The growing success of the Lib Dem registered supporters scheme

To recap: political party membership isn’t for everyone. In particular, the research evidence shows that it is disproportionately attractive to those who do best out of how our society works. That gives a powerful principled reason to want to find new ways of involving more people in a party – to add to the self-interest, of course, that comes from more people bringing more resources and so more success to a party.

How to get more members and supporters active: the Lib Dem Boost Guide

Just as we saw in the first half of last year, recovery for the Liberal Democrats has to start with our grassroots. more

Which is where a registered supporters scheme, created by the Liberal Democrats earlier this year, comes in. It’s a cause I’ve long championed as part of a core votes strategy, especially the need for it to be a scheme that serves the whole party – so that not only can a member of the public, for example, sign up on the national party website but also that their local party then is able to know who they are and get in touch in person. Too often in the past we’ve built up different pools of information here or there in the party, kept locked away from others who could also benefit from it.

More notably too, new party leader Jo Swinson was a strong supporter of the scheme’s introduction, and it fits well with her leadership campaign talk of building a liberal movement.

I previously covered how a week in, the supporter scheme had got off to a promising start. Now that it’s over three months old, how are things looking?

Here are some of the key statistics:

  • Number signed up: over 10,500 – growth has been steady rather than seeing the sort of surges membership has. On balance, that’s no bad thing – having a slow and steady grower helps give long-term sustainability.
  • They are spread around the country: all but three local parties have at least one person signed up.
  • 10% have gone on to become members and in addition over £30,000 has been raised in donations.
  • Registered supporters are happy to be contacted – around 95% have opted-in to at least one form of contact from the party (such as email or telephone).
  • Where local parties have been active in contacting registered supporters in person, around half have got involved offline, such as by becoming regular leaflet deliverers.
  • Members are not downgrading – this was an argument often made against having a registered supporter scheme, but the arguments from people like me that this was a misplaced fear have turned out to be right. Less than one in ten thousand members have downgraded.

But perhaps the best sign of its success is the way it has morphed from a fringe, controversial idea into one where now people say it’s obviously the right thing to have and the only wonder is why we didn’t do it sooner.

Or in short: the new scheme is working, growing and will have an important part to play in our future successes.

Advice and resources are available to help local parties make the most of the registered supporters scheme: details here.

7 responses to “The growing success of the Lib Dem registered supporters scheme”

  1. A pat on the back Mark – not least for persistence. I never saw the point of a RSS (registered supporters’ scheme), but I do now. An example is politically restricted jobs; someone in the Police, for instance, can’t be a member, but may be able join the RSS and be generous right now with their help towards the £5k deposit for a Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for 7 May 2020.

    There does remain a problem which the RSS doesn’t completely solve: the LP situation where a high proportion of active helpers (often especially deliverers) have never joined, don’t want to, and show no sign of being any more attracted to the RSS. Of course becoming a deliverer at an early stage on one’s journey is a mark of success, but it surely can’t still be that after 24 years. Quite apart from anything else, we can’t now officially hold details of someone in this position, at any level. Other difficulties that come to mind include accidents while out on Lib Dem business – am I right that a non-RS and non-member isn’t covered by any corporate insurance for a mishap which costs them a week off work ?

    All comments welcome – without naming LPs, the non-anything deliverer is a particular problem not far from where I am.

  2. This is positive and I absolutely agree that local parties should contact and work with supporters. But these are not the sort of figures the enthusiasts for the scheme gave the impression would happen when this vast reservoir of potential supporters was tapped; and nor has the Party centrally made much of the scheme in publicity, understandably since lots of people are actually joining. Not long ago I asked what the figures were in our local party and they stood at eleven members for each supporter, ten supporters in all, which did not encourage the reaction, “Ah, so we MUST involve these people fast!”. I’m told the ratio in another local party is 15:1.

    In the build-up to the scheme’s adoption, research was deployed which suggested supporters would indeed be more representative of the population at large than the membership is. That was a powerful argument. Is there any evidence so far that it is so?

    • Simon: yup, the link in the post to my comments one week in to the scheme will take you to data showing that it looks as if registered supporters are more representative of the population than our membership.

      On the numbers point, if your local party had a ten per cent growth in members I’d guess (hope!) that people would think ‘let’s contact and involve these people fast’. Same too for registered supporters – a potential 10 per cent growth in your number of helpers seems well worth trying to harness quickly?

  3. some years ago I argued, in a conference debate on membership fees, for an ‘associate membership’ for those who didn’t want to join, or couldn’t afford to. The arguments against were not dissimilar to those you experienced Mark. So well done to all involved in bringing it into being.. maybe I planted a seed..

  4. The Registered supporters here have not helped in any way, nor will they support social events. But we still have to make the effort to contact them. I am not convinced.

  5. Another possible scheme (which could already exist!) could be a Junior LibDem group which might attract people who are too young to be Young LibDems but who may (for example) have LibDem parents. It could be a vehicle to engage LibDem families, and also to provide some grounding in civics and politics, which is severely lacking in the UK.

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