I’m working on a pamphleting pilot program with the folks over at The Life You Can Save, and I wanted to lay out our plans and hopefully field some useful thoughts and criticisms. First, a couple notes on the motivation for this project. Pamphleting has been used by other advocacy groups (with positive, although debatable, results), but to my knowledge hasn't been tried by an EA-flavored global poverty organization, so we're giving it a shot. There is arguably something old-fashioned and appealing about being handed a physical booklet from a real person that differentiates this medium from, say, online ads, and promotes (or so the argument goes) a deeper level of engagement. We're hoping that the data we collect, which TLYCS will be using to decide whether to continue it's program, will be useful to other groups as well, so we wanted to field some feedback here.
The basic thrust of the project is right out of the Vegan Outreach playbook; put together a leaflet that targets college age students with material relating to global poverty interventions and effective altruism, and hand them out on college campuses on a rolling, semester basis. Whereas for VO the ultimate goal of pamphleting is to make vegans, the goal for the TLYCS pamphlets is to get students to engage with the material on the website and then take TLYCS's pledge. We have our pamphlet nearly finished and plan to start handing them out this spring semester at Southern California universities. In this pilot program, we really want to, 1.) explore the logistical challenges in running this kind of activity, and 2.) try and gauge the effectiveness of pamphleting versus other methods of spreading the message. It is on point two that I am keen to get feedback, so I’ll outline our current thoughts on this.
I plan to hand out pamphlets on discrete days during the pilot period (say, every other friday for several months), and keep track of how many booklets are handed out during each distribution. This should allow us to monitor traffic spikes (or lack of them) to the website from IP addresses in the distribution zone, as well as spikes in pledge signups, which can serve as a preliminary indication of engagement. We will also be pushing a special landing page that is only advertised in the pamphlets as another metric to gauge impact. This would be analogous to VO’s vegetarian starter guide offer, in that the offer require's the reader to actually do something, and therefore ostensibly reflects a more significant level of engagement. We initially envisioned directing students to a “special message” from TLYCS, which might be a video from Peter Singer or someone else in the organization offering an in-person invitation to explore the site and take the pledge. Another thought was to invite students to play an online version of TYLCS’s Giving Game, where they visit the website and choose which of four charities will receive a dollar donation. However, there was some disagreement on the team whether offering a strong “hook” to get people to come to the site would muddy the effectiveness of the pamphlet qua pamphlet. For instance, TLYCS offers in-person Giving Game workshops, and it was thought that pitching an online version of the Giving Game in the pamphlets would make it harder to compare the effectiveness of the pamphlets versus the in-person workshops. As something of a compromise, we are now inviting students to take a quiz (just a shell site right now) in which they answer questions and then get paired up with one of TLYCS’s recommended charities. I’d be very interested in what people think on this point; what’s the right balance between pushing a really strong hook in the pamphlet (e.g. video from Peter Singer, invitation to play Giving Game), versus keeping the pamphlet as independent as possible so we can tell how engaging of a medium it is?
Ultimately, we’d like to come out of the pilot program with a metric that falls somewhere close to “cost per TLYCS pledger via pamphlets” that we can compare with other outreach efforts (online ads, in-person workshops, etc), and use in deciding whether to expand the program or abandon it. To summarize, I’m really interested in hearing comments on:
- Are we making any obvious mistakes in our approach to measuring the effectiveness of the pamphlets?
- What is the right balance to strike between pitching a strong “hook” in our pamphlets versus keeping them “clean” so that only the appeal of the pamphlets as a medium is measured?
- Is there anything we can tweak in our pilot that would make it more relevant and useful to other organizations considering a pamphleting program?
Thanks all, and look forward to hearing from you!