The July 2017 membership report has sparked some discussion on the LNC list.
Patrick McKnight writes:
I don’t understand why our declining membership isn’t our number one priority as an organization. These reports come out showing we have a real problem and no one seems to notice. Too often the LNC is too busy having pointless philosophical debates amongst ourselves while people are voting
with their feet and leaving the party.
I would like us to do an email survey of our membership to determine what people like and don’t like about the party. I don’t accept this culture of failure that since our numbers went up last year they have to go down this year.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this problem. But I think a good place to start is simply asking our membership. It would be free and we might learn something.
Interest in liberty is exploding, if our numbers don’t reflect that we are doing something wrong.
LNC Region 8 Rep
Chair, New Jersey Libertarian Party
Caryn Ann Harlos replied:
How many LNC members took me up on my challenge to call lapsed members?
It’s easy to say what others or “we” should do.
The last time you said this Patrick I took it to heart and *I* did something.
I call lapsed members nearly every day.
It’s hard to get people on the phone, but when I do (do we want the truth?) this is what I hear in order of frequency:
1. Economy is bad and they lost their job
2. They’ve been a member and they felt we’re no longer representing what we claim to (i.e. the last election was a missed opportunity, the candidates did not represent a different enough liberty message)
3. Waxing and waning interest in politics concurrent with the election seasons
That is what I hear. The stories of number 1 are heartbreaking. I’ve gotten my rear chewed out with stories of 2 and managed to retain some of them by being nice and letting them yell.
My effort alone is obviously a drop in a sea. But I decided to be part of the solution.
There were several other rounds of responses between Patrick and Caryn Ann, which can be seen along with other comments in the thread by doing a search for “Jul Membership Report” here.
Joshua Katz added:
I would like to add a suggestion here in a different direction. Do we care? This term, we have not adopted goals, but we did last term – and increasing or maintaining memberships wasn’t on the list. I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m being serious – maybe memberships is not a metric we find all that illuminating. Sure, we need funds, and paid memberships are one way of obtaining funds, but only one way. They’re a way that non-profits, seemingly across the board, have found to be declining in importance and value. Maybe that’s part (I think most things that happen are over-determined and we should look for patterns, not 1-1 relationships) of what this declining number is telling us.
I agree we should not simply expect a drop in support following the Presidential year. A drop in paid memberships? Maybe. People have many reasons to become members, and if those are temporary reasons (attending convention, considering running for LNC) they might not renew when those
reasons no longer apply.
It’s become a trope that “millennials don’t join things.” If that’s true, then we should start now to plan what our organization can look like in 10 years with a different model. Personally, I think that regardless of what millennials do, we should be making those plans, because a membership model is a temporary solution, not one that will always be best once we’ve attained a certain size and level of success.
I don’t know that membership is a useful thing to watch while driving, so to speak. I’m much more interested in races won, registered voters in places where that can happen, contested nominations, and similar markers. Those too are long-range indicators, though, and I suspect that the sorts of solutions we are likely to come up with regarding membership, will drive those as well.
Joshua A. Katz
Wes Benedict replied:
Patrick, I share your concern regarding our dues-paying membership decline and think a survey would be worthwhile.
I have done some surveys in the past by snail mail, but it’s been a while. I think it’s time to do another set.
See attached survey mailings.
See some survey results on page 7 of LP News:
I found the two responses regarding the Tea Party questions to be especially illustrative.
I will plan to do another survey this Fall.
I’ll also be asking for a budget increase at this LNC meeting to pay for prospecting for new donors/members to lists that have routinely been our best performers.
Wes Benedict, Executive Director
Libertarian National Committee, Inc.
A screenshot of that 2011 LP News article referenced (click on image to enlarge for easier readability):
Replied continue to be added to the LNC discussion thread. I have also sent in a response myself, which does not appear on the LNC list as I am not a current member, although I did say that if any of the recipients want to forward it to the rest of the list they can. I’ll also post it as a comment here since it could be a violation of IPR rules on self-publishing editorials for me to put it in the article.