It’s Volunteers’ Week! Now is the perfect time to take a moment to show our appreciation to all the volunteers in our local parties who keep us going.
The Liberal Democrats are nothing without our volunteers, our members and supporters. I am always super interested in what makes our volunteers tick. Why do they spend their Saturday afternoons out talking to people on doorsteps in their local town or shoving leaflets through rural letter boxes? What was it that convinced them to sign up as a supporter or a member?
Everyone’s story is different. Taking these four things into account when working with members and volunteers can be a great place to start on building an inclusive, happy and successful team.
Finding out “why?”
People get involved with the party for all kinds of reasons. They believe in what we stand for, they like or support a particular candidate, they are the kind of person that likes to volunteer, they enjoy the social side of things or they want to make a difference in their community.
Understanding what motivates our members to be part of the team can help to create a really positive experience for them. When new members pop up in our areas, we shouldn’t be leaving them to fend for themselves, they should be welcomed and made to feel included and that their voice is important straight away.
COVID and now the cost of living crisis have made us all aware that things in everyone’s lives can change very quickly and the same 12 month time period will be experienced by everyone very differently. How often do you or your local party check in with your members? We pride ourselves on working all year round for our residents but are you applying the same level of investment in your membership and your volunteer supporters?
Talking to catch up through the year can be an opportunity to build relationships to celebrate successes and raise any issues that might arise. Being accessible to your membership and keeping them informed about what is going is really important. More and more local parties are now sending out a regular membership newsletter or setting up membership phonebanks.
In Horsham, the Chair and Membership Officer regularly call the members to ask if there is anything more that they would like to be involved with. This has firstly improved relationships between the executive and the wider membership, but has also meant that more of the membership have become actively involved in campaigning. An important added bonus to this volunteer empowerment is that Horsham Liberal Democrats took control of the Council in May and the did that together! A huge change for them and for their residents.
Making it fun
Being a member of the Lib Dems should be fun and opportunities to socialise together can be really important. When considering what to do, making sure there are different options to get together can have a positive impact on who feels able to be involved. As an example, are all your social gatherings in the upstairs room of a pub? Is their access for those with disabilities? Are all the opportunities to hang out socially at the same time?
Louis Morales from Woking spoke to membership officers in the South East recently about the different things her local party were doing including running quizzes hosting dinners and coffee mornings and “pizza and politics” nights.
The National party website has a checklist to assess the accessibility of events for local parties to use and there are also useful resources in the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit on the ALDC website.
Aristotle looked into how the health of individual relationships underpin political communities and evidence now continues to show that teams that feel valued, safe and free to be who they are more productive.
Following the local elections I have seen some lovely examples of how teams value each other. Sending members personalised cards after elections, hosting “thank you” parties, giving each deliverer a little gift each time they do a delivery, even baking for meetings.
One local party recently gave out “golden spatula” awards to their local teams who had been helpful. Giving members and supporters the opportunity to be as involved as they want and making sure they have opportunities to succeed in whatever that looks like for them is absolutely key to building a team that enjoys it’s time together and gets things done.
Sometimes being in politics can be tough. This can often be especially true for people who are traditionally under represented in politics. Going back to your own “why?” and taking time to find out other’s can get you all feeling like you are back on the same page. Taking time to value the wellbeing, support anyone that is having a hard time and actively working on the inclusion of all our members and supporters can be one of the most rewarding things we can do for each other.