I first realised that my old friend, the Liberal Party of Canada was on the path to recovery when they introduced the Supporter category early in 2012. Canadians were invited to formally become a supporter of the Liberal Party, and offered a vote in the leadership contest as an inducement. As I wrote in June, the idea nagged and teased me. I clarified my thoughts with a post on the potential impact of an easy to use self-identifier that wins an email address and commitment from just about any Canadian willing to call themselves Liberal. It took awhile, but by the time the Leadership contest commenced in earnest, every campaign was grappling with the implications, and more or less successfully gathering supporters as quickly as they could. In December, I was treated to a series of fundraising emails from the Liberal Party. I had signed up as a supporter, and was really interested in seeing HOW the Liberal Party used the contact information I had provided them. According to the information I gleaned from those fundraising emails, the new supporter category was starting to generate many hundreds of new fully paid up memberships, and first time donors to the Liberal Party. I expected it, but it was still very pleasant to see my earlier conclusions about the game changing nature of supporters for Liberals being translated into irrefutable dollars and cents.
According to publicly reported figures, the Liberal Party signed up 55,000 supporters PRIOR to the start date for the Leadership contest. That`s a whole lot of people voluntarily giving over their contact information, and making an internal commitment to support the Liberals. Mind you, these are the supporters came forward before the Leadership campaigns were vigorously recruiting and proselytising. Since that time, we have seen campaigns like George Takach identifying a `key constituency` (online gamers), and delivering his message of a digital bill of rights through the medium of email. I don`t know if this will get him a huge following, but it is smart. He correctly surmised that emails, and linked sign-up pages will be the keys to victory, so he went after a constituency that spends all their free time online. Another entirely predictable outcome of the changed ground rules has been the use of third-party mailing lists, and issue advocates to recruit Supporters for candidates, and the Party. There were recent media reports about the Construction Workers Union emailing their membership lists, and directing them to Justin Trudeau Supporter sign-up page on Trudeau`s website. Just have a quick look at that Union sign-up page. It speaks to my earlier posts on enriching the Liberalist database with additional actionable information on supporters and members. Every Union Joe who signs up will be identified as a Construction Worker Union member, who has an affinity for Justin Trudeau. Can you say `targetted communications`? The third example I want to mention is really exciting, because it has enormous potential, and demonstrates just exactly HOW the Liberal Party is going to be able to prepare for, and win the next General Election in 2015.
Wow! Win the next general election? Is bluegreenblogger off his rocker? Well last week there were a number of media reports regarding a huge boost to Joyce Murrays campaign that rocked my socks off. Several electoral co-operation advocacy groups have, more or less under their own steam recognised the potential of the supporter category to advance their POLICY interests with the Liberal Party. Leadnow boasting approximately 225,000 members, Fair Vote Canada, and other electoral co-operation advocates have been urging their `membership`to become supporters of the Liberals. Put this into perspective, during the recent NDP leadership race, Leadnow and Avaaz rounded up over 10,000 members`to support Nathan Cullens leadership bid. Wow! Those are full dues paying memberships, a much tougher sell than asking for email addresses and a little personal information.
Don`t get me wrong. I have not changed my mind about merging the `left`, and I still think it is a non-starter. But I think my point is well illustrated by this example. My point is that while affinity for the Liberals can certainly draw a whole lot of support (and money) out of the woodwork for the Liberals, issues and policy are really really powerful motivators. With very little effort on the behalf of the Liberal Party, I expect tens of thousands of Canadians are going to respond to an emailed invitation to join the Liberal Party as a Supporter in order to promote Leadnows and Fair Votes objectives. Which leads me to the entire point of this post.
The Supporter category has been an unqualified success in rapidly building up the numbers of contacts and supporters in Liberalist database. The Supporter category has also improved the quality of data (the depth so to speak) on many thousands of Liberals inclinations, policy leanings, and some third-party affiliations. The Supporter category has generated thousands of dollars of donations directly for the Liberal Party. The reason it has been so succesful is because it is very easy to join, there is no up front cost, and a small but tangible benefit (the right to vote for the Leader) is the reward. The problem is that this unqualified success is slated to come to an end next month when membership and supporter sign-ups are closed for leadership race purposes. How can the Liberal Party continue to re-build and re-organise at the current breakneck speed without anything tangible to offer Supporters? The answer is sooo simple it is scary. Open up policy formulation to supporters! Every supporter who signs up to vote for and promote their deeply held beliefs is worth a dozen people with a more ,or less vague affinity for a leadership candidate. They will be stepping forward with their time as volunteers, with their money as financial supporters, and their expertise for policy formulation, if only we give them the chance. Now is not the time to sit back and cheer about a one-off success. The Liberal Party has a historic opportunity to vault into the pole position for the next Federal General Election. Such a teeny. tiny innovation has the potential to revolutionise the Party, so please Liberals, do not let the opportunity pass.