The Great FSP Recruiting Push of 2005
As 2004 drew to a close, the FSP leadership took stock of how far we've come, and how far we've left to go. That assessment is still going on, but here are the outlines of the challenge we face and the way we're going to proceed.
Among our strategic goals for 2004, two significant ones remained unsatisfied: the hiring of an executive director and the attainment of 7,000 signed-up FSP Participants. We never raised enough money to hire an executive director; but, on the bright side, our donors have funded many specific publicity projects, such as the NH Flag Preservation Fund, the New London "shadow ad," the Killington, Vermont "shadow ads," and the Baltimore radio ads. Also, many of our donors are now contributing to New Hampshire organizations, such as the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, Liberty Scholarship Fund, Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, and many others.
Regarding recruitment, we are now at 6,300+ participants. This number doesn't tell the whole story, though; we have to look at signup rates over time. For a year now, we've been going on the impression that signup rates had fallen significantly, from 6.10 a day before February 2004 to 2.78 a day since. However, the decline has been not nearly that dramatic. In this there is both bad news and a little good news.
First, the bad news, which many have known for a while: many participants who signed up before the state vote began in August 2003 never voted in that election, casting doubt on their commitment to the Project. Since then, several hundred of these participants have confirmed that they would like to remain in the FSP. However, almost two thousand have remained out of contact. We will continue trying to contact these unconfirmed members, while still recognizing that we won't be able to reach all of them.
Since February 2004, we've had a new, more complex system of requiring new signups to confirm their registration. Unconfirmed signups since then have not been included in the count of participants we have on the website. Since February, 3.40 people per day have signed up, but only 2.78 per day have signed up and confirmed their commitment, and are thus counted in the number you see on the front page of the website. If you exclude the previously unconfirmed members from before February 2004, the signup rates before then were only 3.85 per day. Thus, signup rates of "confirmed" participants have declined from 3.85 per day to 2.78 per day, a 28% decline. This decrease, while significant, is well below the decrease reflected by the participant count on the website, which has only accounted for unconfirmed signups within the past year.
This decline is due to a drop in general publicity in the form of newspaper articles, radio interviews, and the like. Before the state vote, we received media attention all over the country. Now we receive a very high level of scrutiny in New Hampshire and sizeable coverage in the Boston market as well, but not nearly as much in the rest of the country. This is the conundrum that we have been facing. Our growth continues to be steady, but it will only increase to the level where it needs to be once we regain momentum outside New England.
So where does the Free State Project stand today?
Since New Hampshire was chosen in October 2003, several dozen families (between 70 and 100 individuals) have already moved to the state, even though the FSP is not yet encouraging people to move. At the same time, we are doing quite a bit to welcome prospective participants to the state and show them around (more on that below).
The FSP's recruiting efforts now take several forms:
advertising in libertarian publications such as Reason, Liberty, and LP News;
press releases to the mainstream media, usually linked to "shadow advertising" campaigns following up on government abuses of power;
direct mail to targeted lists of liberty-friendly people;
our annual national event, the Porcupine Freedom Festival;
providing welcome guides for people visiting New Hampshire;
providing stories on our website of people who've made the move;
providing information on events of interest in NH, including successful activism by people who've moved;
providing downloadable resources for individual activists looking to recruit new Free Staters.
This year we're ramping up our efforts in almost all these areas. Direct mail we've not used at all until now, but several mailings are going out in the next three weeks. These mailings could increase our signup rates significantly. The birth of the New Hampshire Underground is providing more good news from the state every day. The welcome teams are more organized and are now holding monthly meetings. It's exciting that informal libertarian parties in NH towns are now drawing more people than annual libertarian conventions in large states like Ohio. In the pipeline we have a provocative project that could generate massive nationwide attention. I can't let the cat out of the bag quite yet, but it really has the potential to stir things up if enough people get involved.
If you want to stay abreast of what's happening, even if you haven't (yet!) signed up for the FSP as a future migrator, you should still sign up to receive FSP news and announcements or join our discussion forum. You really don't want to miss out on the biggest libertarian story of the decade.
If you're already an FSP participant but just want to get more involved, then I'd encourage you to sign up for our new Active Activist Army program. This program will give you specific instructions on specific projects to recruit new members. The "Active Activist Army" team is our true "activist corps," the group that will push us forward. If you've been wondering what to do for the FSP, wonder no longer. Just click the Active Activist Army link to sign up, and stand by for the first project.