Tips for Libertarian Activists

Quiz booth procedures

Last updated 1994-08-05 by Tom Isenberg

Lots of people requested more information on running successful Nolan booths on campus. I hope that this encourages all of you (students and non-students) to spend a nice afternoon at your local campus introducing students to libertarianism. In my 7 years of activism, I haven't found anything more fun, more rewarding, or more important!

Purpose of Nolan Booths

I've run many Nolan booths on campus and I encourage you to do the same. The following tips are the results of lots of mistakes and successes, so learn from my experiences! I think campus Nolan booths are the single most important activity a libertarian organization can undertake for a couple of reasons:

  1. Discovering young libertarians for recruitment. Get 'em when they're young and they're yours forever!
  2. Helping the student population find out what a libertarian is (and isn't).
  3. Providing a libertarian presence on campus.
  4. It's a fun activity for libertarians to do. You find 'em, and then put 'em to work finding others!

Location and Timing

Pick the best high-traffic (pedestrian, of course) area you can on campus. You probably don't need permission to set up a booth outside, but you may need permission to set up inside campus buildings. The best time to do this is early in the term before people get too busy and when they are still open to joining campus groups. If you can do these booths regularly (once a month?) that's awesome, if you can only do it a couple of times, focus on the beginning of the term.

Materials Needed for Nolan Booths

I recommend that you own these materials yourself. If it's owned in common, it gets lost or trashed. He who pays for it (or works for it) gets to own it. When you graduate, donate it to the next activist. If you are low on funds, hit up the local or state LP and explain the importance of campus outreach. If that fails, hit up the good folks on LIBERNET or at the national LP. The Advocates for Self-Government distribute some excellent materials for booths.

  1. At least one, at best three, volunteers for each two-hour shift. Friendly, outgoing people are the best! They don't need to be gifted orators because the point is to process surveys, not debate libertarianism. In fact, you should not debate or explain, it wastes time and creates a hostile atmosphere. Just refer people to the free literature. Be really friendly and pleasant. No arguing! If someone acts like a jerk, ignore them!

  2. Clipboards with Nolan surveys. You'll go through about 25 an hour per clipboard.

  3. A crate of prospect kits that your state LP normally sends to prospects. By handing them out to your new prospects, you can save the state LP a lot of postage costs. Expect to give out about five per man-hour (see STATISTICS, below.) All of your printed materials (including the survey) should have your group's name and phone number.

  4. A card table to hold free literature (don't forget paperweights!)

  5. A Nolan chart poster attached to foamcore or cardboard, laminated. (optional)

  6. Sticky post-it dots for scoring people on the poster. (optional)

  7. An easel to hold the Nolan poster. (optional)

How to Run the Booth

  1. Ask passersby, "Do you have a minute for our political opinion poll?"

  2. Ask them the survey questions and circle their answers. Plot them on the sheet. By doing it for them, you speed up the process and passersby hear what's going on.

  3. Plot dots on the big poster, if you have one. This is a real attention getter, and soon people will be stopping at the booth waiting in line for the survey! No kidding!

  4. When you've scored the person, identify yourself as a member of the campus libertarian group and:

    1. give them their survey back and encourage them to try it on their friends later,
    2. if they score high libertarian (80/80 or higher) ask if they'd "like to receive more info on the LP."
    3. give them the official prospect kit (do this after you get their address.) Put a checkmark next to their name so you know that you don't spend money sending them the same kit.
  5. Keep a sign-up sheet at the bottom of each clipboard and write down their name/address/phone/year. Since you write it down legibly, you're able to read it, and it goes quickly. Getting names is the single most important reason you're doing this! These people will be your future members and activists... Make sure to get phone numbers!

  6. When you're done for the day, go grab a pizza with your volunteers to celebrate and talk about what worked and what can be improved. (This builds esprit de corps that's crucial to any group.)

  7. Send these names to your state LP membership director ASAP so they can be put on the mailing list. If you've already given these people prospect kits, make sure the membership director understands this! You'll save them a lot of money!

  8. EXTRA CREDIT: Submit one of these surveys to the campus newspaper along with a press release showing the statistics over a couple of months. This would be an interesting news item, wouldn't it? That's an easy way to get publicity for your campus group, libertarianism, and the booth itself. If you want to get fancy, break down the info by year or by sex or by major, etc.

What's Next?

Call the folks on the sign-up sheet about a week later and ask what they think about libertarianism, if they're interested in staying on the mailing list, and if they'd like to help with the next Nolan booth. By getting them involved, even before they're 100% sure, you speed them along the educational curve. This is more than enough for any campus group to do, but if you're ambitious, you can bring speakers to campus, hold discussion groups, etc.


In my experience, you can expect to process about 25 surveys each man-hour (one person working one hour.) About 20% of all your participants will score high libertarian (80/80 or higher) and sign your mailing list. That means you will distribute about 5 prospect kits each man-hour (e.g., so two people doing a four hour shift should bring at least 40 prospect kits.)