Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Recruiting New Members

A few days ago I blogged about how we (ie, local Conservative Associations) are partially guilty for managing our own (political) decline, as far as membership is concerned. Yesterday I posted how, in Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells, we try to add value to our membership by regularly thanking and acknowledging our supporters, and inviting our donors (large and small) to regular complimentary thank you parties.

Today I would like to write a few words about recruiting new members.

Travelling around Kent and the South East I fear many Associations have simply given-up on recruitment. The formidable local activist in her tweed suit and sensible shoes who once banged on the door of every village newcomer, brandishing her membership book, has now long gone to the great Campaign HQ in the sky. Modern activists simply don't like knocking on the doors of strangers and asking for £25, especially in the present climate. Direct mail, which replaced the personal call, is now hackneyed. Recipients so bombarded with appeals from charities and good causes that the letters are seldom even read, let alone actioned.  I know of one local Association that raised the funds to write to 5,000 strong pledges as part of a recruitment campaign. They received £220 in donations and recruited three new members - not even sufficient to cover the cost of the stationery let alone the postage.

The best way to recruit new members is still a personal visit. During the 2010 General Election Graham Riddick turned up in Chatham to offer mutual aid. We got on well, and after the election he appeared in my office in Tunbridge Wells offering to help. I suggested he set-up a new branch in the wealthy village where he lives, and off he went with a list of pledges and a supply of membership and banker's order forms. A month later he had recruited 18 new members and formed a new branch.  Last year they raised nearly £1000 and on Saturday I will be attending what is fast becoming the most popular branch event in Tunbridge Wells - a Call My Bluff and Cottage Pie Extravaganza. You might well laugh - they've sold over 100 tickets and have turned at least 30 people away. The event will raise over £1000 for party funds and bring dozens of people into the Conservative fold who would have not otherwise been involved.

I appreciate, however, that people with the chutzpah and skills of Graham Riddick are few and far between, and where none exist, we have to rely on direct mail. Sadly, much constituency produced direct mail is somewhat turgid. This is not the fault of the local activists, almost all of whom are volunteers without the technical skills to compete with the marketing departments of big charities, and generally working for Associations without the equipment or funds to produce glossy leaflets.

When thinking or direct mail, however, it's worth remembering that even the biggest and most successful charities offer incentives. Donate money to Worldwide Fund for Nature and you can 'adopt' and name a lion cub, receive a certificate and photographs. Even the National Trust, Britains largest and most successful membership based organisation, offers incentives. We recently enrolled Steve's parents as NT Members as a Christmas gift and were offered a free NT embossed water bottle!  If it's good enough for the NT why not us ?  When did your Association offer an incentive (other than the opportunity to deliver newsletters at election time?)

Last year I persuaded one of our local members to donate a week's holiday for two in his apartment in Portugal as a prize for a recruitment campaign.  5,000 carefully selected residents received a membership invitation letter and a copy of this leaflet:

Click this link to download larger copy:

This initiative resulted in 74 new members! What's more, the winner of the holiday was a 76 yo lady who didn';t like flying, so she donated it back to auction at the annual dinner!

In April we are launching a new branch in Kings Hill, a very weathy development in West Kent. Rather than just bulk mail and ask people to join, we are offering them a complimentary ticket to a swish local Thai restaurant for lunch with Greg Clark MP.  We chose Greg especially for the target audience - he is a young, socially liberal and progressive Conservative in an area with an average age of 36 and an average house price of £670,000.  Over the coming weeks the following flyer will be hand delivered, with covering letter, to 7,000 Kings Hill residents:
To download a larger copy, click here:

I will let you know how it goes!

Just a few ideas of what we are doing in West Kent to maintain membership and bring fresh faces into the Party. If you have any specific questions, you are very welcome to email me or leave comment.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, there are plenty of ideas to think about. It's especially useful to see specific examples.