Perhaps the most regrettable thing I’ve done in a Liberal Democrat training session was to get up in front of a room full of Lib Dem activists and go through my experiences of how I’d been treated when visiting numerous local parties during the preceding election campaign.
It wasn’t that I’d been treated badly. But rather that it’s pretty rare for the basics all to be got spot on; basics such as making it easy to find out when and where to turn up to help, not assuming that people know what campaigning involves or how to do it, being tightly organised so that people’s time is full used, properly briefing people before asking them to go canvassing, getting deliverers to gather data as they go, asking helpers to donate, thanking people afterwards and so on.
Those are all the sort of basics that it’s important to remember to get right, and hence me giving my personal experience in a roomful of activists from many different local parties. It turned out to be rather regrettable because quite a few people in the room have since remembered regularly my complaint about not being asked often enough to give money… (thank goodness Austin Rathe wasn’t there too).
So far during the 2015 election campaign, for my experience there’s still scope to be better at the basics. Chatting to Gareth Epps – who has been on a humongous tour of helping in target seats – my experience is not unique. Hence it’s particularly good to see the new campaign video from Stephen Lloyd.
The MP for Eastbourne explains what happens at “Action Days” and why they’re both fun and worthwhile to take part in – rather than thinking that simply giving a time and place is the best way to maximise help.
Here are six tips to help ensure you treat would-be helpers in the top-notch fashion they deserve:
- Go hit Google right now. How easy is it for someone to find out where and when to turn up on Sunday morning if they’ve got a few hours to spare?
- If someone turns up or asks about helping, are they given a choice of options so that the first timer can first experience helping doing whatever they prefer?
- Is it assumed that people know how to do tasks, or is everyone given a quick little briefing?*
- Are people told why what they’re doing is so important, or just told to go and do it?
- Does everyone get a personalised thank you message, especially after turning up to help for the first time?
- Do helpers get asked – sensibly, but asked – if they’re also willing to donate?
More on all this of course is to be found in 101 Ways To Win An Election.
* Delivering is probably the biggest sin here. There’s really rather a lot to it when you think seriously, not complacently, about it. Not just the question of exactly where the delivery route is or tips on how to spot when there is another flat door around the site. There is also what information can deliverers spot as they go and how they should report it back – and then also the old favourite about how do you best get a piece of paper through a letterbox with fierce brushes? Folding it the right way so you have maximum strength against the brushes yet still enough coiled up spring so that the leaflet unfurls rather than lands with a crumple takes more skill than you should expect a novice to reasonably manage. If you never tell people about the grain in the paper and its significance, will they somehow always learn it themselves?