How to make a Veg Directory

Written by Steve Leckie, former Vegetarian Directory Coordinator

 [image: The 2008 Vegetarian Directory cover] 12 basic steps

1. Set aside a lot of time. It takes us at least two months working full time on this project!

2.  Determine number to print. We have found that around 1% of population size is a good number to start with if you are going to do broad based distribution in health food stores and restaurants over the course of the year.

3.  Decide on paper size. We started off with a 3-fold 8.5×11 sheet, then moved up to a 4-fold 8.5×14 sheet, then to a 4-fold 10×17 sheet for several years. Now we use a 5-fold even bigger sheet. Your printer can help you optimize paper if you are using a non-standard size.

4.  Get printing cost quotes for the job (recycled paper, colour, folding, etc.).  For additional costs, see budget below. Calculate how much to charge for each listing. In the Toronto Directory all entries typically pay for each line they take up. Although, we give a free basic listing (2 lines) to qualifying businesses that are part of ourdiscount program. If we have space left over, we give out a few free listings to 100% vegetarian restaurants and local organic farmers markets.

5.  Put together a mailing list – try looking in the Yellow Pages, restaurant guides and local health directories. Also try asking friends and exploring the area. UseFileMaker Pro or similar database software to compile the list. Having all the data in one place makes the job much faster and cuts down on errors. FileMaker will automatically print envelopes, cover letters, stickers, contact sheets, invoices, listings, etc. We are also able to generate html code from FileMaker for creating fast and accurate web pages. Our custom database is sophisticated enough to handle places with multiple locations and types of businesses. For example see Vegdir-letter.pdf for a sample letter that was sent to a restaurant and cooking class. It shows how much was paid last year, how much is still owing, the kind and number of listings, a separate website listing, discount offered, etc.

Application form6.  Mailing.  Our mailing includes a custom cover letter generated from the database (Vegdir-letter.pdf), an application form designed in PageMaker/InDesign (VegDir_Apply.pdf ), and the previous year’s directory. If it is your first year, include a picture of what the directory will look like, and a sample page showing how the listings will look.

7.  Telephoning – it is very important to call once or many times to reach the right person and get a confirmation and all the correct information.  You may have to visit places to collect money. You may feel tempted to give struggling places a discount or free listing. But don’t include any place that might go under.  The nominal listing fee helps determine which places are viable. You may want to pay someone commission on obtaining listings. For several years we paid someone 25% of the value of all the listings he brought in.

8.  Sending out receipts as money comes in is one option, but you may prefer to do a large ‘thank-you’ mailing after the flyer is finished – include a receipt and copy of the finished flyer. Also see “Money issues” below.

9.  Compile list.  Proof read and cross check everything at least twice, then give it to someone else (preferably a proofreader) to check one final time.

10. Final layout. I export the information from the database at the latest possible date before the deadline. Then I work on the data using a word processor, then I bring it into InDesign (Quark is another option). The idea is to avoid having to update changes in both the database and the publication file.

Regarding cover design, it can be fun to design a visually apealling cover. Feel free to borrow from our past cover designs. For the past few years, we have been fortunate to have help from Marie Poulin, a professional graphic designer who is vegetarian. We aim to get the cover design done early so that we can use elements from the design for the inside of the directory. Our unofficial policy is to go with a light cover every other year. This is so visually, people know that it is new and updated. It is important that it doesn’t look too much like the previous year.

11.  Find volunteers to distribute the brochure around town.  During the first week or two, the flyers will be picked up very quickly.  Distributing flyers by bicycle workswell for us. Since Toronto is a large city, we rely on several volunteers to cover different neighbourhoods. Plastic stands are critical for most locations.  We pay about $2.50 each for clear plastic stands from IDL (20 wall-mount and 60 self-standing). We then attach an address label to the back, so that it will be visible when the stand is empty. Look in the commercial Yellow Pages for display product suppliers near you. You can also make your own holders from clear soft plastic (available at hardware stores) that can be attached to a bulletin board or wall. Vegetarian Directory flyers are picked up very quickly. Don’t be surprised if you start running out after one to two months.

12.  After the first few days of distribution, do a media release. This is especially important in the first year, as the media loves anything that is new. See Vd-Media-Release.pdf for an example of one we did for 2003.

Money issues

Now that we are established, we insist that everyone pay in advance. We used to include several places that ended up paying afterwards. Our leniency was due to the strict timeline, a desire to include as many good places as possible, and extra space that needed to be filled. The problem with this approach was that every year there were some uncollected accounts, but some of these would pay up when the next edition was announced.

Although it is tempting to give struggling new vegetarian businesses a free listing, I suggest getting payment as it is a good indication of how viable the new business is. The fact that they can’t afford a basic listing, is a good indication that they aren’t that serious and may end up closing – leaving your new directory with a wrong listing. Also be suspicious of existing vegetarian restaurants that paid to be included in prior years, but now say they can’t afford a listing this year – it could be a sign that they are about to go out of business.

I don’t buy the excuse that vegetarian-friendly businesses can’t afford to be in the directory. It is more likely that they can’t afford not to be in it. Unless they have no business sense, they should be jumping at the chance to be listed. But sometimes there is a language barrier, or they are run as a loose co-op (ie disorganized) or run by students – then perhaps there is a reason for not paying.

Update: Earthsave has just starting doing a Vegetarian Directory for Vancouver and are having trouble getting some of the key vegetarian restaurants to pay to be included. I told them: “Given that you are just starting out with the paying model, giving away several basic listings until you prove yourselves makes sense to me. Another idea might be a free listing in exchange for a gift certificate to the restaurant that you can use as a prize or to feed volunteers.” It is very important that all the key places are included. Last time we gave one free basic listing for the sake of completeness, and several free listings to vegetarian places with language barriers.

Several years ago we set up the ability to accept credit card payments, which makes collecting money much easier, and you will likely get more listings. EarthSave Canada recommends the Ticketmaster online system as your merchant services provider. There is no security deposit – it’s as easy as just signing up, logging on and processing your credit card transactions online through their website.  They charge 2.1% plus 46 cents + GST per transaction (very similar to what Paypal charges).  See their website: titled “Credit Card Services for Non-profits”.

Through our Treasurer knowing a bank manager, we were able to get a direct account with VISA, but we had to originally make a security deposit of $8,000. The deposit earned interest, and we have since gotten it back. Later we got MasterCard approval on the strength of already having Visa. The advantages of this route is that we currently pay 2.15% on Visa transactions and 2.55% on MasterCard transactions with no additional transaction fees. It also gives us the ability to charge credit cards offline (i.e. over the phone, at outreach events and at our Food Fair.

On a somewhat related note, Idealware just recently put out an excellent report on online donation tools for nonprofits. You can check it out here: (free sign-up required)

All payments are tracked in our FileMaker Pro database, and our Treasurer also tracks payments separately as she deposits them.

Display ads (optional)

Determine cost of display ads. We charge about 7 times the cost of the space the ads take up. Divide the estimated printing costs by the area of your directory design (times 2 sides), to arrive at approximately how much each square inch of your directory is worth. Large ads in a small brochure look out of proportion and they can break up the flow. I suggest charging high rates for the ads and/or putting a maximum size limit (for us 1.75×1.75 inches). Compare to advertising rates in existing local directories.

Ad specs. Determine what formats you will accept. I.e. “send full colour (CMYK) digital artwork attached to email, or on a CD or zip disk. Send as a pdf, tiff, or eps file. A $25 set up fee applies if sending an ad that needs to be resized or scanned in.”


Take the time to learn the computer programs you will be using inside-out, before it comes down to the crunch. This will ultimately save you a lot of time. One great way to learn fast is to make a copy of your file and experiment like crazy on it. Try every function of the software to see what it does.

Buy a book on style – how to lay-out publications.

Use page layout software. It is wise to use a proper page layout program such asInDesign or Quark Express. Using a word processing program like Word can make the project look unprofessional and cause you endless hours of frustration tying to overcome the limitations. Pick up a good book on the program you will be using. Read it and keep it handy as a reference. InDesign and Quark use ‘styles’ to speed up and perfect page layout.

Artwork and images – contact us and we will send you a link to our internal webpage of image sources for veggie food, famous vegetarians, farm animals, etc.


The following items are available by special request:

  • Sample directories
  • Sources for finding images of food, famous vegetarians, farm animals, etc.
  • InDesign files of our directory and application form


Budget and history for the Toronto directory

Back in 2003, our directory cost around $6000 to print 37,000 copies (16¢ per unit). Revenue from the listings generated around $9000. Revenue was up from previous years (and has been since). Prior to 2003, we would typically break even. Making a profit is likely due to the fact that we have become established after doing the same thing consistently for 10 years. We have also recently expanded the size and included some display ads.

Although we sometimes lose a little money on this project it is an excellent service to the community and a way to promote vegetarianism and get new members. Most of our new memberships come from the form in the directory. Note: these memberships have not been counted as revenue in our budgets, and accounting.

Update: The  2008 Vegetarian Directory made a profit, plus Toronto Vegetarian Association was able to pay me $5300 for doing the work of collecting the listings and designing it. I kept a rough track of my hours this year using a computer timing software. And it works out that I earned about $12.50 per hour for my time. But I am happy with any amount, as it is good cause (and I used to do it for free). I also was able pay a graphic designer $300 towards the work she did on the cover, and we purchased a few images from For this year we printed 50,000 copies. Pretty much every year the directory has increased in size, features and number of listings. But it has taken over ten years to get to this point. Recently, EarthSave has starting doing a Vegetarian Directory for Vancouver based on our model.

Budget for the 2006 Directory

commissions: $10 (for someone who finds us new listings)
postage:  $200
display stands (see 11 above): $60
printing: $6021 (quote from our printer includes tax at 8%)
Salary & Honorarium:  $3300 for the key people working on it. This usually includes a summer student hired through a government grant program.
Total:  $9591 (vs $8910 for last year)


2005 DirectoryVd2005 184 listings, 8 ads only  (102  paid)  for a total of $11,334  ($469 owing)

Vd2004 212 listings, 8 ads only  (106  paid)  for a total of $10,590  ($640 owing)

Vd2003 178 listings, 11 ads only (106  paid)  for a total of $9691 ($573 owing)

2002 171 listings (92  paid)  for a total of $7276 ($1094 owing)

2001  176 listings (94  paid)  for a total of $6698 ($1829 owing)

2000  167 listings (101  paid)  for a total of $6120 ($1175 owing)

1999  210 listings (119  paid)  for a total of $6609 ($705 owing)

1998  235 listings (122  paid)  for a total of $6139 ($1358 owing)

1997  105 paid listings for a total of $4273 ($252 owing)

Note: Free basic listings are given to qualifying participants in our discount program. We also used to give free listings to vegetarian restaurants. “Ads only” refers to places that took out an ad but no listing.

More how-to pages

How-to post to this website. Includes common errors to avoid, best practices, self proofing tips, links to the manuals and style guide, etc.Last Updated ( Friday, 10 September 2010 )