Ensuring A Successful Community Outreach Event

November is World Vegan Month
November is World Vegan Month

Yesterday, I did my first tabling event under the sponsorship of my Meetup group, Verde Valley Vegans.

I think that probably the best advice I can give you to ensure a successful community outreach tabling event is to plan in advance. As the saying goes, failing to plan equals planning to fail.

Create a budget for your event. I was very fortunate to receive a grant from VegFund to help defray some of the costs for the booth/table fee, the food for sampling, and the literature. Many companies are willing to provide donations or reduced costs if you can demonstrate that you are requesting the items for a community outreach event. Don’t be shy.

Since this was my first of what I hope to be many events, I decided to be organized right at the outset. I purchased several plastic bins with locking lids. Next was to determine my target audience and to gather literature that was appropriate. To that end, I was able to secure a generous literature donation from PETA. The event was being held at the local grade school, so I wanted to ensure that there was an adequate array of age-appropriate literature. One brochure, “Nutrition for Kids”, was purchased at a radically-reduced per unit charge from PCRM (Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine).

The tabling event was going to include vegan food sampling, so I narrowed the focus to include a reasonable and realistic number of items and then determined the quantities I would need. Next step was to reach out to the manufacturers and request donations and/or reduced pricing for the items. Since several of the items required refrigeration, I made sure that I had ample room in the refrigerator prior to their delivery. Last night, I took the time to cut the items in individual tasting sizes. Items that were going to be handed out in the small sample cups were filled and stacked in sealable plastic containers. Items that needed to be heated at the event were put in containers and refrigerated. I transported and kept the food stored in a large cooler with freezer packs for transport and safe storage throughout the event. A couple of the items required heating at the event, so I made certain well in advance that I had a booth with electric.

Speaking of the booth itself, make contact with the organizer of the event. Introduce yourself and let yourself and your group be known. When reserving your booth, ask to see the floor plan and if possible, select the specific site that would be serve your need.

Since the event was including handing out food, I packed a bin with napkins, cups, utensils, paper towels, extra cloth dish towels, a pop-up of sanitizing sheets, table clothes, toothpicks, etc. Another bin had office-type supplies—such as tape, scissors, string, clips, a bags of pens, some paper, etc.)

Once filled, all the bins were labeled accordingly so I would be able to put my fingers on whatever I needed in a moment’s notice.

Over the past several weeks, I created a checklist list so that I would not forget anything.

Last night, I pulled together the rest of the items that I needed, for example, tables, chairs, a cooler of healthy food and filled water bottles for myself and the other volunteers, my event folder, camera, etc.

Arrive early to set up…this is important…and allow for extra time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s nice to have everything set up and be able to catch a breath before the event opens. It is also an excellent time to take photos of your table. Get a photo or two with you at the booth. During the event, make sure you take photos capturing the day.

Unfortunately, my next bit of advice is the result of a not-so-good experience today. After a very successful event that went by quickly with much activity at the booth, it was time to pack up. I had some help as there was much to do. The packing itself went well and everything seemed to be organized. The last thing I packed was my camera. I put it on top of one of the boxes where it would be secure. Only thing left to do was load the van. In our going in and out of the building to load the van, the camera went missing. So incredibly disappointing and upsetting. In addition to now having none of the photos that captured today’s amazing event, I have incurred the financial loss of my camera and accessories. One of the requirements of the VegFund grant is that you are required to include specific photos along with your receipts to obtain your reimbursement, so it would appear that reimbursement may be in jeopardy. Bottom line is this….while it is unfortunate that someone else decided to engage in an act of dishonesty, if I had been more diligent about ensuring the safe storage of a valuable possession, I would still be in possession of that valuable item. My bad. Hard lesson learned here. I can promise you that I will not repeat this act of negligence again.

I have a great t-shirt that has a vegan message on it. There are now many companies that produce some wonderful and inexpensive garments that would be appropriate for your event. You might also want to consider having some printed up on your own.

How are you identifying your booth? I had a 24” high x 48” wide banner made. I opted for the indoor/outdoor version as it was much more durable. There really wasn’t much difference in the price. There are several discounted online printing shops that have a wide variety of options.

You want your booth to be attractive and inviting. Don’t clutter it up and don’t leave your bins lying around. If possible, store them back in your vehicle. Keep your tabling area neat and clean at all times.

Oh, and it’s important to remember to have fun!

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