In recent years, the Liberal Democrats have got used to floods of new members during or after election campaigns. The party has also got better at receiving that flood and turning it into something productive and long-lasting. Better, as those with memories of the 2010 genera election campaign and the failure to turn fresh enthusiasm into election victories will recall, but not perfect.
So here is a refreshed version of a list of suggestions I’ve used a few times over the year. Now that the (first) general election campaign of 2017 is over, it’s important to keep those new helpers involved – and also to make the continuing flow of new members feel wanted and involved too.
Here are my top eleven suggestions:
- Organise events, have fun: well-run local parties and efficient election campaigns involve their inevitable moments of drudgery and boredom, so make sure that isn’t all you offer. Whether it’s adding an extra social event to your calendar or simply adding in a trip to a pub or cafe at the end of a delivery session, give people the chance to meet others and have a bit of chit chat.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: regular newsletters to members and supporters should be a must. Alas, there are some places where sending out closely typed minutes of the AGM once a year counts as member communication. You know better than that, don’t you?
- Use the online world: email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the like have all been used effectively by people to help win elections, but they often really come in to their own for internal communication. They can make it easy and quick to regularly keep in touch and send out news – just what you need to make members and supporters feel valued, keep informed and know how they can contribute.
- Get training: when was the last time your local party ran a training event, whether it was in canvassing, how to be a local council candidate or learning the ropes of Connect? Whatever the topic, there’s plenty of scope to share skills and get a bigger team. So get training.
- Open up your committee meetings: some local parties have had great success by encouraging interested potential activists to come to local executive meetings or interested potential councillors to come to group meetings. It’s a good way for people to find out more about what might be involved – and has the bonus of making use of meetings you would have had to have anyway.
- More candidates please: at each round of local elections there are many wards where we do not put up a candidate, often not for want of trying but for want of understanding the importance of standing a full slate. So if your party doesn’t have a record of 100% coverage, start sounding up people soon with the aim of a record number of candidates next time. Keep a particular eye out for encouraging a more diverse set of candidates too as standing for the council is often the first step towards getting more diverse local party executives and candidates at higher levels.
- Deliver leaflets: good quality, timely literature was at the core of all our winning general election campaigns. Get people delivering leaflets – but ask them deliver near where they live. Even if they live in the “wrong” (i.e. non-target) area, it’s better to get them delivering regularly nearby, building up the habit of helping, rather than saying, “We only want your help if you are willing to go elsewhere”.
- Tell them about Lib Dem Newswire and the Lib Dem Newbies group on Facebook: even though they are much improved, communications from the party centrally usually leave most members not terribly well informed about what’s going on in the party. In part, that is inevitable as there is only so far that official communications can go in, for example, explaining the pros and cons of decisions the party has made. And hence, Lib Dem Newswire. On a similar theme, the Lib Dem Newbies group on Facebook is an awesome community, providing information, encouragement and support.
- Go to conference: whether it’s regional, state or federal conference, encourage others to make their first visit. Often the easy steps that are all that’s needed to get more people more involved. It may be as simple as telling people more about what’s involved or as practical as organising some car sharing.
- Keep good records: who has offered to help? what do they like to do? how do they prefer to be contacted? and so on. Good records means happier helpers and more help.
- Keep on recruiting: there are still plenty more people out there who will join the party if only someone asks them.
Those are my tips. What are yours?