The Bright Future of the AHA

Photo by Cyrus Crossan on Unsplash

To celebrate the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) 80th anniversary, we first revisited and reflected on some of our greatest accomplishments throughout the years. What about the next 80 years?

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re liable to end up somewhere else.” To make sure we know where we are going, we spent the bulk of 2020 developing the AHA 2021-2023 Strategic Plan.

The process was led by a Strategic Planning Team, appointed by the AHA’s Board of Directors. A strong supporter of AHA and a prominent strategic management consultant in Silicon Valley graciously volunteered his time to assist the team. Due to the pandemic, the team worked diligently over several months entirely in virtual mode. It was important to the Board that all AHA stakeholder groups contribute to and embrace the plan. Dozens of trends, challenges, and opportunities were identified and analyzed. Draft portions of the plan were reviewed by the Board, the staff, AHA funders and members, along with others in our community of supporters. Improvements were made with every iteration. The plan, entitled “AHA 2021-2023 Strategic Priorities,” was approved in November 2020, and implemented in January 2021.

As the preamble of the plan states:

“The American Humanist Association …remains in a strong position to advocate for humanism and humanist positions in the public square. We retain a highly professional team of staff and volunteers capable of lobbying, litigating, educating, promoting and engaging in public debate on foundational humanist principles. Our broad base of supporters and activists remain as committed to AHA as ever. And the AHA has the means and the will to seek justice for all in our society while playing an important role in improving our world.

Within that context, the AHA Board of Directors developed this strategic plan to best promote the philosophy of humanism, to embrace the full population of American humanists, and to advocate for humanist positions with individuals, communities, governments and the entire public.”

AHA Headquarters in Washington, DC

The strategic plan is broken down into five strategic priorities, all of which are equally important in accomplishing our mission and goals:

1. Creating an elevated profile for humanism in society encompasses the way we communicate to the public and raise awareness of our movement. As the population of Americans who do not identify with a religion grows, we can infer that the number of people who are humanists in all but name will grow as well. In educating the public about what humanism means and about the community we’ve created, the AHA hopes to attract more people to our movement.

2. Fighting for equality for humanists alongside theists has been a goal inherent to the AHA since the organization was founded. We will utilize our increased capacity to engage the three branches of government to tackle key issues like the separation of church and state on all levels, including allowing students a public education free from the influence of religion.

3. To truly embody the humanist values of empathy and reason means fighting for and standing in solidarity with marginalized communities. The AHA strives for expanded humanist involvement in social justice and to integrate social justice posture into all activities, letting it inform our decisions at every level. The AHA recognizes the opportunity and responsibility to educate and inform humanists on social justice and ensure that the community we foster is diverse, inclusive, and open-minded.

4. The AHA would not be able to accomplish our mission without the work of our chapters, affiliates, and local communities. Creating community opportunities for humanists through grant programs, geographic coordination, and the expansion of partnerships with community-focused organizations, while seeking to grow the strength and numbers of our chapters and affiliates, will grow our movement and deepen its connections with others.

5. The AHA recognizes that, in order to build a more sustainable future for our organization and take advantage of the changing demographics of younger people away from traditional religion, we must achieve accelerated participation by young humanists. The movement needs to attract young humanists, under the age of 40, and encourage their involvement in leadership.

A strategic plan must be firm in its overall strategic priorities but flexible in its implementation. In the AHA plan, each strategic priority is supported by several implementation goals, which are developed annually, tied to specific line items in the budget, with progress toward them reviewed quarterly.

By implementing this plan, the AHA and its members will be well poised to raise the bar for what humanists everywhere can accomplish. During the past 80 years, we and our forebears have built a fiscally strong organization with a talented, committed staff and a diverse, dedicated board of directors.  We’ve gained prominence in places where critical decisions are made and have built a network that spans the country.

More than ever our nation needs a humanism driven both by rational considerations and also by empathy and deep concern for improving the lived experience of every human being. The AHA is ready to meet that need.