Angels and Activists

VegFund is a solid choice for sustaining your donor contribution and maximizing your impact in increasing vegan outreach around the world. Learn more by following the “12 Days of VegFund” on Facebook. Please “Like” us, and join the effort! The VegFund staff and our global activist base are grateful for donations made through our website. Each contribution, large and small, helps us grow beyond the thousands of activists we are already reaching in some 30 countries.

Speaking of sustainability and impact, VegFund recently sponsored a panel titled “Exponential Sustainability: The Payoff of Vegan Living” at Sustainatopia 2015. Sustainatopia is a bi-annual event for knowledge-sharing by more than 500 impact investors, social ventures, nonprofit organizations, corporations, media outlets, and others working to create a more sustainable, healthier, and compassionate world.

The VegFund panel addressed how vegan diets and lifestyle choices yield a great return on investment to maximize the well-being of people, biodiversity, and the earth’s environment. The VegFund panel included Caroline Wimberly of Brighter Green, David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions, and Leslie Barcus of VegFund.

The VERY FIRST person we encountered at the conference by VegFund was a young man, who works for a small corporation promoting green energy solutions. He was passionate about protecting the environment and lowering his carbon footprint, but he only recently had realized the difference he can make by adopting a vegan diet. The documentary Cowspiracy motivated him to make the dietary switch. We hope this newly inspired environmentalist and vegan will soon join the VegFund activist network and help us expand our reach to new audiences working on social finance, climate change, sustainable development models, organic and local farming, and all of the fascinating practice areas in play making the world a better place.

David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions proved that potential activists such as this young man could land in the good company of renowned global business leaders who are funding vegan products. PlantBased Solutions now works with six vegan venture funds and some 480 angel investors. Angels are not found only during the holiday season! In the investment world, “angels” are investors who offer funds to start-up and young companies at gentler investment terms than those offered by more established venture capital funds.


Vegan investors and angel investors are walking among the international business gods! David also made note of a number of billionaires who are taking a financial position in vegan products, including:

  • Bill Gates … no introduction needed? OK, he is the founder of Microsoft, and his wealth now stands at an estimated $80 billion dollars, according to public wealth rankings.
  • Li Ka-shing … yes, you can think “cha-ching”! Mr. Li was ranked in 2014 by Bloomberg as probably the wealthiest entrepreneur in Asia.
  • Marc Benioff … founder of Salesforce and, thus, a godfather of cloud computing.

David reminds us that regardless of our place and stage in life today or readiness to invest, each and every one of us can vote with our forks and speak up to educate others. You just never know who is listening!

VegFund is here and ready to assist with your vegan outreach through our grant programs, from video event to food sampling, documentary screening — or whatever novel outreach idea you may have that would merit a financial grant.

We look forward to receiving your contribution in 2015 and expanding our outreach in 2016.

ALL support large and small has a big impact for spreading the beauty of vegan living.

Happy Holidays! Leslie Barcus Executive Director

VegFund Ventures to UK Veg Fests!

VegFund attended London VegFest and the Northern Vegan Festival in Manchester this October to meet with vegan activists from around the globe.

Find out more about VegFund’s programs to support vegan activists across the globe, and help us reach out at more events like these during 2016 by donating to support our work.

Back to the UK Veg Fests… Amanda Riley, VegFund’s Operations Assistant based in the U.S., traveled across the pond to attend these events and spread the word about VegFund’s grant programs to support the work of grassroots activists.

Photograph courtesy of VegFest UK

Photograph Courtesy of VegFest UK

London VegFest, Europe’s largest vegan festival, attracted 12,000 attendees over the two days of the event. Along with information booths and tantalizing foods, the festival featured a Health Summit and an Activist Summit that offered attendees a diverse program of talks on vegan-related issues and topics. As part of the Activist Summit, Amanda presented a talk on cost-effective activism: “How a Little Money Can Make a Big Difference.”

This talk highlighted the value of focusing on a low cost per person as means of reaching as many people as possible within a budget. Amanda provided activists with helpful tips, among them:

  • Estimate your reach and don’t pay for more than you need.
  • Ask for donations and discounts for your expenses, such as literature and food samples. You might be surprised what organizations and businesses are open to offering you!
  • Do comparison shopping for the items needed for your event, ensuring you are getting the best price possible.
  • At your outreach events, provide people with follow-up opportunities to maximize your impact. For example, offer them a leaflet linking to a website.
  • Make use of VegFund’s online advertising program. Online advertising is a low-cost form of advocacy with the potential of reaching a large audience. For example, one of VegFund’s grantees reached more than 38 million people through their online ad, with more than one million of these requesting a vegan starter kit as a result!
  • For larger events, refine your strategy to make the most of your available budget.

Food Sampling Outreach:

  • Stick to small sample sizes.
  • Limit the number of types of food offered to a few good quality products.

Video Outreach:

  • Seek good-value venues that enable you to reach as many people as possible for a reasonable cost; for example, a $150 venue capable of holding 1,000 people.
  • Try to estimate your audience size accurately to ensure license costs are kept to a minimum — this can be a big savings point.
  • Promote your event! Don’t neglect this area, and keep in mind that lots of promotion can be done at zero cost via social media channels.

You can listen to Amanda’s full talk here.

The Northern Vegan Festival attracted 3,500 people over the course of the one-day event. Amanda presented a talk titled “Using Microgrants to Spread Veganism around the World” at this festival, providing an overview of VegFund’s international work supporting activists in their vegan outreach. Microgrants, as she emphasized, have the power to reach communities across the globe by funding events and projects that touch hundreds and thousands of individuals at the local level.

Amanda, with the help of volunteers, distributed more than 500 brochures at these festivals, and about 100 folks signed up to find out more about VegFund’s programs. The booths were active all day with truly inspiring conversations from both experienced and new activists who are making a positive change.

VegFund's Stall at London VegFest

VegFund’s Stall at London VegFest

Thank you to everyone who came by to say “Hi” and listened to our talks in the UK. We look forward to funding your activism in the future!

The Impact of Social Media Presence in Our Advocacy Efforts

Faunalytics’s recent research examining the impact of The Save Movement’s social media presence gives us insight into the value of social media for advocacy.

One of the key findings from this research was that The Save Movement has been able to successfully foster awareness on social media about the individuality and plight of animals raised for food.

Pig SAVElogo

Photograph courtesy of The SAVE Movement

Positive aspects of The Save Movement’s social media presence include:

  • The peaceful, non-violent approach to their online outreach
  • The welcoming attitude when engaging with followers online

The biggest barrier that online followers stated for not finding out more or getting involved was the fear that it would be too emotionally upsetting, which is characteristic of some of The Save Movement’s social media content.

The report on this research also provides a comparison of how vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores receive this movement’s social media messages. This helped to identify differences among the groups of recipients and offer suggestions about how message content can be modified to more effectively engage omnivores.

Although this research examines the influence of only one organization’s impact using social media and the response of just a small proportion of its social media following, it provides interesting insight into the effectiveness of social media in our outreach efforts.

To deepen our understanding of the value of social media as an outreach tool, further studies on a variety of organizations’ and individuals’ outreach efforts should be carried out.

We need to measure our levels and types of engagement frequently and consider the outcomes of our efforts whenever possible if we are to change the world for animals.

Read the full report on this latest research.

Additional research related to this topic is available on Faunalytics’s website. The article on Facebook as an outreach tool is particularly interesting.

VegFund’s Research at NEVF – What Did We Find?

On April 26th at the New England VegFest, VegFund undertook research to gain insight into how effective our programs are in encouraging people to make positive changes to their dietary behaviors.

The focus of the research was a VegFund-sponsored screening of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, with the goal of understanding the effectiveness of documentaries in our advocacy efforts.

Viewers took a survey before and after the screening about their dietary habits and how the documentary made them feel. Information on their dietary habits was gathered again one month later. Both self-identification and Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ) were used.

111 people completed the intake survey but only 34 people completed the follow-up survey. 72% of the viewers who completed the survey were female, and 28% were male. The average age was 34 years old.

The data were analyzed, and here’s what we found…

Prior Veg Status

Participants were asked to self-identify their dietary habits prior to the documentary screening. As with many similar events, there was a strong element of preaching to the choir. For example, 42% identified themselves as vegan, but according to the FFQ, only 37% actually were vegan. Likewise, 31% identified themselves as vegetarian, but only 23% actually were vegetarian. For this reason we used the FFQ answers and not self-identification for the remainder of the analysis.

Behavior Change

The data that were gathered show that 37% of viewers were vegan before the event and 62% after; 23% were vegetarian before the event and 9% after; and 38% were neither vegetarian nor vegan before the screening, 26% after.

While these results don’t account for those who didn’t complete the follow-up survey, for those who did, the data indicate that a total of five people went vegan during the one-month period — that’s 15% of follow-up respondents. Two of these were previously vegetarian, and three were previously non-vegetarian. Three people also reported going back to consuming animal products. Note that these results may have been influenced by other aspects of the event.

A more reliable measure of changes to consumption of specific animal products compares before-and-after survey results. These data show that only a small number of respondents changed their behavior, as described in the table below.

Table 1:

Red Meat Poultry Seafood Eggs Dairy
1 eliminated 1 eliminated 3 eliminated 2 eliminated 5 eliminated
1 reduced 1 reduced 1 reduced 2 reduced 1 reduced
2 increased 4 increased 1 increased


Intake Survey:

The following table shows how many people indicated that they were considering eliminating or reducing specific animal products after seeing the film.

Table 2:

Red Meat Poultry Seafood Eggs Dairy
14 eliminate 13 eliminate 19 eliminate 29 eliminate 36 eliminate
9 reduce 10 reduce 12 reduce 19 reduce 18 reduce

By comparing these data with the previous data, it’s clear that the actual outcome was that far fewer changed any aspect of their dietary behavior.

Follow-up Survey:

Although many participants have not followed through on their intended behavior changes, there is evidence that some people still intend to change.

The following table shows the number of participants who, one month later, still intended to eliminate or reduce a given animal product.

Table 3:

Red Meat Poultry Seafood Eggs Dairy
11 eliminate 10 eliminate 9 eliminate 6 eliminate 7 eliminate
1 reduce 1 reduce 4 reduce 7 reduce 8 reduce

[Please note that these figures are overstated. Some people said that they plan to reduce or eliminate an animal product despite previously saying that they were already vegan or vegetarian.]

One-fourth to one-third of follow-up survey respondents said they intend to eliminate red meat, poultry, and/or seafood. Moreover, one-fifth intend to eliminate dairy or eggs, and a further one-fifth of respondents intend to reduce their intake of these products.

92% of respondents also said they learned something new from the documentary screening and 45% of the initial respondents asked to be added to our e-newsletter mailing list. All steps in the right direction!

Overall, the sample size in this research was too small to confirm any trends and draw general conclusions, but the results do offer some insight into the potential of film screenings and provide data to build on.

In order to get a more accurate measure on just how effective film screenings really can be, we would need a much larger sample size.

VegFund Research at NEVF!


On April 26th, as part of a new research initiative to learn more about how VegFund’s programs affect dietary behavior, VegFund sponsored a screening of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret at the wildly successful New England VegFest (formerly Worcester VegFest), along with a survey to film viewers.


Thousands of people – most of them not yet vegan – attended this free festival full of great vegan food, cruelty-free companies, animal advocates, and eye-opening talks.

The screening was well-attended, with a full room of about 120 viewers who were exposed to the shocking impact of modern-day agriculture on the environment and animals. Withe the assistance of several volunteers, VegFund’s Amanda Riley distributed a survey to these viewers to learn about their dietary habits and whether they were influenced by the film. We will follow up with them on their dietary habits after one month.


Vegan Treats!

Given the proven power of documentaries, we are very excited to see what more we can discover about the effectiveness of screenings, so we can incorporate any insights into our programming.

VegFund in San Diego

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the San Diego VegFest!

VegFund was a sponsor; here is the speakers’ table:


I gave a version of this talk: Embrace and Encourage: Lessons from Three Decades.

And met with lots of people at the VegFund table!


Hope to meet with more of you in the future!



Ginny on Obsession with Celebrities

Ginny has a great new post up: Celebrities, Weight Loss and Penn Jillette’s New Vegan Diet.

Brief excerpt:

[Penn's] current diet doesn’t exactly create a compelling picture of the joys of vegan living. In fact, it sounds like a great way to discourage people from ever considering this way of eating. 

I have to say, I simply do not get this “celebrities and weight loss” brand of vegan activism. It sets vegan diets up to fail, because that’s what happens when vegans (especially those in the public eye) get sick or gain back their weight or start eating meat and eggs again. It presents veganism as the most unattractive eating plan on earth. And it turns its back on the core value of veganism, which is animal rights. 


An Environmental Argument to Help Animals

Many, if not most, environmental arguments tend to focus on the serious impacts of beef. Although we  see a vegan diet as optimal, most people instead see chicken as being vastly superior to beef (and increasingly cheaper than beef). Any time someone replaces beef with chicken, many many more animals suffer.

Here is a great argument that actually helps chicken, from New Scientist (March 21, 2015, p. 44):

Such a switch [from chickens to plant-based substitutes] could make a difference to the environment: if we all swapped chicken for beans, for example, greenhouse gas emissions would be much lower. Chicken is responsible for 6.9 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of meat, compared with 2 kg for bean protein.




California College Students Share Vegan Food Samples for Meatout 2015


Volunteers from Vikings for Animals in CA discussing veganism with their fellow students.

Every first day of spring, thousands of vegan activists take part in Meatout, and VegFund is thrilled to be a source of funding for some of these activists through our Food Sampling program. These events vary widely in size and layout, but what they all have in common is vegans banding together to show others how wonderful vegan food can be and to encourage them to move toward a more compassionate diet.


It’s always best to have multiple volunteers to ensure you’re able to greet each person and keep everything going smoothly!

One of the best recaps we have gotten so far from Meatout 2015 that just passed was from Vikings for Animals, a local college student group in California. They reached an estimated 350 students at their school with vegan food samples and literature. They even gave out information on how to eat vegan in their local community and how to get involved with their group. It is always a good idea to give potential new vegans information like this that they can use to follow up on their good intentions once your food sampling table is gone!

At their table, Vikings for Animals gave out vegan cookies, milks, and deli slices, all of which passersby found interesting and tasty. The food and information led to some great conversations, including with former vegans, someone who was dating a vegan, someone whose mother was an activist, and more! All of this shows how important and helpful it can be just to get the vegan message out there and be available to answer questions and clear up misconceptions.

Missed Meatout this year? No problem! As our many past and current grantees know, VegFund gives out Food Sampling grants year round and it is a piece of (vegan) cake for any eligible vegan activist to get started. Check out our guidelines today!