on than the LDs.

    Louise has put the onus on me to get involved. It is not the job of new members to seek the party out: It is the party’s responsibility to engage with new members – and frankly the LDs have come up way short and if this doesn’t get fixed quickly it’s going to bite really hard the longer it remains undealt with.

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