Now, about those 100,000 members…

Those of us who have been around for a while will remember  Simon Hughes’ pitch during his presidential campaign, that under his leadership the party membership would double. It didn’t

It wasn’t his fault. The party had to put the work in. There was nothing wrong with the ambition, but plucking a number out of the air will not in itself get you there.

Now I am happy to support Tim Farron as leader, but during the campaign I have to admit I thought that his target of 100,000 members by 2020 was similarly pretty meaningless. But now we have it, lets stick to it.

This is not an article about how to recruit more members. There are training sessions for that. I recommend that you contact your local regional party to organise a recruitment training session in your area.

What does a national figure of 100,000 mean for your local party? Currently we have roughly 60,000 members, so an increase of 40,000 is needed, which is 67% and so the membership for your local party membership should increase by at least 67% for the party to be on target.

So if your party has a membership of 250, then by 2020 it should be about 420.

So in 4 years, you need a net gain of about 170 members.

Assuming nothing gets done in December and August, you have 10 months a year and 40 months over 4 years. So per month you need a net gain of 4.25 members. Assuming on average you lose 1 lapsed member per month, you need to recruit say about 5 – 6 new members. Does that seem doable? It seems the answer is yes, but be careful that you don’t miss a month or the number starts to gets bigger.

If you have monthly membership targets you will know whether you are on course. Simply having one big number that applies to a date many years from now gives you no incentive to get started.  It becomes a low priority and will never get done.

How do you recruit new members? After you have done the training, you need to be on the local party executive and lead on this task, ideally with some like-minded colleagues. Your party has to have a regular timetable for recruiting new members and someone has to drive that. Your local party AGM is coming up in October or November, but you can approach your local executive now if you want to get started. You are not likely to be turned away if you want to start now!

How do you retain existing members? Try and make sure your local party is friendly, welcoming and ambitious is the obvious advice. Also, try to give your members opportunities to get involved and find out more about the party locally and nationally. Make sure there are local social events going on and there are local community campaigning activities in your target wards. Encourage members to go to regional and national conferences and get involved in SAOs like ALDC or Liberal Democrat Women or Ethnic Minorities Liberal Democrats.

Now not everything is under your control. There are always events. We just had one, the general election and the leadership election, where national party membership has increased by 35% in 3 months. We are all delighted by that of course, but be mindful that this time next year (ie from April to July) there will be a huge number of renewals due.

We will have to try very hard to minimise the lapses around then, and membership secretaries will need a lot of help to phone round for the renewals. It may be worth organising a social event in May or June so when you do your phone around you can ask them to come along to that first and then ask them to renew.

If you succeed in minimising lapses in this 2016 timeslot, bear in mind the same will apply in future years as well.

Other events are elections, referendums, news stories (for example the war in Iraq in 2003 brought a lot of new members into the party). After local elections in May, the sooner you get in touch with Lib Dem supporters after they voted for you the more likely they are to join. Admittedly after a hard slog campaigning you might not feel like doing anything. However, the closer the moment someone has  voted for you, the more likely they will join. So like it or not, May and June are the best time to recruit new members, as well as September when students start their courses.

So get started and good luck!

* Geoff Payne is the former events organiser for Hackney Liberal Democrats

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  • People don’t realise that unless you have a lot of time on your hands and can build up personal relationships in a geographical area you do have to be an extrovert and a persuader to do this work. There are only a certain percentage of people like this. They will most likely be snapped up in sales and marketing earning a lot of money and may want to do other things in their spare time. So it’s all luck really and whether Tim can persuade people at conferences or there are by-election wins.

    My idea is that the Party should get a crack team of these people and go round the defs and probs after a local byelection gain the weekend after the result.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Sep '15 - 10:41am

    An advert says that three 3-start hotels in Bournemouth are charging £34.00, £58.50, £67.15.
    Others may be seeing different adverts.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Sep '15 - 11:30am

    Very good article Geoff.

    Three years ago in my local party there was next to no active recruitment and our membership dropped to its lowest level for decades.

    Then one of our councillors came back from a training session and decided to put his recruitment training into practice. He called on a few people he knew were strong supporters and was very successful. He recruited more than ten new members in a month.

    Then a few other people decided to follow his example and also had some success. Then the membership incentive scheme came along and gave us even more reason to recruit. We set a quarterly recruitment target high enough to ensure we always got the 40% rebate.

    Three years later our local party membership is now 65.9% higher than it was three years ago. More than a dozen people have recruited new members during that time. Our target for the next election, which we have broken down into quarterly targets, is to grow by a further 53.4% which would see us hit a very significant round number, two and a half times the size we were three years ago.

    We’ve already started on this and it’s going well.

    Your point about renewals is also key. We chase our potential lapses one by one, and try and persuade them onto Direct Debit too. We routinely sign new members up on Direct Debit too, to reduce the future drop out rate.

  • John Tilley 2nd Sep '15 - 1:24pm

    Follow the example of Jeremy Corbyn. His campaign has recruited more than 100,000 to the Labour Party in a matter of weeks. 🙂

    Some say he has done this by appealing to people (especially young people) who are sick of spin, austerity and the warmed-up Thatcherism of those millionaires who are obsessed with reducing the size of the state.

    Some say he has done this because he looks like and sounds like a member of the human race rather than one of those automata that only have a life inside The Westminster Bubble.

    Some lessons for Liberal Democrats in all that.

    Or we could all rush around like headless chickens pretending that Corbyn is the Devil with horns etc and he has a hammer and sickle tattooed on his heart. Or was that an earlier thread in LDV?

  • Good work Neil. As usual, just getting on with what matters 🙂

  • I really don’t like targets. They almost invariably direct attention to the wrong thing to a significant extent (teaching to the test for instance) and this is no different.

    It’s perfectly possible that we will get 100,000 members in due course but, as John Tilley says, Corbyn has recruited far more in a few weeks by actually enthusing people with an alternative vision for the future. Have the Lib Dems given up on the idea of offering a real alternative?

  • Gordon, I do not know how you can read my article and conclude that the “Lib Dems have given up on offering an alternative vision”. We have always had an alternative vision, admittedly sometimes it has been better than at other times. But when we opposed the war in Iraq, perhaps our finest hour as a political party, we did not recruit 100,000 new members. That Jeremy Corbyn has suddenly done so was not something anyone predicted 6 months ago, and whilst I would admit that a good many of them are Liberals and I wish they joined us, many of them are not Liberals and it remains to be seen how many of them will remain in Labour by the time of the next general election.
    I would certainly encourage people to submit articles on LDV to promote our vision, but this article was not about that. Whether we have a compelling vision or not, we still need to do what it takes to recruit new members.

  • I am reminded of Nick Clegg’s promise to get us 150 MPs. Soon after he was elected leader. A challenge some constituencies accepted, successfully.

  • One point not being discussed is where we are in all the constituencies of the Uk. A 70% increase in membership when you have 20 is very achievable but it wont happen. Constituencies like this are increasingly common and there is no dynamic leadership in them to change things. I have said before that I believe the departing parliamentary candidates should assist/lead the training, motivation and delivery of that 70%., in those constituencies I am identifying.
    When those constituencies are buzzing again then 100,00 members will be a reachable target. I also agree a planned membership drive is essential and should be at the top of every Constituency executive agenda.

  • “Whether we have a compelling vision or not, we still need to do what it takes to recruit new members.”

    Er…..don’t you need the first in order to do the second??

  • Richard Underhill 4th Sep '15 - 7:00pm

    Geoffrey Payne 2nd Sep ’15 – 9:16pm Affilliate trade unions have been recruiting actively, hopefully with the consent of their members.

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