We have reached a tipping point in one of my Associations where the number of donors (ie, residents who respond to appeals, buy draw tickets or pay to attend social events) has exceeded the number of members.
Having said that, Chatham & Aylesford (the smallest of the three Associations I work for) has had more donors than members for many years now.
The money raised from donors, is just as valuable as membership, but I would like to find ways to involve these people more in our work and campaigning. Clearly they don't wish to join (they have been regularly asked and have declined the opportunity to do so!), but as many contribute each year, they are clearly committed Conservatives. Without frightening them off, how do we involve them?
With political membership in decline, all parties are fishing in shallower pools for their talent. Similarly, as membership dwindles so there is a real danger that the people who are interviewing and selecting the candidates represent a narrower world view.
I would love to involve donors and registered supporters in the LG candidate selection process, but I cannot see a way to do so within the CCHQ Selection Guidelines (which I fully support). Perhaps in the future we might consider asking the branch committee (where they exist, or the Local Government Committee where they do not) to drawn up a shortlist of candidates and then allowing closed primaries (open to all paid-up members, donors and registered supporters) to hear and question the candidates and make the final selection? It's worth a thought. If CCHQ wish to try it out, I am happy to ask the Chairman to put it on the agenda for discussion here in West Kent.
In the meantime, however, all three Associations have now signed-off an ambitious plan to reach out to the wider community in a bid to attract new candidates and, hopefully, councillors. All will be revealed on the official launch day - Friday 12 July. Watch this space!