Should membership be paid or free?


#1

There are benefits and downfalls to both, namely:

Paid membership

  • Represents steady income for the party (assuming members renew each year)
  • Represents a certain level of commitmment, as you wouldn’t give money if you didn’t at least agree with the aims
  • Can prevent people from becoming members, either because they can’t afford it or don’t want to donate money on a regular basis (normally parties offer different types of membership, e.g. students get a discount)

Free membership

  • The main advantage is that you can grow faster, as there is no “monetary bottleneck” in the way of joining, you just fill a form with your details
  • More members, means more people spreading the message, which can translate into more donations in the long run
  • People adverse to your aims might join to wreck things internally, but this is unlikely and the constitution has safeguards against this

I’m swayed toward free membership, but I don’t know whether there’s anything missing from this picture. What do you think? Which option would you go with? Both from an organisational point of view and from a personal point of view, i.e. are you more willing to think about joining a party if it’s free to join?


#2

As an addendum: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN05125/membership-of-uk-political-parties

Also, parties such as the Swedish Pirate Party offer free membership.


#3

I do not think I have come to a personal conclusion as of yet, but at the very least I can offer some sort of critical analysis which may lead to future decisions.

The way I see it, paid membership may be required in the long run because things cost money in this world. Like or not, the Party will begin its life in the system it wishes to destroy.This isn’t a preference, its a fact. Can you rationally run an organisation without an income (not that it has to be a large income, quite the opposite.) I would question just how much choice we have in the matter.

From personal experience, I have been running an organisation for two years and I chose not to charge membership, believing that creative endeavours should be for their own sake. As noble as this idea may have been at the time, it left me the sole financial funder. Like, come on, I’m a University student, I don’t have money! It meant I had to work extra hours in a menial job. So what if I moved? What if I lost my job? Circumstances chance and if the sole funder were to hit hard times, the whole ship sinks.

It really may be a necessity to socialise the expense of this movement in the current UK climate.

It may also be of some worth to consider the values which the party stands for. A Meritocracy isn’t communism, there is no ‘absolute welfare,’ your presence within the party has to be of value to the organisation. Thus we cannot really expect a vast or popular following like Pirate Party. It’s a privacy related movement at its core. Privacy is massively popular and topical in European culture right now. And lets face it, we are as popular as the chicken pox!

In my view, we are going to operate on a small membership for a long time, and it may require funding to survive because we won’t be ‘propped up’ by popularity or generous donors from the public.

But, I do emphasise, the fee does not have to be a lot. Like come on, I’m a penniless student, I was able to contribute something. I just forewent my weekly consumption of sugary sweets.

I do think, if this is going to work, we are going to have to make personal sacrifices. Is it fair? Hell no, but the whole point of our existence is to MAKE things fair. We may have to take some punches, but its not about US, it is about future generations.

Okay, now to critique the Free membership proposal.

Free stuff is awesome! People actually feel good when they gain something without personal expense. Buying something is a trade off, an equivalent. So the reward mechanism in your brain doesn’t kick in, but things that are free. It is like being given a gift. It feels good. You are absolutely correct it will make faster growth. But who will join in that case? People who are proven to make sacrifices and are willing to think of the community over themselves, or some subculture rebels who just want to get in on the next free thing which makes them feel good and ‘alternative.’?

Think about this too, the Pirate dudes work the privacy line, like the Greens work the Environmental line, the Conservatives the Low Tax line and Labour the welfare line (until recently anyway.)

What is our line? Meritocracy is not something you can make into a soundbite. Even equal opportunities for every child is a good one, but to what extent is it meaningful dramatically? What does that line, which is what most people will absorb actually tell you? Not very much. To be honest, it sounds kind of like an NGO like Oxfam, like we are about to go an build schools for african kids. Very noble yes, but it relates NOTHING to our grander revolutionary goals and dramatically it PROMISES nothing.

“We promise to protect your privacy, save you from global warming, lower taxes, give your free health care etc etc” Those statements are promise makers. They attract the masses. Quick, to the point, not complicated.

BUT

We aren’t like that. Meritocrats are people who look beyond the obvious, who actually go and read something and think about it. To what extent to what want to ‘grow’ quickly when we attract people who aren’t meritocrats! They may agree with us on a simple level but to what extent do they support or enhance the dialectical evolution of the group? Indeed when they sit a ‘Meritocratic Challenge’ and they lose, they will feel bad and excluded and the high from free membership may have long departed at that point.

And yes you mentioned you have systems to filter out the fakers, but again, do we want a reputation of rejecting lots and lots of people? That would make us seem elitist and harsh to the extreme.

I guess what I am really trying to tease out, isn’t whether or not we need to pay, even if we pay the maount is miniscule. It is the social and cultural effects of the IDEA of paying?

In what way does either choice alter the perception of the public? How will it effect the ‘decoding’ of our message? The choice we make must be the one which supports our cause the very most.

So all of you serious Meritocrats, think of that, what does Party Payment SAY about us? What does it IMPLY to the public mind?


#4

If we’re serious about getting up and running for the next election I think It makes sense go with the free membership at the moment in order to grow faster.


#5

I think we can be smarter than relying on currency.


#6

The way I see it, it’s about the activation ladder, which would boil down to something like this:

  1. Andrew is a member of the general public, he hasn’t heard of us before. Let’s call him a lead.
  2. Andrew comes across our website and decides to sign up for our newsletter. He’s now become a prospect.
  3. Andrew becomes a social media activist. He’s sharing, retweeting and commenting on our posts. This is the supporter stage.

From there, we’d want Andrew to keep supporting and to go higher up by volunteering, donating or becoming a member. The last two can be classified together.

The highest stage would be Andrew becoming an activist - someone totally committed to achieving the UKMPs mission. A meritocratic militant. At this stage, he’s probably a member, donates more when he can, volunteers for events and spreads the message both online and offline.

Beyond that would consist of Andrew taking up a leadership position, staff position or permanent volunteer role, such as coordinating a local group or getting elected to the National Executive Committee.

Considering that everyone can participate in achieving our mission because we make things open and transparent, I see three reasons someone would want to become a member:

  1. To deepen their commitment to the party.
  2. To vote and hold the NEC accountable, along with other democratically elected bodies that the Party establishes.
  3. To make a regular donation while achieving the two previous benefits (as you can make a regular donation without having to become a member).

To me, the most important factor here would be what becoming a member represents to someone. How they feel about it; how their bond to Meritocracy and achieving the vision is strengthened. This is similar to what Níall said, but I would reframe membership in terms of what it implies for people who are already on the “activitation ladder” (instead of to the general public, as they’re not there yet).


#7

Equal Opportunity for Every Child is made meaningful the more we use it. Everything has to be built up… it provides a vision to achieve which everyone can agree on and from which our policies can stem from naturally.

The promise is that your children will thrive and prosper to the greatest extent of their individual talent and ambition. They won’t be discriminated against by a two-tier society, they’ll be given the best education there is in a society that actually cares about them. All doors will be available, provided they have the talent and hard-work ethic to open them.

You can tie every policy we have to this vision. Because once you achieve it (technically, you can never achieve it 100% - the point is that it pushes you forward) then you’ve “won”. There’s no more elite running world affairs, no more poverty, famine, wars, discrimination etc.

We have to give it meaning by rallying behind it and using it as our guiding focus in everything that we do. We’re the only ones pushing the “equal opportunites” line because it’s world-changing. Other parties and orgs may talk about it, but there’s no organisation that is completely devoted to achieving this (correct me if I’m wrong).

We’ll have our own quick to point messages that’ll attract a following too, but the vision is the driver.


#8

No way, always keep it free because everyone will leave. Find other ways to generate money for the party.

It’s a good idea to ask for donations, just put a notification at the top of the page asking for a small contribution to keep the server up and running, the money raising comes later.


#9

We have no members yet so this isn’t an issue. The question at hand is what paid membership means to people versus free membership. See my previous post. As one of the first meritocracy parties UKMP is in a unique position to test this and experiment.


#10

I have struggled internally with this one a bit. I guess when I look at my core views and thoughts, they are…
1: Capitalism and the Monetary System have no place in politics, it leads to trouble.
2: The very people who are needing the UKMP possibly wont have the finances to contribute. Therefore, are alienated even if they wish to partake fully (and the party could potentially lose out on some great skills and minds too) . Yes making small contributions/sacrifices is possible for some but is it our place to expect that? In turn, this leading to resentment. I would like to think people are more likely to donate to causes personal to them and that they know genuinely have their best interests at heart.
3: I have observed over the years that people can agree in principle with something but as soon as money is mentioned they switch off.

Although, despite my desires to have free membership. We live in a world that is dependant on money, simple as!! However, I have this nagging feeling that there has to be a way to find intellectual and creative solutions that serve the party? It almost feels hypocritical to aim towards a world where money is not the be all and end all, yet we start by holding our hand out.

Its a tough call.


#11

You both have good points there Roberto & NiallAC. You may want to consider having this:

Header: Equal Opportunity For Every Child

Sub Header: Changing The System From The Inside

The sub header has the radical action vibe Niall is looking for & dispels the ‘3rd World Charity’ imagery of the header.

Sean


#12

Currently the membership fee is set at £10 / month, which is the equivalent of £0.33 a day. This is a lot higher than other parties, but we’re starting out and can always adjust as necessary (it’s always easier to lower a fee than it is to raise one, so it’s better to start higher).

You can partake fully without being an official member.

Also £10 / month is the cost millions of people pay to subscribe to games. It’s the cost of a couple of drinks. I think the people who will struggle to donate £10 / month are going to be people out of work, students and the “working-class poor” as newspapers call it. Anyone else it’s a question of whether they’re willing and whether they’re committed to making a financial contribution to see Equal Opportunity for Every Child become a reality.

We need money if we want to build an organisation that can deliver results consistently. We tried an all-out volunteer organisation and it doesn’t work because it’s hard to keep people’s attention, it’s hard to get people to commit and people disappear over time. (That’s one reason fostering a collaborative environment via this forum and other means ends up being more productive as anyone can see what’s going on, contribute whenever and come and go as they please; nobody burns out, etc).

We can find other ways for people to become official members if they really can’t afford it, for example, by contributing X amount of work. That becomes an entirely new topic though!

Either way, at the end of the day someone is always donating. One person has donated close to $800 simply by paying server and website fees over the years. I’ve donated my fair share as well and so have others. None of us are rich, all of us work. Some have families to feed, some don’t.

Money isn’t going to disappear overnight even if we win every election in the world. It’s too useful a tool and the main problem is with the monetary system: how money is created, how the rich bleed the economy dry and how it’s transferred down generation after generation.

As a final thought, I’ll point out how the right-wing has always wed politics and business together. They become powerful because they can afford to. The same applies to mainstream political parties (left, center or right).

Is relying on donations going to be enough? No, that’s why we do need creative solutions as you mentioned. For example: meritocratic businesses.


#13

Just wish to add purely for information the membership fees charged by some Scottish parties:

SNP ( Scottish National Party ) - £5 per Annum
Scottish Greens - £12 per Annum

The SNP had a massive intake after the independence referendum & went from 20k members to around 90k members in 2 months! hence they can afford to drop their party membership fees. I think the Greens fee is more realistic - £1 a month. You should maybe think about seperating the party annual membership fee from other monthly subscriptions, as £10 per month seems excessively high if it’s just for party membership & could put potential full-time members off?

eg: You could have ‘Friends of UKMP’ for overseas subscribers/supporters/well wishers or those who just wish to give more in way of financial support.

Just a thought.

Sean


#14

Paid

  • Joining is a clear choice of Intent i.e. a financial commitment. It helps separate the actives from the fans.

  • The party has to rely on an income; we the actives are our own best source of income; it is a necessity that will only go after taking control of the nation.

  • Meritocrats ought to have a little money to spare. What more could we want to pay for; what else is a worthy investment, and what else are we spending it on?


#15

Agreed. We have to be realistic. It should not be a major point of concern - financing is just an everyday expectation in our world.

The cause for concern is HOW you manage your money (for any legal entity). Not how you are “pure” from corrupt capitalism. We have to be realistic. There is no shame in trying to gain power whatever way we can. Enough with the overbearing nature of the concern. At this stage meritocratic money is producing far more than corrupt money!

We need to revalue the national values; and with it, Original Sin types (money guilt) should be among the first to go. We are meritocrats – the creators of the future – we are not going to apologize for it. We are on the side of reason.


#16

Marcus Aurelius has made some very good points here. As long as monthly fees remain easily affordable then even non-UK based people can chip in. 10 pounds a month might not be much in England but it comes to $21 in Australia, and for an unemployed full time student such as myself, an expense like that on top of my costs of living is not sustainable. Perhaps half of that would be a better solution.


#17

Also, something else is that for most political organizations, membership fees only make up a small proportion of an organizations revenue, with most being acquired through other forms of fundraising. The above point is important as you want the barrier to participation to be as low as possible, so setting membership fees that are proportional to a members ability to pay is a good way of dealing with this, rather than a flat rate that excludes those with less money.

The other thing to consider is the purpose that money to run the organization is being acquired for. There are obvious costs such as advertising costs and perhaps electoral registration. There are also costs with venue hire running conferences and transporting people around the place for official business. Beyond this there are also organisers to run the machinery and facilitate processes for the benefit of members (it’s important that paid organisers for a political organization do not have a vote,otherwise this is a source of corruption and retards internal democracy).

All of these things need to be considered and carefully, as money is a good way that significant problems can start up .


#18

How about a crowdsourcing model, where every now and then we do a funding drive to raise X amount of cash. Similar to IndieGogo and Kickstarter, and even Wikipedia with their once-a-year funding drive.

This way people could see what you need the cash for and tell their friends and raise a decent amount of money in one month, once or twice a year.


#19

I like that idea, yes.