Tips for Leafleting
- Where to Stand
- What To Say
- Tips from Some of the Most Prolific Leafleters
- Cold Weather
Weekdays before 3 PM are normally the busiest times on campuses. Most large universities provide a steady flow of pedestrians throughout the day. Smaller colleges usually have a steady flow between classes. Some schools, including many community colleges, continue to have a flow of traffic past 5 PM.
Some leafleters will look at a school’s class schedule beforehand by checking common subjects on the school’s website such as History, Psychology, Sociology, and Communications to get a sense of common class times, such as 9-9:50, MWF or 9-10:15, TR. Some schools have a surprising number of classes that begin at 8 am which would warrant beginning very early in the day. Also, since many of the larger schools are constantly leafleted and petitioned by other groups, arriving early generally ensures that you will be the only group on campus and not have to compete for the student’s attention.
Some schools allow leafleting by outsiders, while others do not. Public universities are supposed to allow it according to federal court decisions, but some do not follow such rules and others try to limit leafleting by requiring you register and limiting where you can stand. More info on the legal issues surrounding leafleting and what to do if you are stopped can be found on the page Legal Questions About Leafleting.
Many schools within cities provide a flow of students on public sidewalks where they can be reached.
At large schools generally the most students will be found near the Student Union or Library. However, it may be wise to try and find alternative spots to leaflet if the school is constantly leafleted or petitioned because students will be used to rejecting leafleters in these common spots. For instance, at UC Berkeley, leafleters avoid the Sproul Plaza, the busiest spot on campus, because it is leafleted nearly everyday of the semester by other groups.
At smaller schools or schools that are not leafleted often, the busiest spots are often the best. Consider staking out a few different spots and rotating between them during busy class changes to reach the maximum number of new students.
While leafleting, it is best not to stay completely stationary. A wider walkway may require you to constantly walk back and forth, approaching as many students as possible. It is important to stand in the center of the walkway and not off to the side.
Keep in mind that traffic flow will be going in two directions. You will reach the largest amount of new students and avoid repeatedly asking the same students if you only leaflet one direction of the flow. If you are starting very early in the day, you can focus on students coming to class or on to campus. If you are starting later in the day focus on students that are coming out of class and possibly leaving campus for the day.
We keep notes for the best places to leaflet at schools, so just choose your state in the drop-down box in the sidebar and click Submit to see a list of schools in your area.
Other location tips:
- Leaflet to groups of students sitting around talking or students studying.
- Leaflet inside academic buildings and student unions when the weather is bad. Set up on a table, especially if no one seems to be monitoring them.
- If you are not shy, go into the cafeteria and walk from table to table giving out brochures. Sit and talk at each one for a bit (one activist has done this with success).
- Get to school before the first class change, that means usually 7:30 or so, and stand between where the residents live and where classes are and only leaflet people in the direction of those coming to class.
- When the traffic gets heavy, the turn down rate sometimes gets high. Moving to a less trafficked area can increase the acceptance rate. But even with a low acceptance rate, you can give out a lot over the course of an hour in high traffic.
- Hold open the door of a busy building with the back of your foot and leaflet students as they walk in. This has proved to be an extremely effective technique, especially at tougher schools where the take rate isn’t very high.
- Discreetly leaflet in the lobby of buildings by sitting on a bench working on a lap top computer or reading a book and getting up to hand students leaflets as they pass.
Vegan Outreach volunteers have found the following phrases to be effective:
- Info to help animals
- Info on non-violent eating – especially good for progressive crowds
- Info on compassionate eating
- Info against animal cruelty
- Brochure against factory farming
- Info about where your food comes from
- Make informed choices
- Info on helping animals and the environment
- Did you get one of these? (esp. for tough crowds)
If a person declines a leaflet, saying they are already vegetarian, which happens frequently in major metropolitan cities, offer them a Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating. You can do so by asking if they’d like some free recipes or announcing that you have something “special” just for them. You don’t need to mention it, but there is information on dairy and further arguments for veganism in the back of the booklet, which may help move them from vegetarian to vegan. You might also encourage them to keep the original leaflet and pass it on to a friend or family member saying that it would probably mean more coming from them than a stranger.
Nervousness fades once you've offered the brochure to a few people. Students commonly have fliers for upcoming parties and plays thrust at them, so they are accustomed to being approached by leafleters. If you look like you know what you are doing, they assume you're supposed to be doing it.
Don’t be too concerned about knowing every tiny detail about factory farming, the most current investigation, or every philosophical argument for and against vegetarianism. One could spend their lifetime reading every bit of information, but Vegan Outreach has done lots of research to make sure our booklets are accurate and well-documented. The majority of students will simply accept a booklet and say thank you or decline a booklet and say no thank you anyway. For those that do want to converse or grill you on facts, if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s much better to admit you don’t know than try and make something up you may have heard. The point is not to out-argue them but to get a brochure in their hands and for them to have a positive image of you as a person and your message of compassion. One of our most prolific leafleters created a website that contains the questions and his answers to those most commonly asked while leafleting. That can be found here: ar.vegnews.org.
A couple leafleters give their experience:
"When I first started leafleting I felt uncomfortable and was kind of rigid. Now I stay really loose, I mosey over to people and give greetings as I leaflet, often engaging in friendly banter. When standing I bounce a little bit to be loose."
“At first I would feel personally offended if someone didn’t want to take a leaflet from me. I mean, who doesn’t want to help animals?! I found that this faded with time when I realized it’s better to simply focus on the next person instead of giving in to this negative thinking. After all, there are too many people to reach out too to be overly troubled by those that deny me.”
Remember, there will almost always be some students who are glad you are there and who are excited to get the information!
- "It was such a small school with intermittent foot traffic, my friend who came to help out decided to act as a decoy instead, pretending to read a leaflet while talking to me throughout the day. We initially started out having both of us leafleting, but once we switched to the decoy strategy, take rate went from about 2 in 10 to 9 out of 10."
- If someone says they got one before and the flow of traffic is relatively slow at that time, ask them what they thought about it. If they seem interested in making any kind of change, offer them a Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating.
- If someone says they are vegan or vegetarian, ask them if they have a little time to help out, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Some do and it might result in another regular leafleter.
- Try to project that you're having a good time while leafleting. Smile and say, "Thank you" to individuals for their time. Even if they don't take a brochure, it encourages many to come back and ask for one. Politeness, friendliness, sincerity, and humility all help encourage people to take a brochure and ask questions.
- A good response to "I love meat," is "But do you care where it comes from?", or “That’s ok, this is for you!” and point to the cover, reading out loud, “Even if you like meat….”
- The Lean - "If you extend your hand all the way and lean your shoulder forward and bend at the waist a bit towards the student, they will naturally take the leaflet, I mean hey, you are giving so much of yourself to try to reach this person, they would feel bad leaving you hanging. Sometimes I even step back a bit so I can do a full extension towards the person."
- The Head Tilt - Tilt your head while offering the brochure.
- People often decide whether to take a brochure from someone based on whether the person in front of them took a brochure. If you get a string of individuals who turn you down, it might be wise to stop for the next few people, turn around and grab a sip from your water bottle and then start back up again.
- Say "Hi." Pause for them to say "Hi" back. Then ask them if they would like a brochure.
- Body language can be crucial. Some schools seem to have different personalities; while students at a certain school may react to confident body language, almost domineering, a different school might require you to be quite passive. Generally it’s a good idea to maintain good posture and extend your arm and step into each interaction you have. Experiment with different levels of aggressiveness at different schools. One leafleter says, “Imagine a party, hugging the wall shows insecurity, open space = confidence, and leafleting is mostly body language. Even in a relatively narrow pathway, stand without feet hugging edge of sidewalk.”
- For when you are going to spend multiple class changes at one school: I leaflet folks going one way when it is heavy and leaflet in the same direction the next period. By doing this, I don't get the same people the next period. As the day progresses, I'm getting many repeats, but I'm also getting several hundred new folks. "Have I asked you yet?" minimizes offending people and ensures new folks are reached.
- "As a place gets saturated or when someone rejects the leaflet, it may sound and feel corny at first but I give every single person a big thumbs up, "You already got one? Great!" I have found this is extremely effective! It gives the next people coming the impression you had a positive interaction, you are not a salesmen or a nuisance. I do it to everyone from morning on. It's really funny later in the day when 10 people in a row give me a thumbs up, then I know they already got the leaflet, and it makes my job easier. As it gets later in the day, if I'm unsure I'll ask, "Did you get one of these?" without extending my hand."
- The Inverse Gauntlet: Two people leafleting from the center of a path back to back. It makes you more noticeable, especially in heavy traffic.
- Generally you will only have good luck during the class changes. Bring a book or something to entertain yourself with in the Library for the slow periods and focus on leafleting 15 minutes before a class gets out until 15 minutes after it has started. Only leaflet students from one direction, either those going to class or those coming from class. The flow will be lighter; resist the urge to try and leaflet all students. If you do try and leaflet everyone in both directions, by the second class change you will be getting students you already saw, and your acceptance rate will plummet once new students see others refusing booklets. If you know of multiple leafleting spots, consider changing spots after two class changes
- If the college is REALLY slow, leaflet students in both directions near one specific building or classroom, then move to a different location for the next class change and do the same. Then you can go back to the first (if there isn't a third option) and start all over again!
- Positioning. From a leafleter who has visited MANY small schools: “For most smaller schools, just about everyone lives on campus. What I do is either look online, or ask students when I arrive where the dorms are. About 15 minutes before a class change, leafleting near the dorms is awesome. If the dorms are all scattered about, chances are at least the classrooms will be bunched together. If this is the case, leaflet as close to the entrances of the buildings as possible. It is important to mix up where you stand.”
- Parking. Most small private colleges on the east coast do not have outsider parking available. If you are not staying too long, you can park in the student lots will most likely be ok. Also, visitor parking permits can usually be obtained from the visitor center or police department. Just say you're checking out the school and need a pass.
- Stuff pocket warmers in the toes of your boots.
- Walk around more while leafleting to increase circulation. Walking around the block can help increase circulation.
- Take warm up breaks.
- Try to avoid leafleting in the shade if possible (this is difficult to avoid in cities w/skyscrapers). Look for sunny spots- it might not feel significantly warmer at first, but it helps long term.
- Facing the sun can be helpful, not only to keep you warm, but the angle of the sun is so low in the winter that the glare in people's eyes (if they are facing the sun) can interfere with their ability to even see that you are handing them a leaflet. So, if you leaflet people walking away from the sun, chances are they can see you more easily and you?ll stay warmer!
What to wear!
- Layers layers layers! Thermal base layer shirts/pants are a huge help. Most sporting goods suppliers carry a variety of these. www.sierratradingpost.com has great deals. You can never wear too many layers - if you do, and it's a steamy 45 degrees out, you can always get rid of a few layers.
- Waterproof boots to keep that slushy snow out!
- If you don't have waterproof boots, this works:
- Put on pair of socks.
- Put plastic bag over socks (those previously used for newspapers are the best).
- Put another pair of socks on over plastic bag.
- Put on shoes.
- Moisture-wicking acrylic socks will keep your feet warmer than layers of cotton socks. Hats and scarves are also pretty essential. Or you could opt for earmuffs. Hand warmers / toe warmers (available in reusable or single use types) are a big help when its 35 degrees or under. They last 8+ hours. They fit great in gloves or mittens. You can find single use hand warmers/toe warmers in almost any pharmacy/convenient store if you live in a cold region. They are also available in bulk via Amazon.com.
- Gloves or mittens? It depends on your style. Thin gloves with grippy surfaces are very helpful, but when it's 35 degrees or under, those aren't warm enough after the first few hours. Some folks like the glove/mitten combo. Puffy insulated mittens are cumbersome, and make it more difficult to leaflet rapidly, but they are definitely the warmest.
- If it's a slow day, mittens work. If traffic picks up, fan out a few of the leaflets in one hand, making it easier to grab one leaflet at a time with the puffy-mitten hand.