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Ben Howlett Branch Development

Ben Howlett Branch Development

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Published by: TheBlueGuerilla on Aug 25, 2010
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Branch Development – Sowing the Seeds of Growth
Case Study:
Poole Conservative Future launched their branch on Thursday 12
August 2010 and I wentalong to support them. Ashley Fraser who has recently set up the branch and Area Chairmanfor Dorset, Will Burstow must be congratulated for their efforts in its creation and continuedefforts to empower branches to grow.The Poole launch was branch development in action, and as a result I would like to dedicatethis policy announcement to them and their hard work.As just one example of the continued growth of Conservative Future I want to help support, Iam going to new CF branches that have emerged in recent months as examples of how wecan continue to grow and support the future of our members.Poole in Dorset is not one of the youngest demographics in the country, but they showed attheir launch that they have the enthusiasm and the will to actively grow their fledging CFbranch and become a force to be reckoned with.The growth of branches will enable MPs, MEPs, PPCs, Mayor’s and AM’s to be elected.Recently formed branches of Brigg and Goole, Morley and Outwood in Yorkshire and thepotential of branches in Newbury and Banbury show that even
the election, there’s anappetite and a willingness to get involved in activity.The best way to ensure that branches continue to be set up and grow is grass roots supportand localism. The following ideas are again a mixture of my own ideas and those presentedto me from members across the country during my consultation.
Building Branches
It can be surprisingly difficult to start up a Conservative Future branch. With the rigmarole andbureaucracy of politics sometimes it can seem there are a lot of party hoops to jump through,and so a key issue is working to maintain the enthusiasm throughout the creation of a branch.Having developed two CF branches over the last few years, I know it can be difficult, but onceset up, a branch is incredibly rewarding.Under my leadership, I will fight to make sure CF is always a bottom-up, membership ledorganization. In common with our plans for the “Big Society”, this isn’t about the CFleadership dictating who and where branches should be set up, but empowering our members on the ground to start activity for themselves. Our regions and members must beconfident setting up their own branches. If they see a gap in the market, my message is ‘Plugit’.If an association is on board, it is wise to work with them to get the maximum support for afledgling branch, even if it’s just £50 behind the bar at a launch party – every little helps. At arecent relaunch of Ealing CF, the association kindly donated money to support the event andhave offered to contact to all constituents that are under 30 and survey their views. Workingto tap into the local population and scout for new membership using this data is crucial. Assoon as we find a new Conservative Voter in our demographic, they should be invited alongto CF social events, kept in the loop and every effort made to bring them into the fold.
I will be working with the National Executive to create a toolkit for members who want to setup/build their branch. While there is one that can be accessed through CCHQ already,members have requested that the pack get’s updated, is more user friendly and can be easilyaccessible from a central source.The recently created CF National Constitution has now been published and is available for anyone to use as a template for his or her own local CF branch. I will review all material andcompile these resources into easy to use packages that can at least take the fuss out of thisstage of proceedings.
Developing and Growing Branches
The best way to encourage branch creation and growth is quite simply
. The moreevents you have, the more chances you have to grow and get more people to come along toevents.If your first event only attracts a handful of people, branches mustn’t be disheartened. Geteach of those to bring a friend to your next one and you’ve already doubled your membership!If starting from scratch, the first few events must be social and regular. We’re all familiar thatwith a social as first contact, people are more likely to come later to a social campaigningevent. When campaigning, it’s vital that fun activities and social events are linked to the hardgraft to reward the valuable time members give. This is especially true of new members, whoneed to be shown how much their joining is appreciated.Once branches are up and running and are seen to be active, we should look to a morediverse range of events and topics, from policy and debating, through to social action andcommunity drives. Nationally we must deliver a membership growth that gives itself obtainable targets and ensures that we work effectively and creatively.
Ensuring the Branch Continues
While it is brilliant to see new branches being created across the country, we need to ensurethat branches do not fade away once the founding members move on. Poole touched on thisissue at their branch launch and it is the most important point of this entire policy article.If you elect me to lead CF, I am committed to the impact I make being sustainable even after Ileave post. As CF Chairman I will not be able to grow every branch across the country, whatI can do however is give you the tools on which to prosper.
University & College Branches
There are a number of branches currently being launched and relaunched in Universities andColleges across the country. Two great examples are London Met and Queen Mary’s inLondon. I have been in contact with both branches to offer them any advice to help themgrow.In order to keep the localist momentum, I will ensure that Regional Chairman have a target tocreate and maintain an active branch in every university and college in their region, whether that means going to a Freshers’ Fair or holding a ‘get to know you’ drinks event that isadvertised around the University. We need to support our University branches, who frequentlyhave to fight tooth and nail against left-wing monopolized Students’ Unions, trying to abolishfreedom of speech and other policies we know don’t represent our members. CF and our branches should actively support our members in standing for office in Students’ Unions,Athletics’ Unions and all other branches of student politics in order to make sure the fundsthat ultimately come from Students aren’t wasted on socialist scheming.
I want to see a CF Fresher’s Stand at every Fair and most importantly they will have to bemanned. We cannot simply have a table with a clipboard, we must be active in promoting our organization, ensuring more people join our societies. Everyone in CF should play a part inhelping on these occasions, and indeed I am currently working with Dan Horrocks in Dudleyto man a Freshers’ Stall at their college.
Working with Nearby Branches
New branches need to have the support of other local branches in order to grow and develop.In Poole for example, there were a couple of new local members, and they had the support of the whole area. Not only was this great at showing they were an active branch with lots of support, this looked great for new members who saw a highly active branch encouragingthem to attend future meetings.
Associate Memberships
If the National Party can have an associate membership scheme, I do not see why CF can’talso look at ways to stay in touch with those who don’t want to be fully committed to joining upin the short term. While we must continue to ensure that CF member’s pay their membershipfees, there are a great number of people we just have email addresses for, are on are socialnetworks, and otherwise want to be involved without being an active member. We shouldactively use these contacts as targets for membership growth, donors to campaigns, anddevelop events with the intention of bringing them on board for full membership.
Membership Data
I want to see more branches knowing what to do with their membership data, rather than ascramble a few weeks before a CF election getting data onto Merlin or through to centraloffice. In relation to membership data members will be encouraged to follow this easy 4 stepplan:1.Ask for name, address, mobile number, email address and D.O.B (For universitybranches – take home address and personal email addresses as well)2.Send membership data gathered to your local association to upload onto Merlin (or equivalent system)3.If a Branch, send email addresses to Area Chairman, if an Area, send emailaddresses to your Regional Chairman (for improved regional communication)
Ensure that the renewal date is marked and reminders are sent out accordingly
Membership Cards
It is an ongoing saga that CF members do not receive a CF membership card, only a nationalmembership card. I will be working with the party to get one that is easily accessible for branches to access centrally. Local associations will be given the template and they cansend out CF cards along with the national membership card.
Failing Branches
I am committed to putting fresh vigour into the democracy of CF, and that meansaccountability. If a branch is failing, members will have a chance to force through an enquiryheld by the next level up from their branch. E.g. if a branch has problems, then their AreaChairman will intervene. If the review considers that the branch is not working they will thenbe put into supported status. New elections will be held quickly to ensure a continued branchpresence in that area.
Gaining Publicity
If there is a new branch being set up, contact the local press and get your local MP to comealong. Local press love stories about local youth achievement, and being politically active is

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