|Keeping ahead of the pack|
One of the strange things about being an agent, my work life is always a month or so ahead of the pack.
For example, for candidates, campaign organisers and activists, the peak of their campaign workload is about to arrive (whether the know it or not!), with massive GOTPV and GOTV efforts across the constituencies. For Jon and me, the election is all over bar the counting. We have signed-off the last leaflet and sent it to print. Apart from a bit of basic IT training for new people who have not previously used Merlin Campaign Centre, their is little left to do, at least from an administrative perspective. Having said that, I held my first campaign planning meeting for these elections back in June 2012, when many of the candidates were not even selected, and will no doubt soon commence the next round of selections for Tunbridge Wells Borough, which still elects in thirds so has elections every year!
Last week I posted a photograph of our office volunteers frantically franking and sorting thousands of letters for this week's target mailshots, whilst piled-up menacingly in the hall were 40,000 Summer Draw tickets, waiting to take centre stage. Today they took a small step closer to the spotlight as I mentally drafted the appeal letter which will go out with them. This is part of my planning process, which usually begins in the back of my mind, several weeks ahead of anything being committed to paper. I have found over the years that whatever 'mental draft' comes into my head when I first think about it, is usually verbatim to the final copy committed to print several weeks later, though the original draft is rewritten a dozen times before I return to my original draft!
Another discipline I have adopted over the years, which often causes surprise, is I never retain any draft letters or leaflets following either an election or fund raising campaign. Many years ago I visited a long-serving agent in a 'safe' seat, who had probably been there a few years too long. I remember the horror (and also sense of sympathy) I felt when he opened-up the previous year's appeal letter and simply changed the date. "It's the same letter I have been using for years, no-one ever notices." That may, or may not, have been true, but he knew, and I suspect others did too.
Maybe the same people sent the same money as the always did, but he was clearly stale and had given-up trying to achieve new goals. I suspected that if he simply changed the date on the summer raffle letter, he almost certainly did likewise on the members' newsletters, membership renewals and perhaps even the election leaflets, too. I promised myself that every year I would start with a blank piece of paper and recreate everything from scratch - as if I was doing it for the very first time. Obviously over time you build up a mental library, but I at least try to keep it fresh. If I ever find myself simply changing the date it will be the time I seriously consider moving on to pastures new.
A number of readers have emailed to ask how we run our draw and make so much money. I will post samples of our letter and how we approach members and donors, as well as how we identify potential new draw donors, as soon as I have finalised the letter. Or, I could simply post last years - no-one will notice, will they?