The Synagogue Vegan Challenge: Jewish Communities Embrace Vegan Living

VegFund is pleased to announce its partnership with the vegan–Jewish organization, The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, in launching The Synagogue Vegan Challenge an initiative that will help put veganism on the Jewish agenda.

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Hosted by The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, an animal welfare organization that educates leaders, trains advocates, and campaigns for animals’ rights within and on behalf of the Jewish community, The Synagogue Vegan Challenge is the first of its kind!

The main goal of the challenge is to encourage Jewish communities to experiment with vegan living for one year, with the overall mission of challenging these communities to:

“think more deeply about animal welfare, kashrut (kosher law), and compassion for all, through gentle, non-judgmental discussion and by showing how nutritious and tasty plant-based foods can be.” – The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute

Rabbi Yanklowitz, who is leading this initiative, said the following in an interview with VegNews:

“There’s not one vegan synagogue in America. It’s very hard to make changes, and we have to make it easier for people. If people see that vegan food can be healthy and tasty, they are more likely to consider a dietary change. The synagogue should be a place of education, where people can learn about the health benefits of going vegan.” 

So, how does The Synagogue Vegan Challenge work?

Five synagogues in the United States and Canada will be chosen for the program every year, and each will receive a $5,000 grant upon successful completion of the one-year vegan challenge. The synagogues selected for the 2017 pilot program are:

During the year, these synagogues will serve plant-based meals to their communities, whether kiddush, b’nai mitzvot, Shabbat, or any life-cycle event. Alongside the meals, they will also provide their communities with creative education on compassion for all, including:

  • Hosting a vegan-catered Shabbat (or have community members bring their own plant-based creations – potluck style!)
  • Screening a documentary film promoting animal welfare followed by Q&A and discussion
  • Holding a workshop featuring discussion sources from the Shamayim V’Aretz website

Who can get involved?

The Synagogue Vegan Challenge encourages everyone to get involved, whether you’re running an existing synagogue, keen to set up a new one, vegan already, or simply interested in reducing the amount of animal products in your diet (and your community’s diet).

Please note that 2017 applications are now closed. Rabbi Yanklowitz plans to continue the program in 2018 if the pilot program goes well.

We look forward to hearing how this year’s participants progress in The Synagogue Vegan Challenge!

The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute was launched by Rabbi Yanklowitz, musician Matisyahu, and actress Mayim Bialik in 2012, and its name means “heaven on earth.” You can find out more about The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and their campaign work here.

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The Impact of Online Campaigns in Vegan Outreach: An Interview with Claudio Pomo of Essere Animali

Essere Animali, an animal rights and vegan organization based in Italy that is dedicated to information-sharing to overcome exploitation of animals, is changing the world for farm animals with their campaigns, which include undercover investigations into animal welfare issues as well as support and guidance on vegan living. Claudio Pomo, online campaign manager for Essere Animali, shared with VegFund how online campaigns can effectively challenge consumer attitudes.

Using Facebook Ads Manager, Essere Animali gained more than 3.3 million impressions in June from Italian men (ages 16–54/16–35), women (ages 16–54/16–35), and both genders together using the two same age groups, measuring a cost-per-click (CPC) of €0.05 ($0.06 U.S) and €0.02 ($0.02 U.S.) for all campaigns — which is incredibly cost-effective! Essere Animali’s continued goal is to maintain a similar CPC with the objective of reaching more than 4 million impressions.

We will take a more detailed look at how Facebook Ads Manager works after comments from an interview with Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali‘s Campaigns Manager.

Insights from Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali’s Online Campaigns Manager

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VegFund: What are the reasons for the demographic, age, and gender you targeted? Did you arrive at any interesting findings through targeting these?

CP: The age demographic was chosen based on what seemed to be the most promising. International research shows that young people are the individuals most likely to change their diet for ethical reasons, which is the objective we are pursuing with our ads. Polls among Italians proved it: per capita consumption of meat in Italy has lowered by 10% in the last six years, and this trend has been led mostly by millennials. So the choice for our ads was quite easy.

As for gender, we started with test groups of male-only and female-only of the same age and also tested the same ad for both male and female genders together. After a few months, we saw slightly better results with the female-only group, but more testing is needed before we can draw clear conclusions from this.

This result supports other research showing that females are more eager to adopt a vegan or a vegetarian lifestyle and are more interested in animal rights in general.

Regardless of this supporting research, even if one gender group achieves better results and lower CPC, we think that there is still importance in targeting the other gender group, investing less, and testing the content to see what works best.

VegFund: Could you provide us with examples of the Facebook ad campaigns that you ran throughout June? What were some of your reasons for creating these particular ads?

CP: We advertised some of the best-performing videos tested in previous months. These are both sad videos from our investigations and happy animal videos showing the emotions and capabilities of farmed animals that people often ignore. One short video of our footage from Italian farms — very sad and highly emotional, but not graphic — has been the best-performing video to date and was designed to work well with people not informed about these issues. So far, it is our most successful video content.

During June, we also tested images and links. With the right picture and good copy, a link can grab lots of attention. In one ad, we linked to an article on our website. The reason for this choice was to try to bring people towards a better platform for communication. The website is a space with much less distraction compared with social media, enabling people to delve deeper into the issue, finding more information and useful links or downloadable material. This type of content may reach fewer people than video content, but I think it can achieve better results overall.

VegFund: Can you offer some tips and best practices for other activists working on online campaigns to achieve low CPCs?

CP: Videos are surely the best content and a must! This is nothing new, but we see it when we try to use other content (links, images, etc.). Videos always win.

Short videos work much better than longer ones, especially when we look at the number of viewers who watch the whole video or most of it (most of the views in Facebook are just a few seconds in length). The perfect video is less than one minute long and should be minimal in terms of graphic content. This kind of graphic content can gain a lot of views, but most videos are too short to have a real impact because people tend to stop them after just a few seconds. The attention span on social media is getting lower every year, so it is vital that we adjust our communication tactics to get the most out of these channels.

Happy videos of farmed animals doing unexpected things work very well too and are important. Other videos get people to understand what happens in farms and slaughterhouses, but happy videos help them empathize with animals and relate to them as individuals who have feelings.

If there is some content that we find relevant, we always test it.

VegFund: Can you provide any further insight into the best-performing groups during your first months of tests?

CP: The best-performing group we created is female-only, ages 16–35, with interests in companion animals, cooking, and food, health, wellness, yoga, and the environment. People in this demographic, we think, can be more interested in the suffering of animals in factory farms or the impact of eating habits on our health and the planet. This target audience, we hope, also consists of people who are more eager to challenge their eating habits — the ultimate result we want to achieve.

Facebook Ads Manager requires a little research before you’ll feel confident using it, but it’s becoming more user-friendly by the day as it gains popularity. It’s worthwhile spending time learning about it for your online campaign efforts. Read on for an overview of how it works.

Facebook Ads Manager and Cost-per-Click

Facebook Ads Manager lets activists set up online campaigns that:

  • measure results
  • test different audiences, and
  • identify which advertisements perform better in terms of cost-per-click (CPC) and impression acquired.

“Impressions” refers to the number of times a web page or element on a web page (such as an ad) has been viewed or appears on a page of search results. “Cost-per-click” measures the revenue a “publisher” (anyone who creates and places an ad) receives each time someone clicks on the publisher’s ad.

An online campaign using Facebook Ads Manager involves creating one or more advertisement. A campaign manager chooses one advertising objective for each campaign and defines a target audience(s) (for example, demographic, genders, age ranges, lookalike audiences), budget, schedule, bidding (which can focus on impressions, conversions, views, or engagement), and placement (where you want your ad to appear).

You can learn more about the Facebook Ads Manager here.

A typical Facebook campaign structure looks something like this:

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Source: thenextad.com

Thanks again to Claudio at Essere Animali for taking time to speak with us. We look forward to seeing what else Essere Animali has planned in the coming months. Stay up-to-date with their latest activity on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about how VegFund can support you with online campaigns today! We’ll delve further into some more of our grantees’ online campaign successes in the coming months, so watch this space.

Persistence, Positivity, and Patience: The Influencing Factors of Behavior Change

The first, annual Reducetarian Summit

VegFund sponsored and attended the first-ever Reducetarian Summit last month, held in New York City, May 20 and 21. The Summit was organized by The Reducetarian Foundation and complemented the recently released book, The Reducetarian Solution, by Brian Kateman. The event brought together a global network of perspectives and technologies with the goal of exploring how to create a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable food system.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Some 400 practitioners, students, and the interested public convened at the event. The central theme of the Summit was a call to collaborate to reduce global meat consumption on a significant scale as a fundamental step needed to effect positive and lasting changes in the areas of:

  • animal rights and welfare
  • food systems and food services
  • world hunger
  • the environment and resource use
  • climate change
  • human economic development and policy

A daunting task

Reducing meat consumption globally is a daunting and sobering task, to say the least. A reminder of the magnitude of the problems relating to meat consumption is worth restating. In the United States, we consume an estimated 275 pounds of meat per person per year, largely because meat is readily available and affordable due to the massive use of antibiotics, highly tuned genetics, factory farming, and feedlots. China consumes 25 percent of all meat produced today — double that of the United States. Export of the factory farming model to other countries is driving up meat production and consumption across the industrializing world. Animals consume an estimated 36 percent of all food crops grown as we face the possibility for simultaneous famines in the world at this time.

Those of us who promote a vegan lifestyle hope for zero percent animal consumption TODAY, but we operate within an environment in which much of the West has created a dietary and economic dependency on animals and on the marketing and subsidies that make animal products the easiest foods to access.

How do we tackle the problem systematically?

Unwinding this model will take long-term efforts to change not only consumer behavior but also agricultural and food policy, farming for food production, and dietary standards — to name just a few of the challenges we face.

Factory farming is pushing the world’s some 500 million small farmers off the land where their daily survival is tied to animal agriculture. This phenomenon and other harsh realities force us to examine simplistic approaches to behavior change in meat consumption and the use of animal products.

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Image Credit: Reducetarian Summit 2017

The key question of the two-day event was: “How do we as individuals, organizations, communities, and societies work to systematically decrease meat consumption?” Discussions covered a variety of important topics, including our broken food system, the politics of meat, the rise of conscious capitalism, innovations in food manufacturing, and more.

Persistence, positivity, and patience

Reducetarian panelists spoke about how we must not use ineffective tactics that demonize people for eating meat, but rather, as vegan activists, we should focus on the good a person is adding to his or her life and community when choosing to not consume an animal product. We need smart approaches to working with chefs, religious institutions, and community leaders as influencers and change-makers. We, as activists, need to act broadly across policy, legislation, and local and national politics. And, we need to work within the mind-boggling web of the supply and value chains that eventually lead to the products on our food plate. Above all, we must be persistent, positive, and patient — and take a deep breath for the long-haul!

Panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of collaboration. Whether vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or reducetarian, if we as activists are to make a dent in the mass scale of factory farming, we must work together; listen to the points of view of others, build relationships, and use the wealth of skills, passions and technology available to us.

Learn more

You can now view the full video recordings of the Summit presentations and panels, which we highly recommend. After the success of the 2017 event, the Summit returns in 2018 for another inspiring gathering of creative minds and timely topics! Register your interest now to receive further details and updates.

 

The We Animals Archive — changing the world for animals, one photograph at a time

Last month, photojournalist, author, and educator Jo-Anne McArthur launched the We Animals Archive,* a free archive of photography depicting our relationships with animals around the globe.

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Creator of the We Animals project, author of two books (We Animals and Captive, due for release this summer), and subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Ghosts in Our Machine, McArthur has been documenting the plight of animals for more than a decade, telling their individual stories with her thought-provoking and moving imagery.

McArthur’s photography evokes a spectrum of emotion —  from heart-wrenching and haunting to joyful and beautiful.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

The We Animals Archive is a collection of hundreds of images and videos of animals in the human environment, many of which have never been seen before — animals we use for food, clothing, research, experimentation, work, entertainment, and companionship.

Some words from the photographer:

“I’m thrilled to be releasing the We Animals Archive into the world. My work has shown me that, so often, the animals languishing in cages on fur farms, suffering at the end of a rope, or even resting peacefully in the arms of their rescuers, are invisible to so many of us. I want these images to be used in the hope that people truly see the way animals currently exist in our society.” – Jo-Anne

The archive is a free resource for individuals, organizations, and media outlets around the world who are working to help animals. To date, the We Animals images have been used widely on social media, for banners and posters, in slide shows, newsletters, and even on book covers and for billboard campaigns. Browse the We Animals images and start planning how you might use them to educate and enlighten!

Find out more about this wonderful archive and the simple steps required to request photos in  this short video by McArthur herself:

VegFund highly recommends that you take advantage of this great resource in your outreach efforts. And please share widely with your activist buddies!

Support this project: weanimals.org/support

*The We Animals Archive is free to use for animal rights groups, not-for-profit and charity organizations, and educational organizations. The archive is also available on a commercial basis to commercial and media organizations. View Terms of Use.

Provoke, Inspire, Educate: Five Vegan-Related Documentary Films to Consider for Film Screenings

So you want to host a documentary film screening but you’re not sure where to start or what to screen? You’ve come to the right place. We’d like to point you to five noteworthy documentaries that have proved popular and thought-provoking among audiences on topics related to vegan living.

Documentaries as tools for social change

Documentaries can be powerful tools for social change. Great documentaries engage the viewer emotionally through compelling stories of real lives and events while conveying information or perspectives that are often obscured from the public eye. The viewer becomes a participant, an insider privy to these truths. Documentaries have the potential to involve the audience emotionally and shift their awareness or change their assumptions about an issue. And, importantly, documentaries (most often) offer the possibility of change.

As vegan activists, we’re working to connect people emotionally with the hard realities of lives of animals raised for food and convey the profound impact that vegan living has on animals, the environment, world hunger, health, and nutrition.

Recommended vegan-related films

Lucky for us, we have a number of fascinating vegan-related documentaries to choose from. Our feedback* from VegFund grantees points to a few films that have been particularly successful with general audiences. Many of you are already familiar with these films, but for those of you who aren’t:

  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret  – A feature-length documentary that follows filmmaker Kip Andersen as he explores the devastating effects of animal agriculture on deforestation, water consumption, pollution, greenhouse gases, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean dead zones, and more. Anderson investigates the world’s leading environmental organizations and uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issues of animal agriculture. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  VegucatedThis entertaining documentary profiles the personal journeys of three New York meat-lovers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. The film follows their evolution as they explore the world of vegan living and its effects on personal health — and as they take their first glimpse into the world of animal agriculture. The film doesn’t shy away from presenting the challenges as well as benefits of vegan living. This film offers an often-humorous take on transitioning to a vegan diet. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Forks Over KnivesForks Over Knives investigates the potential role of a “whole foods, plant-based” diet in avoiding, controlling, or reversing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, and cancer. The film advocates removing animal-based foods, including dairy, as well as highly processed foods from our diets. The film follows the journeys of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional scientist at Cornell, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic, whose experiences led them to take a close look at the role of animal-based foods in degenerative diseases. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  •  Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home – An engaging story of personal transformation , Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home portrays the stories of seven people who grew up in traditional farming culture as they re-examine their relationship with animals. The film follows, among others, a humane police officer whose conscience is in conflict with the laws she upholds and farmers who begin to question their way of life in light of their connections with the animals they care for. This heart-warming film enlightens us about the factors that open people’s hearts to animals and depicts the rich lives and personalities of farm animals. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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  • Speciesism: The Movie – The term “speciesism” refers to a “prejudice in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species over members of another species.” This concept manifests as the idea of human superiority over non-human animals and, at its extreme, that animals exist for our use. Director Mark Devries examines the questions around speciesism through conversations with a variety of people including anti-factory farming activists, a member of the American Nazi Party, a vivisectionist, and known personalities such as Peter Singer, Temple Grandin, and Richard Dawkins. The film is a provocative foray into the moral questions regarding species. Read the Screening guidelines for this documentary.

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Customize your vegan film-screening event

Documentary screenings are ripe for your creative vision. Screenings can be held publically in theaters, libraries, schools, churches — or privately as a house party. Combine screenings with vegan potlucks or food sampling. Consider including a Q&A session or inviting subject experts to speak or lead the discussion. Use the event to encourage an action such as try veg, sign up, donate.

On the websites of most documentaries, you’ll find a section on hosting a screening. Requirements vary, but a reasonably-priced film purchase (with license) is usually needed. On many sites, you’ll find supplementary material, such as designs for promotional materials and topics for discussion. The Screenings section of the VegFund website guides you through planning your screening event and submitting a request for funding assistance.

We recommend that you view the documentary in advance to ensure its suitability for your audience. Some films, for example, have graphic images that may not be suitable for children. Some films have the option for subtitles, which may be important for some audiences.

Check out our new film-screening partnership program

More extensive lists of animal rights/vegan films can be found through a quick Internet search. Look for new films too. As the pace of awareness grows, more and more inspiring documentaries emerge.

We are particularly excited about two newly released documentaries The Last Pig and Eating You Alive. VegFund is experimenting with a new partnership model to help our activists screen these new and important films. We are inviting you to partner with VegFund to use the power of these films to reach your communities and build networks of activists to energize local connections for vegan outreach.

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How to apply for a partnership screening grant:

  •  Apply to VegFund for a grant through our Screenings program and indicate your interest in screening The Last Pig and Eating you Alive  in your community and the date(s) you hope to screen the film(s). Both films will be available to screen beginning in June 2017. Within your application, you can provide ideas of how you might incorporate food sampling, literature, or speakers from your community into the event to make it all the more interesting and informative for the audience.
  •  VegFund will locate and book a screening venue in your city, pay for the venue directly, and then pay the film license fee directly to the distributor.
  • Once VegFund has selected and booked the venue, we will turn the event back over to you, the applicant activist, to complete the event organization and host the film. That means 1) recruiting your friends, family, and community to attend the film, 2) organizing food sampling, local area speakers, etc., as approved by VegFund, 3) attending the film to introduce it to the audience and tell them why you are hosting the film, and 4) raising awareness of VegFund’s grant opportunities.

If this new partnership model shows promise, VegFund will develop a screening toolkit in the near future to make the process as effortless as possible!

Choose a film. Take action!

You can still apply for traditional screening grants through our standard process for any film that may be of interest to your community, including The Last Pig or Eating You Alive. But, if you’re interested in hosting a larger public screening at an independent theater of one of these new documentary films and need support finding a venue and working with the distributor (and having those items paid for by VegFund in advance), we are here to help!

As a vegan activist, you are at the core of VegFund’s vision to create a compassionate vegan world. So, what are you waiting for? Educate and entertain the public. Change the world. Apply to host a screening in your area!

Stay in touch — tell us about your next screening event!

*relative to popularity, most effective, and recommended.

Make a Resolution to Be a Voice For Animals In 2017!

Happy New Year from VegFund!

Last chance to make your resolutions for 2017.

How about…

Resolve to organize or participate in a vegan outreach event!

VegFund is here to help.

If you’re new to vegan advocacy, find local vegan groups in your area. A few good places to look:

  • Meetup groups
  • Search social media (Facebook and Twitter, especially) for groups near you
  • Ask at your local veg restaurant
  • Join the planning team of a local VegFest

Find out what events they have on the calendar for 2017 — and volunteer! If they don’t have outreach events planned, suggest a food-sampling event, a documentary screening, leafleting, or video pay-per-view — and make sure they know that VegFund can help with grant-based support.

Or, start your own group! If there aren’t vegan groups in your area, get one going. Expanding vegan living into new areas is a fabulous goal for the new year.

If you’re a veteran activist, start the new year with some creative outreach planning. We have a few suggestions for you based on our 2016 survey of our grantees. Here’s what worked for them:

Host a Documentary Film Screening

Educate and entertain the public with a screening of one of the many excellent documentaries relating to animal agriculture. With an ever-growing choice of documentaries in this area, you’re sure to find something suitable whether you want to engage people on topics of animal rights, the environment, or health and nutrition.

FMVeg Minnesota - Cowspiracy Screening 2016

“The reception was fantastic, with one of the viewers wanting to host his own viewing, with my (and your) help!” – FMVeg, Minnesota – Cowspiracy Screening 2015

VegFund grantees use a variety of venues for film screenings. The three most common are:

  • local church facilities
  • town halls
  • college campuses

The documentaries most commonly screened by our grantees are:

  • Cowspiracy
  • Vegucated
  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • Forks Over Knives

Find out more about hosting a screening here.

Before the event:

  • Set up a Facebook event for the screening and invite your connections! About one month before the event should suffice. List the event venue, date and time, and any other important details. Include a blurb about the documentary film — and note if you’re including a Q&A session.
  • Post the event page within veg groups and other relevant groups on a regular basis in the weeks before the event.
  • Put up posters at the venue and other strategic locations in run-up to the event. Local print shops are usually happy to offer help or guidelines in setting up and printing your materials.

The day of the event:

  • Find out in advance what time you can gain access to the venue to start your preparations.
  • Plan to be at the venue 1–2 hours before the event to give you time to arrange the room, put out chairs, set up the projector, and lay out additional materials such as educational literature and food samples.
  • Leave the venue as you found it. Settle up any outstanding fees with the venue.

Host a Food Sampling Table at a Local Fair

Food sampling is a simple but effective form of outreach. Just book a stall at a suitable event, plan and prepare your food items, and turn up on the day with some volunteer support.

“AWESOME! Thanksliving went so much better than I could have ever hoped!! I had so many wonderful helpers and we gave out all the samples two hours sooner than I had expected! We got nothing but positive responses. We literally ran out of vegan fliers to hand out. Everyone LOVED the food.” – Students for Animal Rights Thanksliving event

Kindred Spirits Care Farm - Food Day LA 2016

Kindred Spirits Care Farm – Food Day LA 2016

Our grantees typically set up food sampling tables at:

  • local community fairs and markets
  • green festivals
  • health fairs
  • college campuses

The most popular types of vegan food samples handed out are:

  • mock meat products, such as Tofurky and Gardein products
  • plant milks – offer a variety such as soy, almond, and coconut
  • homemade cookies and cupcakes

The day of the event!

  • Set up before the event starts and be sure to keep your table tidy and sample trays full.
  • Dress smart-casual and have a smile on your face. Presentation is key to enticing people to stop for a taste.
  • Rotate your staff if you have volunteers. Prepare a schedule in advance to ensure everyone gets a break during the day.
  • Check out our blog on effective communication for tips on engaging with people about vegan living.
  • If you’re part of a vegan group, have a clipboard for sign-ups.

VegFund’s suggested sources for literature to hand out:

Learn more about food sampling events here.

What other outreach ideas does VegFund consider?

We provide grant support for a whole variety of vegan outreach activities, and we’re always interested in new and creative ideas — online campaigns, vegan fashion shows, speakers, vegfests, and more. See the Merit Awards section of the VegFund website for guidelines on funding innovative projects that promote veganism. Some examples from the past year:

Slovensko vegansko društvo (Slovenian Vegan Society) hosted Vegafest 2016. More than 10,000 people were reached by the event, with an estimate of 7,000 non-veg people visiting the festival itself.

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Dzīvnieku brīvība in Latvia held a Vegan Summer Solstice celebration where they served vegan cheese samples to attendees and distributed educational literature. Activists engaged in some really positive discussions, with many people showing an interest in making steps towards vegan living.

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This type of outreach is funded through VegFund’s Merit Awards program.

Learn more about our program guidelines and apply for a grant today!

Wishing you the very best of luck with your outreach in 2017.

- The VegFund Team

A Summary of VegFund’s Findings from a Dialogue with Our Grantees

(Part 6 of 6)

In our final blog of 2016, we summarize the findings we’ve reported over the past five months based on feedback from VegFund’s dedicated grantees. This summary consolidates information we gathered from an online survey and from focus groups we held during 2016. These findings will guide VegFund in 2017 as we enhance and diversify the resources we offer to our grantees.

From our survey, we gathered a general profile of VegFund grantees, including:

  • their occupations
  • the types of outreach they’re involved in
  • audiences they reach
  • their current levels of activist skills
  • resources they’d like to see from VegFund

The areas that we investigated relating to our grantee’s outreach work included:

  • aspects of vegan outreach that are of particular interest to VegFund grantees
  • barriers they face in their outreach activities
  • areas where they could use more support
  • level of comfort with event planning and preparation
  • how they evaluate the effectiveness of their outreach

You can read full details here.

So what did we learn?

Selecting the ideal venue for your outreach event

  • Campus activists have easy access to free venues, but other activists find it more challenging to locate low-cost venues.
  • Having some level of personal involvement with groups and institutions is a significant advantage when it comes to accessing certain types of venues (such as churches and cinemas).
  • Leafleting is free and permitted in most public places, but the impact of this form of outreach is difficult to measure.
  • Weather conditions, volume of pedestrian traffic, and volunteer availability are all important factors to consider when selecting an event venue.
Compassionate Action for Animals - 2015 Vegfest

Compassionate Action for Animals – 2015 Vegfest

Evaluating the impact of your outreach activity

In response to the question “Do you currently conduct any type of evaluation with your audiences to determine your success?,” our findings suggested that less than 50% of VegFund grantees use event evaluation to gauge the effectiveness of their outreach. Activists who are not currently evaluating their activities do have an interest in beginning to. The following information that we gathered may be a helpful start in assessing the impact of your outreach:

Many of our grantees who do evaluate their outreach take a two-step approach to evaluating their efforts:

  • quantifying outreach
  • gathering anecdotal information on quality

Grantees typically use the following information for assessment:

  • consumption of materials: numbers of leaflets distributed, numbers of food samples handed out, types of short videos and documentaries watched, discussion attendance
  • direct feedback: response on social media, attendee comments, signups (email/pledges)
Californian Activists - Campus Food Sampling Event

Californian Activists
– Campus Food Sampling Event in 2016

What are the barriers in your outreach efforts?

When we asked “What would encourage you to reach out to new audiences in your activism?”, a majority of activists reported:

  • more time
  • more financial support
  • more volunteer support

Activists also reported a need to enhance their activism skills — from expanding their presentation abilities to learning how to produce effective outreach content and materials on a budget.

Our grantees note an “above average” confidence in event organization, food preparation, and one-on-one conversations, but a large percentage of grantees felt a lack of skill (below average) in using technology in their outreach and producing materials and content (for example, writing, marketing, videography, graphic design).

What resources do you need to support your outreach efforts?

We asked our grantees what specific skills they feel would be most useful to them in interacting with the public, organizing events, and production/preparation of materials. They noted the following areas

where they feel they could use more training or knowledge:

  • assistance with tailoring messages and approaching the general public
  • coordination and leadership support
  • training in media use/production
  • training in food preparation
  • tips on burnout

We also investigated what mechanisms are of interest to activists to receive this support. The top suggestions were:

  • opportunities for collaboration and exchange information and ideas, such as an online forum
  • an online portal or library: templates of documents such as publicity  flyers, informational brochures, ads; organizational resources; lessons learned and best practices
  • training/workshops on effective activism

Thanks to all our grantees who took part in the online survey and focus groups. Your information is helping us shape the future of VegFund! We look forward to bolstering our support in 2017 based on the information you so generously provided. Keep an eye out for more to come!

You can also help support our vegan activists by making a year-end tax-deductible donation to VegFund.

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VegFund Stretches Its Reach

shutterstock_255413671Human consumption of meat and animal products is forecast to increase exponentially in the developing world and to remain at current levels in the developed economies for years to come. What this means is that we’ll see an increase in the already staggering estimated 156 billion land and sea animals consumed every year worldwide.

In our aspirations to reverse these trends, VegFund is joining efforts with a broad global community of experts in climate change, social justice, natural resource use, technology, and food systems whose cooperation is instrumental in working toward sustainable and compassionate societies.

VegFund is collaborating with these groups in several conference partnerships in 2016. Our new initiatives, launched this April, include our support for and participation in three key conferences that cover diverse global food issues.

At the 2016 Food + Enterprise Summit (April 8–9, attended by 600 people) in New York City, VegFund supported a panel called Funding an Ethical Food Economy: Plant-based Ventures. A panel of experts — David Benzaquen of PlantBased Solutions, Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute, Jody Rasch of VegInvest, and Leslie Barcus of VegFund — addressed the topics of why animal well-being and promoting a healthy environment are fundamental to ethical food systems and how the promise of lab-cultured meats and growth in animal product replacements are fueling private investment to push new vegan businesses and products into the consumer mainstream.

Photograph Courtesy of Clay Williams (© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com)

Photograph Courtesy of Clay Williams
(© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com)

From April 15–17, VegFund staff met many new vegans at the New York Green Festival. The Green Festival Expo is held in several cities throughout the United States and focuses on sustainability and green living. The New York event drew more than 250 exhibitors, partners, and sponsors including the team from the documentary, Cowspiracy. VegFund will participate in five Green Festival Events in 2016 as a means to recruit new activists.

Photograph Courtesy of New York Green Festival Expo 2016

Photograph Courtesy of
New York Green Festival Expo 2016

The third conference, the Food Tank Summit, took place in Washington, DC, April 20–21. VegFund partnered with Food Tank to serve 300 attendees excellent vegan lunches during the event, and VegFund Executive Director Leslie Barcus participated on a panel called Protein for the Planet. An estimated 30,000 people around the world listened in via live-stream to fascinating discussions about the dire need for changes in the global food system to feed a growing planet under stress.

Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

Photograph Courtesy of Food Tank

VegFund continues its conversations at this time toward partnering with 10–12 more conferences in 2016 as a part of our new initiatives. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people at the upcoming Animal Rights Conference in July 2016.

5 Top Tips for A Successful Film Screening Event: Findings from VegFund’s Five-Year Retrospective Study (Part 3)

Next in our continuing series on tips for effective vegan activism, we bring you tips for holding successful film screenings. Our past grantees have offered excellent feedback from their experiences on how best to: encourage people to attend film-screening events, make your event enticing, and engage viewers on the topic of animal agriculture and veganism.

FMVeg, Minnesota 2015

FMVeg, Minnesota 2015

“It definitely challenged people’s understandings and perceptions of animal industries. I’ve even spoken to a few people who went vegan as a result of the film and subsequent discussion.”

- Compassionate and Sustainable Consuming, 2015: Cowspiracy Screening.

“Many picked up multiple literature booklets and several cried during the scenes of slaughter. … We had a couple approach us after saying they were going vegan, that this is what they needed to see to push them.”

- Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E : Peaceable Kingdom Screening, 2012.

In the past five years, VegFund-supported activists reached approximately 10,600 people through film screenings. At these events, they also distributed 27,964 pieces of literature, and 20,211 vegan food samples.

5 Top Tips!

1. Films that are particularly effective at engaging their audiences are:

  • easy to grasp
  • include reliable data
  • moving, yet have minimal graphic footage.

2. Q&As after film screenings are popular, particularly those featuring film directors.

3. Events with a smaller number of viewers were reported to be more personal and engaging, with grantees having more conversations with attendees at these events. But, it’s always important to weigh the value of reaching more people versus having more one-on-one contact, and this will vary depending on the sort of event being held

4. Introductions to film screenings were well received and helpful for those who were unsure of what they would be viewing.

5. Attendees enjoy offers of vegan food samples, veg starter kits, and information on vegan living at these events. Veg starter kits appear to have been particularly popular among attendees.

Lean and Green Kinds 2015 – Ethical Eating Mini Film Festival

Lean and Green Kinds 2015
Ethical Eating Mini Film Festival

In the past five years of VegFund screening grants, documentaries that contain highly graphic content relating to animals are sometimes shown, but grantees have tended to steer away from these types of documentaries due to more negative responses from viewers.

Documentaries with content substantiated by facts and statistics were appreciated by grantees and attendees, as were films that appeal to both younger and older people. Of course, the films available and suitable for screenings have changed over the years, but some of the most popular films from 2011 to 2015 were:

“The film was very well-received and the students and others participating in the discussion said they learned a lot and were excited to make changes to their diets and contact national environmental groups to ask why they aren’t mentioning animal agriculture as a huge contributing cause to climate change.” – VegBoone’s screening of Cowspiracy in 2015.

“Audience commented that they enjoyed the film more so than other animal rights films they had seen, because it presented the issues in an easier-to-grasp light.” – Moncavage’s screening of Vegucated in 2012

“We had many people with questions afterward and even a guy looking for support because he just went vegetarian two weeks ago after his son showed him Forks Over Knives.” – Daytona Beach Vegetarian Society’s screening of Forks Over Knives in 2011.

Peaceable Kingdom, Speciesism, and Ghosts In Our Machine have also been popular choices. Many activists reported that viewers consider these films to be accessible to all ages and have fewer graphic scenes than they would have expected from animal-rights-themed documentaries.

“The Forks Over Knives screening was a HUGE success. We had 266 people RSVP on Facebook and another 25+ respond to us via email. The response was phenomenal. We gave out many VSR applications and all the literature was gone!” – Vegetarian Society of Richmond’s screening of Forks Over Knives, 2013.

As you can see here, activists are organizing film screenings as a tool to engage people on the topics of animal agriculture and the link between their dietary habits, and they’re receiving emotional and proactive responses! VegFund provides a film screening checklist on their website, along with various other resources to help your event be a hit!

Coming next: The final part of this series (part 4) offers tips for getting the most out of your Pay-Per-View video events. Don’t miss it!

8 Tips for Effective Animal Advocacy: Findings from VegFund’s Five-Year Retrospective Study (Part 1)

Our mission is to support YOUR fabulous work as vegan advocates.

We recently carried out a five-year retrospective study of our three main grant programs — Food Sampling, Film Screenings, and Pay-Per-View video events. In doing so, we consolidated valuable information supplied by our grantees in their feedback that could bolster the effectiveness of future outreach efforts of all vegan activists.

This installment is the first in our series of tips for effective animal advocacy. These tips will offer helpful pointers to maximize your effectiveness in communicating your message to as many non-vegan people as possible.

In this blog post, we’ve highlighted techniques commonly practiced by advocates that have received particularly positive responses.

Kindred Spirits Care Farm, Food Day LA 2015

Kindred Spirits Care Farm, Food Day LA 2015

Food Sampling

  • Food is always a brilliant conversation starter!
  • Food sampling events that coincide with another event, such as a vegan- or animal-welfare-themed film screening, festival, or conference have more impact and reach a higher number of people.
  • Offering literature to people who are sampling food gives them a handy takeaway. Recipe brochures are very popular.

Check out our blog Selecting Effective Outreach Materials —a helpful reference when selecting the literature to distribute at your event.

Film Screenings

  • Q&A formats are popular, particularly when they include film directors, activists, or people involved in the subject matter of the film.
  • Events advertised in advance via social media, in local cafes or community centers, on campuses, and through leafleting busy streets, have a higher turnout.

Pay-Per-View (PPV) Video Events

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Mercy For Animals, US
Atlanta Pride Fest 2015

  • PPV, where viewers are offered a small cash or food incentive to watch a video, is a fantastic discussion-raising form of outreach. Use it as an inroad to conversing with people in greater depth.
  • PPV incentives of 1) cake-per-view, 2) more than $1, or 3) $1 plus free food were far more popular than those offering only $1 incentives.
  • When PPVs are combined with food sampling and information booths, they attract larger crowds because not everyone wishes to watch the video footage.

Feedback from grantees on the success of their events using some of these tactics included comments such as:

“Many of them never before ate vegan food, and all of them loved it!”

“It definitely challenged people’s understandings and perceptions of animal industries …”

Comments from people who attended events held by VegFund-empowered activists included:

“I don’t think I’ll be able to eat meat for the rest of the day or ever. Something definitely needs to be done about this.”

“I’m definitely going to eat less meat now.”

Depending on your audience and venue, there are some especially effective ways to engage people with the animal rights and vegan message. Following this introductory blog, we will present in-depth information on proven techniques for each of VegFund’s grant programs based on feedback from activists around the globe, so stay tuned for lots of great information on food sampling, film screenings and pay-per-view outreach!

And lastly, thank you to all VegFund grantee activists who shared their event feedback with us. You have made this blog series possible.

Coming next: Part 2 of this series offers some great tips on making the most of your food sampling events.