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Now, about those 100,000 members…

September 5, 2015 7:58 AM
By Geoffrey Payne in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

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 events organiser for Hackney Liberal Democrats