A relentless call for donations: The last 65 emails from the Liberals
Dec 16, 2013

A relentless call for donations: The last 65 emails from the Liberals

Starting the day that Justin Trudeau was elected as the leader of the Liberal Party, I have received 65 emails from the LPC's main bulk email account, most with Trudeau's name attached. Of that 65, 52 of them have been calls for donations, in under eight months. December has been particularly bad, with more than daily emails coming in on their big end of 2013 donation push. 

Precisely how these emails go about asking for donations does indeed change. Sometimes, they provide a bit of political discussion about, say, the Senate Scandal, or Conservative negative attack ads in their calls, or talk rather vaguely about building a movement. A couple times the donation call is even relegated to a bolded post script. Most of the time, however, it is just right out there front and centre with no pretension of being an email that includes anything else. 

The emails that are not calls for donations are not much more substantive. A thank you after being elected, a few emails on the Senate Scandal, an occasional information email about a live telecast or local byelection. 65 emails later? There was precisely nothing that interested me, a self professed political junkie. 

Who reads these emails? Does the 52nd call for donations in 8 months really bring in people that didn't donate after 51 emails? I suppose so, and the coffers go in the right direction otherwise they wouldn't keep doing this. But there is an opportunity cost that comes from failing to engage supporters with the party by constantly talking about the issues that matter, providing relevant information, contrasting your values, and organizing the base to push on various components of the platform. 

I got on this mailer when I, quite happily, signed up to be a supporter of the Liberal party in order to vote in their leadership nominations, as I did for the NDP. Hundreds of thousands of people across Canada became first time members in this contest and it was a perfect opportunity for the Liberals to be able to connect with voters. It was an opportunity I fear they have squandered. 

I fully understand that donations are incredibly important. The Liberals (and the NDP) suffer a pretty significant fundraising deficit relative to the Conservatives who routinely out raise them, and money is a huge determiner of electoral success, so its importance can't be understated. By all accounts, the Liberals new approach to fundraising has been successful, particularly at gaining large numbers of small donations (the emails first asked for $10, then $5, and now $3 dollars, at least to people who don't donate). Perhaps they will achieve their ostensible goal of beating even the Conservatives this one quarter. So I don't suggest that a push for donations should be done away with entirely. 

Instead, I have this (probably naive) vision where the party could send out a roughly weekly email that would be both informative and provocative. For instance, it would inform people of some of the current issues of the day being debated in parliament or in the public discourse, lay out the Liberal position and argue for it, provide links to further data and the like. And, of course, it would make calls for donations. It isn't an either/or proposition, we can have both. You can even put the call to donation at the top, front and centre, as long as there is some actual cause to read and engage with the email. 

This way, those hundreds of thousands of new supporters would be able to better understand what the Liberal party is about, and potentially become stronger supporters. As it is, I suspect the emails mainly achieve the goal of irritating and disenfranchising these voters. 

Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again: whatever one does with these emails, using the main address to make calls to retire the debt of failed leadership candidates is completely unacceptable. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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1 comment:

GM in Toronto said...

Reading your post reminded me of exactly how I feel regarding the similar stream from the NDP (of which I'm a member and donor). I have unsubscribed from most of their email lists but wish there was a way to remain connected with party positions -- which I now ONLY hear about through media coverage, the latter likely being limited or even skewed.

For an example of in-depth and well-written communications, one needs to be on Elizabeth May's list. The Green Party doesn't overdo it and as a result, I tend not to dismiss their emails. In fact, I read/engage with them intellectually. It could get to the point where I might even consider switching support because I'm so impressed. It seems to me that "traditional" parties like the Liberals and NPD should be concerned about such outcomes. Mind you, perhaps there is more "reward" in harvesting small donations from many, uncritical people instead of trying to lure more thoughtful, i.e. hard-to-please political people like me. Still, with all that sophisticated software out there, couldn't parties easily hone in on those who want substantial communications vs the more casual ones?

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