News on the Membership Incentive Scheme

Three years or so ago, Austin Rathe, sadly soon to be leaving Lib Dem HQ and his position as head of Membership, and I were having a curry in Edinburgh and talking about how local parties had no incentive to grow. What Austin developed out of that conversation was a scheme which actually did a classic liberal thing and put our resources back at local level, giving those parties that grew their membership a fair old whack of their members’ subscriptions.

If a local party grew by between one and ten members in one quarter, it would get 20% of subscriptions back and if it grew by 10 members, or more it would get 40% back. That’s a sizeable sum to invest in local campaigning.

The English Party had been concerned that the scheme was costing them too much money and had talked about doing away with it.

At a meeting earlier this week, representatives of all state parties got together with Sal Brinton and party staff to see if we could find a way to ensure that there was  a significant incentive but one that didn’t leave one part of the party to take too much financial strain.

We saw figures that showed how successful the scheme was. Without any particular increase in our poll ratings, membership retention had gone up by 15% and the recruitment rate each month had almost tripled. Since the scheme came in, membership has gone up in every quarter.

We were keen to keep a scheme that incentivised retention of members as much as it did recruitment. That’s particularly important given that half that 20,000 people joined the party in the wake of the election and we want them to stay. The new members have already made a brilliant contribution to our conferences and local parties.

The good news is that we’ve managed it, as Sal Brinton said in an email tonight:

As you might know, the English Party had raised concerns about the affordability of the existing membership incentive scheme. At the meeting of the Federal Executive on Monday 9th November 2015, a group of individuals representing different stakeholders within the Party such as the FE, FFAC and state parties were asked to produce an affordable membership incentive scheme for local parties for 2016.

I’m happy to inform you that we have successfully managed to produce a membership incentive scheme for 2016. This scheme will continue to encourage and reward local parties to grow. Please see below details of the 2016 membership incentive scheme.

  • Net growth of between 1 and 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 18% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter. 


  • Net growth of more than 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 33% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter.  

Kind regards,

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon McGrath 19th Nov '15 - 8:45pm

    rather a premature e mail, given that it has to be approved by the English Council on Saturday !

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Nov '15 - 9:45pm

    True, but it will be supported by the English Party and every member of EC is also a member of a local party who will benefit, so I would hope that it would go through.

  • Jonathan Brown 20th Nov '15 - 12:04am

    It’s clearly not as good as the existing scheme, but hopefully it’s still sufficient to work as an incentive. There is after all no point in growing local parties if the national party goes bankrupt.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '15 - 6:53am

    Caron – it will probably be agreed but that doesn’t excuse an attempt to bounce the decision by sending out e mail to local party officers. The sort of action by HQ you are usually against!

  • If this hasn’t yet gone through English council, how do we know the English party supports it? Was it just one rep agreed to this? Why do English council need to vote but nobody else does?

    (genuine qs, not meant aggressively)

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '15 - 8:16am

    Jennie -I assume that the Chair and Officers of the English Party support it and have agreed to recommend it to the English Council on Saturday. That does not excuse sending out an e mail to local party officers announcing it as if it has been agreed.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Nov '15 - 8:44am

    Actually, on this occasion it’s probably a good idea to make sure that everyone has the information about what’s on offer. Given that the original decision to cut the scheme was hidden in the budget papers, ensuring that the plans for its retention are well communicated to local parties in advance gives them a chance to speak to the English Council reps in their area and make their views known.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Nov '15 - 8:45am

    Jennie: The English Party seems to have very little in the way of transparency and accountability. Let’s hope that changes in the Governance Review.

  • @ Caron “The English Party seems to have very little in the way of transparency and accountability”.

    I can think of one or two other organs (or appurtenances) of the party to which that description applies – one in the House of Lords – and the other much nearer home.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Nov '15 - 10:57am

    I agree with David Raw (20th Nov ’15 – 9:31am)

    I believe there is a genuine need and appetite for transparency and the democratic involvement of ordinary members right across the party and in its official and unofficial bodies.

  • Big shout out in thanks to Neil Fawcett for helping rally the defence of this scheme once it became clear it was under threat.

    Hoping the English Party sees sense tomorrow.

  • I agree with David Raw too – and said as much, repeatedly, in my answers to the governance review. Caron is right, though, the English party is one of the worst offenders. Other party bodies do actually try; the English party actively obscures what it has been doing.

    John, yes, Neil is awesome and deserves thanks.

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