To expand on the meeting scheduled I wanted to post some more thought and ideas here.
One of the biggest difficulties we’ve had in the last few months is finding a place to call home. Buying a building crossed my mind but we’d need a lot of money. And despite having over 200 members now were still a pretty small group. I know that if we establish a non-profit it will be easier for us to pay our various bills and establish a reliable location.
I’ve started an LLC before and I don’t imagine starting a non-profit is going to be a large amount of paper work, or much harder.
Some of my biggest concerns for the non-profit is making sure it meets the need and that it’s mission is correct. Mission-wise I don’t think the mission for the non-profit should be much different from the mission for FVAAF. What we are trying to do is simple create a sustainable way for a small group of atheists to have a website, have a meetup group, have brochures and have a place to meet… in short market and meet. Those are really the two major things that any growing Atheist/Agnostic community needs… Marketing and Meetings.
This leads me to believe that this is to a unique problem. Most budding non-theist groups probably encounter similar issues. Problem is at this point there are no national organizations out there who’s goal is to found/startup non-theist groups. Most of the national organizations are all focus on fighting legal battles or for civil rights or fighting for this and that… I’m a firmly believe that grassroots groups who’s goal is to found communities for non-theists will be the way we start replacing churches in this country. And that’s really what we need to do, replace churches with non-religious community centers. Places for people to come together regardless of their religion and meet new people make friends. I was startled by the fact that there isn’t a single place in the entire city of Appleton (besides the public library) that provides free meeting spaces. To put it point blank we don’t have a public community center, (I don’t count Thompson since their mission is clearly to spread the word of whatever version of the bible they follow IDK Lutheran or something…)
This makes me think that maybe we should think bigger than ourselves for this. A non-profit who’s sole goal is to help found and sustain local non-theist communities is something we should consider. The biggest problem with that is time. As a full time software engineer who is in love with his job I doubt I’d have the time, but it would need someone who believes in the mission.
Mission for the Non-Profit: “To establish and sustain locally focused non-theist groups.” It’s simple and direct. Marketing tag line – “Replacing churches across America!”
By consolidating the funds at a national level we could establish lower rates for multiple services. For example shared web-hosting, shared meetup accounts (much cheaper), access to brochures and cards for marketing purposes and of course a way to pay for services like room rentals and the like. Doing all this while still allowing groups to maintain their autonomy will be the trick. We don’t want to be too open where people could take advantage of the system and we don’t want to be to autocratic where groups won’t want to affiliate.
The key with this idea is to start small with our own group but plan well enough now that we can grow if we want/need to. After things settle it would be best to approach other existing groups with the idea and try and get existing groups that are successful involved first. Once we have a sturdy member base we could start planting additional seed in new cities. It would be a long process but I truly believe the idea has potential.