6: JFA-Style Poll Table: Small Outreach Event, Big Impact

Note: You might want to read “1: Before Your Club Starts Choosing Pro-Life Activities” and “2: What Makes a Good Pro-Life Event?” first.

From just tabling and polling campus every week for a year we have had hundreds and hundreds of conversations… The conversions from pro-life to pro-choice are so many that we have stopped counting… All it took was us being present and consistent... We have had six people, last semester, not get abortions because they came to our table.
— Kandace, 2012, Louisiana State University (LSU)

Goals

Kandace was a leader in her pro-life club at LSU.  One of the club’s mainstay events was a weekly “poll table” outreach event.  She learned about poll tables when she volunteered with JFA.  Soon, she and her club were holding an outreach event every week on Free Speech Alley at LSU.  Yes, you heard that right: every week.  You can do the same.  Here are some goals a poll table event can help you accomplish:

  • Create a dialogue about abortion in a highly trafficked area of a college campus.
  • Learn about student attitudes toward abortion and start conversations that change minds.
  • Gain email addresses of students interested in the student group.
  • Gain email addresses of students who disagree with you, to continue the conversation.

 

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1: Reserve a Table Space

  • Apply to the appropriate office for permission to set up a table in your selected area.
  • Inform the administration of your start time, end time, and materials you’ll be giving away.
  • Request a table or purchase your own folding table for this and future events.

Step 2: Prepare to Dialogue

Step 3: Prepare Your Materials and Plan Your Schedule

For this, plan a meeting of 1-2 hours.  One hour may be all you need here.

Materials:

  • Three pieces of 20” x 30” foam-core poster board

    • The sturdier the better (colors are better, as well)
    • Or, make this a double-sided table (two directions of traffic) by prepping twice as many signs.  See photos below for ideas on making the table double-sided!
    • We use fat Sharpie markers and paint pens to make these signs.
    • We laminate these signs or, at least, we put packing tape on the edges, so that when we tape the signs to the table or to each other we aren’t taping directly on the sign (which would damage the sign later in the day when we take down).
  • Two pads of paper (notebooks work as well)
    • One pad of paper with labels on the tops of EACH page (prep 3-5 pieces of paper per pad).  Or, prep two pads per side to make this a double-sided table (two directions of traffic).
    • Write “Yes” at the top of one pad.  Put a place for NAME, EMAIL (for results of poll), and WHY? 
    • Write “NO” at the top of the other with NAME, EMAIL (for results of poll), and WHY?
Yes blurred.png
No blurred.png
  • Pens for the pads of paper
    • Accurate pictures of the unborn and abortion
      • Use the Justice For All Brochure and JFA smart phone resources which provide links to fetal development and abortion images.
        • You can use the JFA Exhibit Brochure in two ways at your event.  You can have just enough on hand to keep a few at the table to use during conversations.  It’s best, however, to consider having enough on hand (20 per hour of outreach) to give them to people who express an interest in receiving one (we ask people, “Would you like a copy of the JFA Exhibit Brochure that we’ve been looking at?”)
      • See especially these pages online: What Is the Unborn? and What is Abortion?  (Have these on hand to refer to in conversations.  Warn before showing.) 
      • Another resource we highlight that you should use: www.ehd.org/apps
    • Clipboard with club signup (name, major, class year, email address, preferred social media handle, cell number, etc.).  Place this on the “No” side so it’s readily at hand when you get in a conversation with a pro-life person and want to encourage him/her to sign up for your club emails or to get involved

Plan Your Schedule

  • Two people should be present at the table at all times.  Four people at one time can have plenty to do, though, since you’ll probably have about 1 person each minute signing the poll in a heavily-trafficked area at lunch time.  So, if you start a conversation with one of those people that takes 30 minutes, and another club member starts a conversation with the next person, you can see that even if some people aren’t interested in conversation, you can generate more conversations than four people can handle. 
  • Note, though, that there’s a saturation point at which too many conversations happening at the table may impede traffic, and then you may be asked by administration to change something so that traffic can flow.  We tend to think a crowd discussing abortion is a good thing, but we also think it’s important to respect the administration’s reasonable concerns about student safety.

Step 4: Ask JFA and Other Friends to Pray

  • Obviously, if your club is a secular or non-theistic club, you won’t be drawn to this item, so feel free to skip it if it doesn’t apply to you.  You can still let JFA know you’re doing a poll table, and we’ll encourage you!
  • If your club thinks it is a good idea, we suggest each club member use email or Facebook (or other medium) to ask a few friends to be praying during the time you’ve set aside for outreach.  We believe that good arguments and good dialogue skills are important tools, but that ultimately God changes minds and hearts by his Spirit.

Step 5: Do the Event

  • Meet to pray and set up materials 30 minutes in advance.
  • Suggested minimum club members: 2 at any one time.
  • Suggested maximum: 6 at any one time. (Or others could sit a ways away and pray, take pictures, etc.)

Step 6: Follow Up

  • After the event, first, tally up the poll.  You’ll send this tally to all of the email addresses you collected.  You’ll have lots of email addresses on the “No” and “Yes” sides.  You can’t assume all of the “No” respondents have the exact same views on abortion that you do, and you can’t assume the “Yes” respondents don’t agree with you on anything. 
  • For the “No” respondents, send the results of the poll and 1-4 sentences about your club, including the next meeting time, the mission of your club, and why someone should consider coming to a meeting.  We suggest including what you’ll equip them to do if they come to a club meeting.  Make sure to give contact information for the club (email address, Facebook page, phone number) so they can get questions answered.
    • Suggestion: In this email or in a follow-up, perhaps ask a specific question such as, “Would you like to be involved in pro-life activities on campus?”  That way, the person sending the emails can get immediate feedback on people who are clearly interested.  We’ve found this helpful for following up with students.  They seem more likely to respond if they are asked something directly.  We’ve found the “direct question” most helpful if we’re sending to a blind list of emails and we want to know who would want to be involved.

  • For the “Yes” respondents, send them the results of the poll, and an invitation to dialogue further at the poll table in the future (or give a contact email for the club in case they want to have further conversation).

  • When you send the results to anyone, make sure to include the disclaimer that “this is an informal poll, and we are not suggesting that it is representative of anyone beyond the respondents to the poll.”

  • Let JFA know how your event went by emailing or calling your contact at JFA, by posting to Facebook (tag JFA’s Facebook Page), or by filling out our “Share Your JFA Story” form

Step 7: Repeat!

  • Self-explanatory :) 

Possible Additions to the Poll Table Event

  • Surveys:  JFA staff and volunteers often use surveys to start conversations during our campus outreach events.  To learn more about our surveys, learn how to use them at your event, and to request copies contact JFA at 316-683-6426 or jfa@jfaweb.org.

 

Examples of Poll Tables

Traditional JFA Poll Tables

Negatives: Maximum of two people signing on each side of poll at one time.

Positives: Gives a club an easy way to capture email addresses (send the results of poll with invitation to join club email list, come to a club event, etc).

A “Rainy Day” Alternative:

Substitute popsicle sticks for pads of paper.   People write their reason on the popsicle stick and push the stick into the foam board.  Some people do this with a lot of gusto!

Negatives: Doesn’t give you an easy way to capture email addresses.

Positives: Multiple people can register their opinion at once.

This article is one of a series entitled, Conversations Change CampusesTo view the entire series, see below or click here.