The following is a summary of two conversations that took place as part of our evaluation of Veganuary. Jane Land and Matthew Glover are the founders of Veganuary. Land and Glover spoke with ACE Researcher Jacy Reese on July 27th, 2016 and September 15, 2016.
Veganuary’s Major Strengths
One of Veganuary’s greatest strengths is its communication style. Veganuary is non-judgmental, supportive, kind, open to suggestions, friendly, and approachable. Their website is also strong, as probably the biggest vegan resource available online. Veganuary aims to provide practical support to people who are trying veganism with recipes, eating out guide, starter kit, products, chain restaurants, and a discussion of myths about veganism. They send daily emails throughout January, soon to be accessible during any month from February 2017 onwards. They have an international Facebook group of over 5,000 people.
Another one of Veganuary’s strengths is their staff. They have just three staff members who all work remotely, but each is very passionate and committed. (One staff member hasn’t technically started yet, so but will soon.) Because of the low overhead, they achieve a very low cost per life spared. One estimate was that Veganuary’s work spares about 76 animals per pound spent, although quantitative estimation is of course very difficult and speculative.
Another of Veganuary’s strengths is their catchy brand. Their name associates them with January, a good month in which to change habits, and their brand allows them to gather substantial media attention each year.
Veganuary’s Major Weaknesses
Veganuary is a relatively new organization compared to other animal rights groups; they are still working to establish their reputation.
While Veganuary’s small staff is one of their strengths because it allows them to have a low overhead, it can also be one of their weaknesses. In the last 18 months, the campaign has grown very quickly and they haven’t had enough team members to capitalize on the exciting opportunities. They rely on interns and volunteers, and their limited funding leads to a lack of staff development and training. Veganuary does not see their fundraising ability as one of their strengths currently, and improving this is one of their highest priorities. And a full time fundraiser will be in post by October 17, 2016.
One challenge for Veganuary is quantifying the number of informal participants, the ones that don’t actually sign up on the website. Every year, Veganuary tries to incentivize people to sign up by changing the signup form or providing offers and discounts. This year they are going to offer a celebrity cookbook that you can download for free once you’ve signed up, which should help them evaluate their impact and improve their campaign strategy.
Veganuary’s Biggest Accomplishments from the Past Year
Increasing Participation and Website Traffic
The campaign is getting bigger every year. 23,000 people officially took part in Veganuary in January 2016, which was the largest number of participants to date and roughly double the number of participants from 2015. Google Analytics also show the Veganuary website had twice as much traffic. Hits on the site increased from 128,000 in 2015 to 230,000 in 2016.
Media coverage was also the best received so far, with a front page in the Guardian online and coverage in other national newspapers in the UK, as well as coverage in the US. Celebrity involvement also increased. A Google search now yields about 17,000 results for Veganuary, although it is difficult to quantify the benefits of media attention due to differences in the quality of the coverage.
Veganuary’s interaction with predominantly UK businesses such as chain restaurants and shops increased significantly last year. They see this as important to move forward and grow as an organization. They want to not only help restaurants get vegan options ready for January but encourage them to keep vegan options on the menu permanently.
Vegan Recidivism Rates
Veganuary was pleased with the results of the recent Faunalytics report. They did a less rigorous survey in 2014 due to budget constraints. Of the people who took part during January, a reasonable proportion remained vegan after January, and a high proportion of people who didn’t remain vegan did continue to reduce their consumption of animal products.
Veganuary attended the Animal Rights National Conference in 2016. Part of the purpose of attending was to network, for example with Mercy For Animals, The Humane League, Vegan Outreach and Compassion Over Killing, all of whom have been very supportive of Veganuary in the past. Veganuary wants to continue developing these relationships.
In August, Veganuary held a press launch. They surpassed what they achieved last year in terms of attendance. Celebrities and high-profile journalists attended. Representatives for the nationwide UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s were also there. It’s key that the press launch is held in August, as a lot of national health and lifestyle magazines plan their issues 3 to 4 months in advance.
Offline Advertising Campaign
Veganuary is looking at the possibility of a London Underground campaign and a crowdfunding campaign to finance it. They have a quote of £24,000 for 2,000 posters to go inside train carriages, which they think would be quite high impact. The controversy provoked by a campaign on the London Underground by the Gourmet Burger Kitchen making fun of vegetarianism suggests an Underground campaign could attract a lot of coverage. They’ve done a lot of research to determine the most effective design. They believe the campaign will attract attention that a social media presence alone cannot, especially during January when people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions.
London is a good location for the campaign because Veganuary is UK-based and London is already quite vegetarian and vegan friendly. London is also an important center in the UK, with a high concentration of politicians, journalists, influencers and bloggers. Additionally, very little animal rights advertising is currently done in London. Veganuary would have a section on their website specifically for people in London, with information about what restaurants and shops have vegan options and about local meetups. They want to follow up the campaign with press releases and media engagement.
Working with Businesses
Last year, Veganuary worked with a chain restaurant, Handmade Burger Company, to give participants an offer which was redeemed 20,000 times. This was more redemptions than any of the restaurant’s offers had previously had. Veganuary can use this success story as an example to other restaurants. This year Veganuary is working with five restaurants to provide offers, and they have already gotten offers with four of them. They are meeting next month with All Bar One, who are asking what vegan options to put on the menu. They plan to have five vegan meal options on the menu during January, but on the run-up to January they are going to introduce two new vegan options.
Businesses seem to like Veganuary because of their non-judgmental, friendly approach, and because they frame veganism as a fun challenge. Veganuary seems to be more palatable to businesses than traditional animal rights groups in this regard. They also appeal to businesses’ concern with money; January is a quiet month for business and successful offers or promotions also benefit businesses. They point out to businesses that there will be 20,000 new vegans in the UK in January and they will need somewhere to go.
Veganuary has recently received VegFund support of $2,500 a month towards Facebook advertising, which will be important to attract more participants in December and January. Google analytics are very strongly in favor of Facebook being the best way of increasing participation online. Probably over 60% of participants sign up because of Veganuary’s Facebook presence, but they have lacked the money to put a budget towards increasing their Facebook presence in the past. About 80% of participants sign up between December 27th and January 2nd, so their performance needs to be at its peak during this time. They currently have around 59,000 Facebook followers, up from 20,000–25,000 in 2015.
Veganuary can use Facebook pixels, monitor conversion rates and do split testing to find the most effective ways to increase participation through Facebook. They’re working closely with The Humane League and Mercy For Animals, who will help with social media management generally but primarily with Facebook ads management.
Long Term Goals
Veganuary is working on translating their site into Spanish. At the moment, the “About” page is translated into four other languages. Over the coming years, they intend to translate the site into German, Hindi, Portuguese, or other languages depending on analysis over the coming years of where visitors to the site are located.
Veganuary has a very small team and would like to bring other people onto the team with skills that can strengthen it. They’d like to take on a business development employee who can spend more time fundraising. They’d also like to employ someone to work specifically on corporate outreach and spend more time talking to chain restaurants, shops, and smaller restaurants, both in the UK and overseas where possible. They have a small public relations (PR) budget and a freelance PR manager, who’s a very compassionate animal advocate, so they get a lot for their money, but would like to take someone on who could spend more time on PR. Building the team over the next 1–5 years is important to them.
Veganuary’s main long-term goal is to increase their audience and the number of participants in Veganuary. They want to double their number of Facebook followers and participants every year. Veganuary is working on getting more men interested in the campaign. About 87% of their participants are usually women. They may create a specific campaign targeted to men.
Challenges that Veganuary has Learned From and is Improving
There have been some difficulties with celebrities not responding to their outreach; Veganuary spent a lot of time chatting with Stella McCartney and her team and thought they’d gotten her on board, but haven’t been able to speak to her face to face. However they don’t think issues such as these indicate they should stop reaching out to high profile individuals. They haven’t had the standing of other organizations in the past, which has made approaching high profile people less successful. However, their standing is improving as they get more endorsements.
Veganuary tried to organize parties at the end of January that had a small uptake. They’re not doing a launch party this year; the cost of travel and accommodation for Glover and Land isn’t worthwhile, and in any case it has tended to be very strong supporters at these events to whom Veganuary’s message doesn’t need to be promoted further. This year, the wrap party was held locally in York. It was focused on fundraising rather than promotion. The event sold out.
Encouraging New Vegans to Become Activists
After January, Veganuary’s message changes to ‘stay vegan’ and they try to keep people on board, but they don’t as yet try to convert those people into animal rights activists. They might consider inviting participants to come to workshops or a conference, and make sure participants are informed that they can multiply their impact as an individual through activities that are proven to be effective.
They’re going to ask in their six months survey whether, after dietary changes in January and February, people have become more involved in animal activism. Of the survey respondents, 86% of people said they were involved in animal or vegan advocacy.
Land and Clea Grady work full-time and make day-to-day decisions. Bigger decisions are made between Glover, Land, and Grady. Sally is a part-time employee who’s mainly responsible for administrative support.
Veganuary has just become a registered charity. Now that they have charity status, they will build a board of trustees, comprised of Land, Glover, and Martin Ashby—a vegan doctor based in Brighton. They might invite two or three other people onto the board, but are mindful of the possibility of more board members stifling their ability to efficiently make decisions.
Working with Other Organizations
Veganuary has been working very closely with Animal Equality since their last campaign. Animal Equality distributed their message when the campaign launched and they exchange data and insights. They’ve also been collaborating with The Humane League, Mercy For Animals, and Vegan Outreach.
Veganuary acted as the hub of Vegan Outreach’s UK leafleting campaign in autumn 2015, which involved collaborating with various activists and organizations.
The first year Veganuary launched they worked with Viva. They have meetings with the Vegan Society in the UK, have met with Sebastian Joy from Germany, and are looking to work more closely with other European groups in the future. Animals Australia promoted Veganuary to their supporters. Veganuary has also sent the Faunalytics report to several groups to get their views on it.
Last year, Veganuary almost met their fundraising goal. As Veganuary becomes more established, they are finding more opportunities for sponsorship and a bigger network for individual giving. At the beginning of August, Veganuary became a registered charity. They are now eligible for Gift Aid in the UK, trusts, grants, and free advertising. Their status as a registered charity also allows donors to have more confidence in them.
Veganuary is currently very cash-strapped. They are busier working on other projects rather than fundraising. They get about £150 per month in regular donations. Land and Glover have been supplementing campaign funding with their own money. They have just hired a development manager who will begin next month.
Veganuary is seriously considering creating a vegan pledge app. People would be able to download it and take the vegan pledge at any time of the year. It would be a fundraising opportunity for Veganuary, because they could charge something like 99 pence (or 99 cents) to download it. The app could send push notifications each day for a month and it could integrate the Veganuary’s website to give people support and advice.
Veganuary puts a lot of weight on feedback from its participants, which it solicits via a follow-up survey in February. They ask participants what they found challenging and what they would like to see more of. This year, participants said they wanted more information about cheese and eating out, so Veganuary created videos about eating out at chain restaurants. They’ve done four already and they’ve got another two planned. They hope to roll out those videos in two other countries.
Criticism / FAQ
Why does Veganuary ask people to go vegan for only a short time, when going vegan for a longer time would have more impact?
Veganuary provides people with a fun challenge during a month when people are open to making lifestyle changes. Asking people to “try” veganism for a short time is really a mechanism for maximizing long-term impact. It’s designed to make veganism more accessible, appealable, and achievable for people. When our participants say to their friends and family, “I’m doing this, but I’m just doing it for a month,” those people are often much more supportive than they would be if the change were made straight away.
While Veganuary’s vegan pledge is based around a single month, they still support reducetarian campaigns. They are sponsoring Brian Kateman’s Reducetarian Foundation conference in New York next year. All of Veganuary’s communications towards the end of January are focused on people maintaining veganism, vegetarian, or reducetarian diets.
Why does a significant portion of Veganuary’s outreach focus on dietary change, e.g. reducing meat consumption, rather than shifting public attitudes?
Veganuary has read studies suggesting that behavior change often comes before attitude change. People may make the vegan pledge for many different reasons, not just because of their attitudes towards animals. Veganuary’s email campaigns address the practical issues at the start, then they talk about health, then they talk about environment. They leave the animal-focused messages for near the end of the campaign, in the hope that people’s attitudes towards veganism will change and they will continue with the diet after January.
Now that Veganuary is a registered charity, they are going to start asking people to raise money during the pledge month in addition to changing consumption, as people do during Movember. They hope that raising money for the campaign will also build participants’ commitment and provide extra motivation to stick with the diet.
Some would argue that the development of animal-free foods will be the key turning point for ending animal farming. Why does Veganuary focus on promoting veg eating instead of facilitating these technologies?
Veganuary promotes a lot of new food technologies. For example, they support Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Hampton Creek by promoting their products. They see their work as complementary to the work of food technology companies. They are working on growing the market for animal-free foods.