Via email from George Phillies. New Path for the LP is a slate of candidates for the Libertarian National Committee, and George Phillies is their candidate for Chair. This is Step 6 of Part Three of the 63-page New Path plan for the LP. IPR is not endorsing any LNC candidates, and is interested in articles from all the different campaigns.
Step Six — How to Reach Sarah and Mike
The Practice of Scientific Membership Acquisition
No bones about it: We Need Growth, or We Will Die.
Fine. How do we return to days gone by when our membership was growing?
The first answer is to revive the LNC’s credibility. We need to be seen as doing real politics. We need to put resources where they will have the biggest bang for the buck. Nobody wants to give time or money just to pay overhead. Yes, people understand there has to be *some* overhead. But nobody (except the dominant coalition on the LNC, who voted for the current overhead level) considers our current overhead level to be acceptable.
Activists need and deserve activity. We need to show a lot of it, soon, or we will fail to justify being supported. Activity may start slowly, but there must be more as time passes.
People need to be given a good reason to give time and money. When people see effective activity, they will be more open with their wallets. The New Path plan will give that effective activity. As a result, membership will start to grow.
The next way to expand the membership is to stop the bleeding. In the last five years we saw two massive spikes in the membership lapse rate: first from mid-2005 to early 2007; then from early 2008 to late 2009.
What happened in that timeframe that led longtime members to give up on the LP?
Main reasons were:
In the first spike, multiple changes from $25 Dues to Zero Dues to $50 dues to $25 donations.
Dilution of the historical LP message and wholesale scrapping of the platform in 2006.
Recruitment (by members of the current LNC dominant faction) and nomination of former conservative Republicans Barr and Root in 2008, along with the adoption of a watered down, nuanced platform document.
Failure to engage in effective political activity, so the LP appeared to drop from sight.
People fled for the exits. We’ve now had a shocking loss of institutional memory in the LP. As late as 2005, more than half the LP’s members had been members for at least five years. Now, the majority of the members have belonged for less than two years.
A change in direction and increased activity will staunch the loss of members. But that is not all we must do.
There are several obvious ways to gain more members. The mechanism we chose must be evaluated scientifically. Fortunately, we have the tools and information needed for that analysis.
We explained in the Section on Raising and Spending Money why we don’t plan to do cold-call direct mail. Under present conditions, it’s just money down the drain. However, we have other ways to recruit new members.
First, we’ll make maximum use of the marketing tools of 2010: blogs, podcasting, social media like Facebook and Twitter, You Tube, and other means.
Second, we will increase our membership by improving our Web presence. At present we spend in excess of $100,000 per year on electronic communications – the lp.org
website, email and the like.
We are not getting nearly our money’s worth. Outside experts generally agree our website could be improved a great deal, and is not optimized for the tasks we want it to fulfill.
The New Path team will do a complete redesign of lp.org
. We will improve it dramatically and at a much lower cost as well. The new website will be a destination for all interested in liberty. Rather than engage in the “interruption marketing” of days gone by, we will pull people in to our message and then get their permission to communicate with them again. Establishing communication with a “warm” contact – someone who has interacted with us and given permission to us to reciprocate – has a very high success rate.
Pursuing warm contacts, people who have asked to hear from us, is Marketing 2010.
However, there is a third way to increase our membership. We’ve saved the best for last.
Our best customers – our best prospects by far for membership – are the people we know, and the people they know.
Our first line of new member sources is our own membership.
Why not say to all existing members: Bring a Friend. When you do, we will give you a benefit. After all, a new member is typically worth $125 to our party. When you bring in a friend, you just gave the party $125 at no cost to us. Potential benefits could include:
one year’s membership extension,
gift certificates to libertarian book companies, or
outright cash awards.
If every member brings in a new member every year, by 2016 we would have one million members. We aren’t counting on that happening, but it certainly points in the right direction.
To recruit members, we also need to make better use of the media and public relations tools.
One of the current LNC chair candidates has been very vocal in his desire to use the media. On that score he is right. But here is where he is wrong: He is targeting media outlets that are highly unlikely to produce converts for us.
In fact, he has been focusing 100 percent on the area on the Nolan Chart opposite to where Libertarians live! That’s the authoritarian Republican area where Fox News and Neocons dwell.
Furthermore, he is using the wrong success metrics. The proper metrics are not how many times he has been on conservative talk radio or on Fox News. The right metrics are the ones the New Path team recognizes, including:
number of party members,
monthly and annual revenue for the LNC,
membership lapse rates,
average member cash contribution,
number of identified Libertarians seeking contested public offices,
– cash on hand (in number of days expenses),
– visits to our web site,
– earned media: mentions by the regular press, and
– growth of state and local parties.
Of course, to advance those metrics you need to emphasize the Libertarian Party, not the Republican Tea Party.
Finally, some words about direct mail… and a pledge from James Oaksun.
We aren’t fundamentally hostile to direct mail, no matter what the incumbent treasurer or his claque may say. Direct mail can, under certain circumstances, “work”. We may find unusual opportunities. Certainly a mailing to Ron Paul donors, if we had legal list access, might be very rewarding. However, we must note some challenges.
We will never have any success at direct mail if our response rates are 0.3-0.5 percent, not unless the responders are giving us big money. At present, they are not.
If we do decide that we need to do direct mail, we have ways to increase the response rate.
We need to use better lists and write better letters. Historically, we have largely mailed to far-right-wing and financial mailing lists. Those people were remote from us in 1998, and are far more remote from us now.
Probably the most sensitive variable in any direct mail effort is the response rate. In direct mail parlance, the increase in the response rate is called the “lift”. Organizations that do significant amounts of direct mail devote substantial resources to improving the lift through better copy writing and better list selection.
We can illustrate the importance of lift with an example. Let’s go back to that example earlier of obtaining 15,000 new members. What happens if the response rate is different, but all other rates are the same? If the response rate is different, so are the financial consequences. The sensitivity of the cash return to the response rate is staggering.
Response Rate Net Present Value at 8%
Move the response rate from 0.3% to 1.0%, and the net return on recruiting 15,000 members goes from a $700,000 loss to a nearly $800,000 profit.