Dear LFG reader,
Thanks for signing our petition on [that particular issue] and supplying us with your email address as a necessary part of that process. We will let you know of any events & campaigns we organise in future as you are now a member of LFG.
Well, substitute ‘Avaaz’ for ‘LFG’ and what you have above is only a very slightly condensed version of how the world’s most visible campaigning organisation actually does build its membership. And with that membership now standing at 38,982,688 as of 10.35 on 16th October 2014, 7 years after the group’s launch, it’s clearly a method that works, and clearly something we should try doing ourselves at LFG. But before we could, we had to find out about a side to Avaaz’s story that rarely gets discussed. How does this most impressive dot.org manage to keep the numbers going up so solidly? Often, a new campaigning group will find its membership grows in spurts and lulls, or even drops if focus shifts elsewhere for long enough. How does Avaaz buck that trend? Just where, for example, are the people dropping out?
To find out we signed up as ‘Esbyssius Fairweather’, a young woman very passionate about ‘old-fashioned’ economic justice – like the rights of Indian workers – but absolutely opposed to climate justice and animals. How could this person, in the throes of her ideological confusion, now leave the organisation in disgust?
Well, when Esbyssius went to the Avaaz homepage she could find no ‘cancel membership’ option. Instead she had to click on the ‘Contact Us’ link – which brought up this list of suggestions:
So… ‘How can I unsubscribe‘? Ok. She clicked. Which brought up this:
Beset by rage and befuddlement as she was, however, merely unsubscribing from their emails was a million miles from the option she wanted. She wanted to jump. To vamoose. In her words: ‘I don’t want my name approving the waste of trillions on a non-problem like
global warming climate change anymore’.
(In our words: let me relapse to empty pride, hopeless vanity, dreadful arrogance and stupifyingly futile inaction.)
As a last resort she decided to fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page:
Receiving, a little while later, this email reply:
Well, thank you Avaaz for replying to the email acknowledging the fact that the email was sent with your message “Thank you for submitting a message to Community Petitions Contact.” But did they have anything else to say? Nnnn…
But wait! A couple of days later they did. In this email:
A Spanish Oil baron as climate commissioner? Was this some kind of taunt? Why on God’s earth would she ‘give two eviscerating f*cks’ about that? It was time to get angry, (or ‘angry’):
Professionals to the end, however, Avaaz replied with the calm and good grace of an organisation fully in control and with the facts on its side – sealing its position with the final suggestion to start all over again with the contact form – the same contact form that generated the ‘echo’ email that took Esbyssius no further forward in the first place:
The end result of this circular jaunt round the houses: 1-0 to Avaaz i.e. it looks like Esbyssius will stay a member of Avaaz for the time being, and probably for the rest of her (short) life.
Why is this important?
Campaigning strategies like these are important because inventing the warm welcome of the appearance of a (large) community is the first key step in actually building a real community of enthusiastic activists. Numbers really do matter. Think about it. If the only thing a campaigning organisation like Avaaz had to go on was its core members and staff – perhaps, say, tens of thousands per country, amounting to perhaps 2,000,000 worldwide (in 194 countries) – it wouldn’t look anything like so important and dynamic as it now does. In turn, the potential to influence policy would fade, like non-profit-making tears in an unforgiving legislative rain.
With the mystery of how Avaaz keeps its membership relentlessly rising settled, then, LFG could move forward on our own plans for a newly refined membership growth strategy designed to strengthen and louden our voice for more effective outcomes.
So what are the maths for LFG?
LFG operates in the EU, which consists of 28 member states, but at the moment, with offices limited to the uk, we only really have purview over four countries. 190 fewer countries than Avaaz’s 194. We’re also giving ourselves an initial membership campaign deadline of two months. So: if Avaaz gained 39,000,000 members in seven years, that means over any 2 months it averaged a membership growth of 928,571. In 194 countries. So if we divide 928,571 by 194, then times that by 4, we have our target: 19,145.
But we don’t want to stop there. We want to beat Avaaz! (What’s a little competition between NGOs?) So our final target is just a little higher:
HELP US MAKE CAMPAIGNING HISTORY!
This has the potential to be a historic moment. It might not be. But equally, it could be if we first conceive it as potentially historic and act on that basis. In short, if you decide it could be historic, it probably will be. Maybe. But either way, you’d be a moron not to click on one of the buttons below because ultimately you never know and also because it’s very, very likely you’ll agree with the campaign. As you’ll see, our hook campaign has two outstanding virtues: (a) it’s something every right-thinking person can sign up to and (b) it’s derived from a quote from a Douglas Adams novel (where he briefly sketches the ambitions of Christ):
Wouldn’t it be great if we were nicer to people for a change?
So, do you agree?
Then prove it. Click below and help kick start a revolution!
One more thing…
Obviously we needed to make your trust in our methods a key priority. So we’ve handed over the job of counting your membership clicks to a trusted third party over whom we have no influence – the esteemed internet polling service polldaddy.
Unfortunately, polldaddy didn’t have a widget available specifically for counting membership clicks so we’ve had to be imaginative and go with what they did have: essentially a poll widget, which must consist of at least two options. But don’t worry! We’ve made those options exactly the same, so a ‘vote’ on either counts as one membership application.
Again, help us!
We need this to go absolutely viral. We need you to tweet, facebook, rate, promote and do whatever you can to get this spreading. Imagine what could happen if we were able to say ‘we beat Avaaz, the most successful online org to date!’.
Make it happen! #letsdothis
UPDATE December 18th 2014
Fuck you all.