Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Data Game

For those who missed it last night, The National’s report on how political parties use personal data should be mandatory watching for anyone in the Liberal Party’s head office. Despite some talk of renewal during the leadership race last year, it’s abundantly clear that the party is still eons behind the Tories structurally and it puts us at a huge disadvantage going into the next election. So far this year, the CPC have raised over 12 million dollars, versus 2.6 million for the Liberals…and the NDP. When you can’t even beat the NDP, something is terribly wrong.

And it’s not just fundraising – the CPC are going to start the next campaign with more identified voters and sign locations than us, and they’re going to start the next campaign with their massive fear factory. And, between now and then, they’ll keep softening the Liberal support up with their hokey, but effective, attack ads. Let’s face it – despite some communication weaknesses, Dion hasn’t actually had an awful first year as leader but the perception that he’s a weak leader has set in, mainly due to the Tory ads.

So what needs to be done? Well, rather than cry about the massive Conservative database of voters as being an infringement of privacy, get your own. The CBC piece featured the Liberal Manage Elect program but the problem with that system is that the data gets flushed after every campaign (at least in Alberta it does…it is possible that the party is more organized in Quebec Ontario). To the best of my knowledge, there’s no central database with donations history, voting patterns, volunteer records, and demographic data that could help the party tailor messaging directly to voters.

On the fundraising side, the LPC needs to take a close look at what those people named Barrack, Hillary, and Howard have done in the states and they should just bite the bullet and hire someone who knows what they’re doing to take over fundraising for the party. Get volunteers or hire people to phone every party member asking for a donation. Go through the list of party and leadership donors from last year and make sure they donate again this year, and next year, and the one after that (hell, if you keep good enough records, you’ll be able to hit up the Volpe kids legally in a few years). The LPC needs to get Liberals into the habit of donating to the party – and it needs to bluntly tell people that Stephen Harper is going to be Prime Minister for a long time unless average Liberals cut the yearly cheques to the party. Even the ALP have a fairly large direct deposit list for donations to the party but I’ve never seen anything like that for the federal party (again, Ontario may have it, but it just shows how the party needs to centralize more since there’s a ton of money to be milked from Alberta, if not votes).

Another good idea I heard from someone a lot smarter than I am is to structure field worker pay on an incentive system. If you’re going to hire party staff, why not make a couple hundred fundraising phone calls part of their job description, with a large chunk of their salary being determined on how much they can raise? Ideally, you’d also include incentives for membership renewals and other firm benchmarks that help grow the party.

The bottom line is there’s a lot of work to be done. There needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to build a database of comparable size and detail as the Tories’ and to get the LPC to the point where they’re raising at least half as much money as the Conservatives every year. At this point, the party’s financial and structural health is a lot more important than some of the policy and strategy debates no doubt going on inside of it.

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18 Comments:

  • Well said. More of this needs to be realized by other Liberal members.

    By Blogger Bailey, at 11:48 PM  

  • I work in the non-profit sector. Incentive based fundraising has some very gray areas in terms of ethics.

    Anyone willing to do fundraising work on the premise that they get a "bonus" or a "commission" is not working on behalf of a cause or for the betterment of society. They are now working for themselves. This puts people off.

    So these "bonus" or "commission" compensated fundraisers typically recycle their networks and create short-term and usually one-time blips in fundraising. Their motivation being that money. They get it, they move on.

    Liberals have enough to worry about; you don't want an army of commission salespeople hawking your brand. It's not good for the image.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 AM  

  • Great post. And it could get even worse. Right now, the Liberals are more or less surviving on the per vote subsidy. I have no doubt that should the Tories ever get a majority, they will eliminate that subsidy. It wouldn't pass in a minority, which is why I suspect they didn't try it in the Accountability Act. All the opposition parties, but particularly the Bloc and Liberals, need that money. The Tories don't, and the opposition would get very little public sympathy if it came to a fight. It would be great politics, and would seriously wound the Tories main competition.

    It really would be worst case scenario. If their was a Tory majority, we would likely have another leadership race. HQ would likely lose some staff to work on campaigns. Those remaining would be consumed with organizing the race and another convention. The donor base would be further picked at by mulitple leadership contestants. And no money would be coming in from Elections Canada to keep the party going or fund improvements.

    Liberals need to start realizing that, while this issue may not be all that glamorous or exciting, it is vital to the party's future success.

    By Anonymous cls, at 12:50 AM  

  • “If you’re going to hire party staff, why not make a couple hundred fundraising phone calls part of their job description, with a large chunk of their salary being determined on how much they can raise?”

    I certainly hope not! You’re going to lose donations if you send untrained people to solicit.

    Why don’t you lay the blame on the office holders in the party, including the Riding Presidents?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:27 AM  

  • As a lapsed Ontario Federal Liberal (lapsed only because I was too lazy to do much while attending grad school) who did some random party stuff here and there, I'd have to agree with a lot of what you have to say.

    What really kills Liberals though is the long held belief amongst Liberals that 'we have the best ground game'. It's a continuing view and an extremely strong one amongst Liberals.... and one that will continue to be the parties greatest source of inertia against making any kind of radical change.

    By Blogger Ivan, at 1:45 AM  

  • Good points, but I think you missed the main one. The CPC, and especially the old Reform membership that is now part of it, has had a long time working from the grass roots. Hence their comprehensive database.

    The LPC has for way to many years gone for funding from the elites (not just my opinion, the Election Canada reports confirm this). Th LPC ignored any need to develop a grass root movement, and it is paying for the problem now.

    As a conservative, I am glad that is the case. I agree it means the LPC will be in financial difficulty for many years. It has only a small loyal base, a base I suspect in reality is probably smaller than the NDP, who does have a grass roots history.

    Although what Chretien did when he brought in the reform was ethical and a proper move, he also killed the ability for the LPC to fund raise and stay an effective voice for many years. I would be surprised that Chretien did not know the effect, as he was as good a strategist and street fighter as Harper is.

    Unless and until the LPC can get grass roots buy in, they will continue to have problems. Heck, even the Canadian Wildlife Federation brought in more money than the LPC last year (10,322,810)! And they are just a bunch of hunters and anglers who figured out how to get funds from little ole' ladies in tennis shoes that live in downtown Toronto to do wildlife work.

    Right now, the LPC does not have a story to sell, a leader that appears to lead, or a real chance at government. Not until that changes can the LPC expect to have something that would resonate with the grass roots, and only then will this milase turn around.

    It is a good time to be a conservative.

    By Blogger Andy, at 2:38 AM  

  • Until very recently, the Liberal Party has generally been the acknowledged masters at raising money (and putting together attack ads, for that matter). What went wrong? How could they have fallen so far behind?

    And I wouldn't talk to the Hillary or Obama camps - talk to the Bush camp. That's the camp that raised record-high sums of money, and won record-high votes for one of the least popular Presidents in history.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:06 AM  

  • Andy; Agreed. The Conservatives (especially Reform side) have long been working on the small grass roots donations so they've adapted better to the new fundraising rules.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:13 AM  

  • "their massive fear factory"

    as long as you guys buy into this kinda of pathetic "thinking", you are getting what you deserve.

    Couldn't happen to nicer people.

    Want to borrow my shovel ??

    By Blogger Fred -, at 12:13 PM  

  • "Although what Chretien did when he brought in the reform was ethical and a proper move, he also killed the ability for the LPC to fund raise and stay an effective voice for many years. I would be surprised that Chretien did not know the effect, as he was as good a strategist and street fighter as Harper is."

    It is almost like he held a grudge for something....

    I think the problem with the Libs are having in gaining donations is more than just organizational. The post below making fun of the fringe parties ignores the reality that it is often people who feel passionately about even one issue who feel compelled to donate to a party in order to further that agenda. I fail to see a single issue where people wouldn't be better off donating to the Cons, NDP, Bloc, or Greens unless your voting issue happened to be even larger corporate tax cuts and more regressive laws on income trusts...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

  • "Until very recently, the Liberal Party has generally been the acknowledged masters at raising money (and putting together attack ads, for that matter). What went wrong? How could they have fallen so far behind?"

    They weren't raising money THEY WERE STEALING IT. Taxpayers money to fund their re-election. And they got caught, thats what happened.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:59 PM  

  • WOW, nice post!

    And I agree with Andy's post script for sure... the Liberal Party has ignored grassroots for far too long to turn this around anytime soon. His words are wisely heeded.

    Personally Dan, I'll be honest - I think the LPC is in danger right now. I hope they turn it over, b/c our system works best with a strong opposition, and I don't want to have any "natural governing party". But I'm not sure they're going to pull it around anytime soon.

    Anyway, wonderful and smart post.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 5:04 PM  

  • Good advice for Liberals on the come-back trail.

    Big public announcement of a new coalition with the Greens.

    How can ya lose? People don*t want to waste their vote on a tiny green party, yet it is an opportunity for the Liberals to bring the * Green Vote * on board.

    Never say a conservative can*t be helpful or is unable to empathize with the ailing Liberal party.

    There are many excellent liberals like CG, I just wish they would take over the party.

    The National Dipstick Party would be a disaster. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 5:24 PM  

  • Well done! Keep it up!

    More, More.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:23 PM  

  • Don Boudria pointed out last week that the Liberals spent 1 million to raise 11 million last year, while the conservatives spent 6 million to raise 17 million.

    People too easily forget that 1/3 of the money the Con's raise goes right back into hassling people for money.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 PM  

  • This will cheer up you Liberals.. fellow Canadians after all.

    While Conservatives have done some good things.. and I appreciate that, they have made a mistake in crushing Electric Vehicle Manufacturers in Canada.

    All two [2] of them, even though their EVs met DOT standards. *Smelly*, but like the Liberal Party, PCs are between a rock and a hard place on this.

    Both parties rely on and get funding from Exxon, Chevron, Shell and GM and re-election is the life and death of any political team.

    Now I am a free enterpriser, but Exxon has become a dictator with profits over 36,000,000,000.00. . That*s supposed to be 36 Billion$.

    Exxon beat the 4 Billion$ penalty for Valdez down to 2 Billion$ and now they are appealing for $0.

    Well, that*s no class at all! You think they could pay for some part of the clean up?

    [Google ExxonSecrets sometime]

    I any case, we should be able to buy an Electric Vehicle and there are two made in Canada.

    Zenn made in Quebec and Dynasty made in Delta BC.

    With the high Cdn dollar, these guys are gasping for life, while EV makers in the USA are flourishing.

    I don*t like it at all! Too much like living in Russia! = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 10:05 PM  

  • Ooops forgot to suppy *da Proof*

    Here is the video News clip from no less than Mansbridge himself. = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 10:08 PM  

  • Sorry, it*s been a long day...

    http://TonyGuitar.blogspot.com

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 10:10 PM  

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