My Outreach for Animals Week 2009 Leafleting Experience

I did my Outreach for Animals Week leafleting today, and it went surprisingly well.

I say surprisingly, because I thought that the weather was conspiring against me, but I was wrong. It was raining outside, but it turns out that the University of Minnesota does allow leafleting inside academic buildings (but not inside the student union). Unny suggested I try either Blegen or Willey Hall on the West Bank. I went to Willey near the Gopher Express.

I had thought that traffic would just be too slow for this to be useful, but I was wrong. In fact, compared to my experiences leafleting outside on the UMN campus, this was actually a better location. I think the weather may have driven more people inside, and I picked a spot that was at a good crossroads.

Surprisingly, no one “official” came to tell me I couldn’t do this. I had asked Unny to print out a copy of the UMN’s policy, which I brought with me. I was sure I’d have to show it to someone, but apparently not.

All in all, I handed out at least 450 leaflets, and maybe more than 500, in just about 2.5 hours.

After doing this, I had a few observations for future leafleting …

With just one person, you really don’t need a high traffic area. I heard a lot more refusals during peak traffic. I’m not sure how this breaks down numerically, but my guess is that I actually gave out fewer leaflets per minute during peak traffic.

The fact that people are less receptive during peak traffic makes sense. The busy times where I was located were between classes. Most of those folks are heading to their next class. They don’t have free time to think about taking a leaflet. In addition, because I was at the top of the stairway, people probably felt pressure to keep moving rather than block the flow of traffic.

In contrast, the rest of the time was great. The traffic was low, but there were very few totally dead times. Instead, I’d see maybe 1-5 people per minute. This is perfect, since I was able to approach almost every one of them.

Even better, the slower traffic let me approach people in a more relaxed and friendly manner. People seemed most receptive when I greeted them, waited for them to make eye contact and respond, and only then offered the leaflet. I’m no psychologist, but I think the initial exchange of pleasantries probably helps humanize me in their mind, and gives them some sort of investment in our contact.

By contrast, if I said “hi” followed immediately by an offer, or I just offered the leaflet with my usual “information to help animals” phrase, I become just “the leafleter”. The recipient hasn’t invested anything yet, and they can say no or ignore me easily.

Of course, the downside to this sort of slow but steady traffic is that it really doesn’t work well for multiple leafleters. I was joined by another person later in the morning, and there really wasn’t enough traffic for both of us to be there most of the time, so she ended up going to a different spot.

If I was trying to find a good event for a group, I’d prefer something like leafleting the end of a concert. The traffic is incredibly heavy, and you can actually make use of a decent size group.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how this went. I’d like to do more outreach like this, but I seem to end up spending all my volunteer time on fundraising, tech, finances, and event planning. Those are rewarding too, but it’s nice to go out and do something simple.

I’d really like to thank everyone who sponsored me in this event. You helped raise a good chunk of change for a cause I dearly believe in.


Joe Espinosa, on 2009-10-19 06:17, said:
Great work there. It’s amazing that you are allowed to leaflet from inside buildings at U of M, while many of us are being challenged by mere community colleges that have policies against leafleting on the sidewalks that attempt to trump the First Amendment. My experiences in the field are consistent with yours in that heavy traffic flows result in lower receptivity. I typically work alone as there are just a few schools I cover where I think a second person is really necessary due to the set up of the school, like dual sidewalks. However, that is one positive aspect of leafleting. Each of us can do it as our own schedule allows us, and have a major impact in decreasing animal suffering. Thanks for being there.
Joe Espinosa