By Kerrie Fuller

Associate Director of Engagement

MemberWise Network

Membership of political parties has been in steady decline since its peak in the early 1950s. As a (overdue!) response to this, in 2018, three academics were funded to research key trends and issues with political party membership. Here are the top 5 lessons we can learn from this sector:

1. Understand your members’ characteristics

The report revealed that the majority of members of political parties are: male, white, middle class and in their fifties. What a surprise! All political parties need to work on attracting more women, more ethnic minorities, more working-class citizens, more young people. This means that their membership recruitment strategy needs to look at how they position their membership offer with these new audiences.

They also asked members what OTHER organisations they joined (National Trust, Trade Unions, RSPB, English Heritage and Saga). This resulted in a list of organisations to advertise/partner with for future member recruitment.

2. Understand why members join

When asked, members gave the following reasons (in order) as to why they joined their party:

  • Support the parties’ policies
  • Oppose other parties’ policies
  • Belief in party leadership
  • Take part in leadership elections
  • Mix with like-minded people
  • Influence of friends and family
  • Get involved in politics as an elected official/career reasons

The top three reasons are intangible – very hard to measure or market to others. If you know why your members join, can you turn the intangible into tangible so that it is easier to measure and market?

3. Understand your communication channels

Members listed which communication channel prompted them to join (in order):

  • Political news in the national media
  • Website
  • Friends or family referral
  • Party political broadcast
  • Email campaign
  • Colleague at work
  • Canvasser/face to face
  • Social media

Political parties have no control over reason one! The second reason reveals a need to have a fantastic website that sells your membership offer.

“Parties probably shouldn’t waste valuable canvassing time trying to recruit people ‘on the doorstep’. Encourage supporters and members to talk positively about the party to family and friends seems like a better way to go”.

Great advice! Get your members to sell/market your membership for you. How do you reward them?

4. Understand your member’s challenges

When asked what challenges member experience, they said:

  • PROBLEM: Activism means time away from the family. SOLUTION: Can you create micro volunteering opportunities or family-oriented activities?
  • PROBLEM: Volunteering activities are boring. SOLUTION: Can you skills match and give volunteers jobs that better meet their skills and expectations?
  • PROBLEM: Leadership don’t engage with members. SOLUTION: Does your CEO interact with members regularly enough? Are you transparent with decisions made/plans and strategies?

If you don’t ask what the problems are, you can’t begin to solve them.

5. Measure your member engagement

The report revealed the ways members engage with their party (in order):

  • Liked something on Facebook/Twitter
  • Displayed a poster
  • Donated money
  • Delivered leaflets
  • Attended event
  • Canvassing (face to face/phone)
  • Ran a committee meeting
  • Drove voters to a polling station

There are many volunteering opportunities that are naturally ordering in terms of effort. Political parties should now be trying to work out how to move people up this ladder of engagement. Have you captured the engagement activities across your organisation? How will you encourage members to do more?

Want more info? Download the full report here: https://esrcpartymembersprojectorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/grassroots-pmp_final.pdf

Come and hear from the Liberal Democrats at MEMX19 about their race to 130,000 members, making them the UK’s second largest political party. You can find out more about the session and our other fantastic speakers here: https://membershipexcellence.com/programme/

(c) 2019 – MemberWise Network (all rights reserved)