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More Tasks for Every Party Group

and while these remarks were originally written for the Libertarian Party, they are mostly equally applicable to any other third party.

Number Six: Grass Roots Organizing.

Grass Roots Organizing is an Important Activity.

By definition, the National Committee cannot do grass roots organizing. If the LNC organized it, by definition it was done from the top down, not by the grass roots. However, the LNC can provide support and ideas, so that if the grass roots choose to organize, they have something to organize around and some tools to help that organization advance. The LNC could also supply libertarian community organizers, people who would be sent to a community to help create effective libertarian grass roots organizations. Don’t think community organizing works? Look up Saul Alinsky and read his final book.

Number Seven: Fund Raising

Fund raising is a Mission Critical activity. Without money, the organization collapses. Fund raising is only a means, not an end. You can raise all the money you want, but fund raising by itself does not get you an inch closer to the Libertarian future.

As important as fund raising is fund spending. If you waste the money you raise, you won’t accomplish anything. And you’ll find it a lot more difficult to raise more money next time. Remember all those old letters promising to spend money on this or that, except all the money went to support the back office? All those old letters wrecked the credibility of the LNC.

Spending? The difference between hiring because it sounds prestigious, and hiring because the employees add value, should be instantly apparent. The difference between renting space because it sounds prestigious, and because it adds value, should be equally obvious. The LNC must ask what real political results it gains each time it spends its hard-won donations.

The Libertarian political movement is not a public relief project. The Libertarian political movement cannot afford a parasite that sucks the movement’s life blood and leaves the movement weaker rather than stronger when it finishes feeding. Libertarians should insist that Libertarian money is well spent, and close their checkbooks when it is not. The Libertarian Renaissance will make sure that the LNC spends its money well and wisely, and that you can see that we are doing so.

Number Eight: Member Acquisition and Retention

Member Acquisition is a Mission Critical Activity.

We are a member-based organization. Without members and the support they provide, we would have nothing. When someone makes their first donation to the party, however small, they have made an investment that they may be unwilling to give up, leading to another act of support, and another, and another.

Member retention is a key diagnostic. If membership is growing, you may be doing right things. If your members are leaving in droves, there is a strong signal that you are failing to deliver what the membership wants.

However, membership acquisition and retention will not elect a single Libertarian. Only Doing Real Politics will get people elected.

Number Nine: The Back Office

The Back Office is a Mission Critical Activity. Every Libertarian organization has certain nuts and bolts operations it absolutely must run correctly.

Legal obligations. Many groups are subject to legal reporting requirements because they handle political money. Those regulations are complex, and lead to severe legal repercussions if not followed carefully.

Legal obligations are the reason we must have a physical office. We report our financial transactions to the Federal Election Commission. We are obliged to give honest and accurate reports, or there are severe legal penalties. Now, suppose that someone has their hand in the till. This is a hypothetical, though recall that sitting U.S. Senator who lost close to $5 million this way. If you lost money, and didn’t report it as stolen in your FEC filing, your report was false. You are allowed a ‘we did not know’ defense, but in order to claim that defense you need to have taken certain safety precautions. This is what is called a ‘safe harbor’ defense. The detailed rules are on the FEC web site, but in brief, for a national party, the person who opens envelopes and records donations, the person who reconciles internal records with bank statements, and the person who can sign checks need to be three different people.

Operational obligations:  If you have an office, you pay the rent on time.  If you have a URL, you pay the registration fees.  If you have a post office box, you pay the Postal Service. If you have employees, you have a  vast number of obligations. Fail to do these, and there will be negative consequences.

Member Obligations. Many Libertarian groups have a Constitution or By-Laws. The details may vary, but in the end a libertarian group belongs to its members. Nothing kills a dues-based membership club faster than nominally regular events that do not happen. You can recruit all you want. If you don’t deliver newsletters, meetings, etc., as promised your renewals will dry up. For a prime example, consider that our LNC’s monthly newsletter has gradually faded from monthly to less than monthly to perhaps quarterly, and as it faded our membership lapses soared.

Back Office is absolutely vital. If you don’t handle it well, your organization will collapse. However, a good Back Office won’t elect a single libertarian to anything.

You’ve just heard nine activities that every libertarian party group should perform. Four are Mission Critical. Five are only Important, except the only way to justify your existence–Activity Number One–is to perform some of those merely Important activities.