Westfield Meeting received a Membership Development Grant for the purchase of an 8X8 foot pop-up tent, 5-foot-long table, table weights, a tablecloth printed with the “SPICES”, and literature from PYM. The purpose was to attend public events and increase awareness of Quakerism and Westfield Meeting as well as other Meetings; develop cooperative outreach with other Meetings and organizations; and focus members of Westfield Meeting on the need for vigorous outreach. We were to attend six events during the first year of the grant, and keep a tally of direct encounters with members of the public.
Events attended to date have been the Historic Riverton Criterium (a bicycle race) on June 10th; Quarterly Meeting at Cropwell Monthly Meeting on June 24th; the Collingswood Farmers Market on July 28th and September and Cinnaminson Day on October 7th. A sixth event was scheduled at the Collingswood Farmers Market on November 6th. The equipment was offered to all area Meetings. Westfield Meeting partnered with Newton Meeting for the Collingswood Farmers Market events, with Cropwell Meeting for the Quarterly Meeting held there, with Westfield Friends School during Cinnaminson Day, and with the Riverton Free Library, which provided hundreds of second-hand children’s books, distributed for free at each of the events.
Setting up the equipment, developing partnerships, attracting people to the display, distributing literature, and working out approaches to our visitors, was a learning experience (we found that there has to be a “hook” to draw people to the table when there are scores of other participants at large public events: free children’s books have worked for us so far; we also had to overcome what seems a natural Quaker timidity about promoting ourselves – to be forthcoming but not pushy).
The result has been increased contact between Westfield and two other Meetings as well as Westfield Friends School, over 360 friendly encounters with the public along with increased visibility in nearby communities, and greater awareness of the need for outreach by Members of Westfield Meeting. Use of the tent will continue into the future (we intend to try indoor events during the colder months), and should include additional cooperation with other Meetings. We have seen no direct effect on membership at Westfield, but Members who have staffed the tent are among those advocating for what we expect will be a large increase in funds budgeted for other new approaches to outreach.