AHA Chapter Benefits: Humanists of West Florida Receive $1,500 Grant for Local Outreach

Hear from local leader Rose Jansen, whose group was awarded a generous grant from the American Humanist Association, and how it helped increase the group’s outreach in the local community.

The Humanists of West Florida (HFW) received a $1,500 grant from the American Humanist Association in early 2012. As a new AHA Chapter, we had big dreams and we’ve spent our dollars carefully in order to get the best results for our money.

Our goals were to build a strong foundation for our Chapter, build membership from an available base of nontheists, and promote ourselves in the community so that other nontheists would know we were here and ready to go to work.

First we purchased hosting and set up a website that informs our visitors about humanism and what our Chapter intends to do, as well as provide an opportunity to join.

The next step was to get out into the public. Using mostly local businesses, we purchased a custom banner, a canopy, and a table for use at tabling events. We designed and printed brochures about our chapter, and flyers about community service projects, HWF events, and another flyer to promote other local groups in our area. We also purchased a number of t-shirts with our logo.

At our first tabling event at Earth Day Pensacola, we handed out every brochure and flyer brought with us. The majority of the festival goers were very supportive of what we were doing and we only had a couple of people stop that were not supportive, but they still asked questions. We later participated in the Pensacola PRIDEFest with great success as well.

We also wanted to reach out to potential members who were interested in community service. To do that we purchased a Meetup.com site to schedule our community service events and came up with our first family-friendly project: packaging personal care items into Ziploc bags to hand out to homeless persons in the area. The children colored pictures to put in the packets.

We’ve recently been approved to adopt a section of highway in a prominent location in Pensacola. We purchased banner 10’ feather banner which we will post in the ground as we are picking up trash on Sunday mornings once a quarter.

This fall we will participate in more tabling events and order more brochures. We’ve also rented space to  begin a monthly meeting for our membership and the general public. These monthly meetings are called “Free-Ups”—meetups for freethinking people designed for both social, and cerebral opportunity. We will have a speaker, watch a TED Talk, or review a book—with a group discussion afterwards.

We continue to work on ways to incorporate families with children of all ages, as well as individuals. We will be hiring a person to organize a picnic for the members of HWF and their friends this winter (we can do that in Florida!). This individual will also organize regular park days for families with young children.

So far we’ve increased our membership from the seven original members that set the group up, to 31 individuals who have become official members, and another 25 that haven’t quite decided on membership but agreed to join us for community service. We will continue to survey our secular community to discover how our members want to become involved.

The Humanists of West Florida is off to a great start because a group of people put their heads together to make this happen. We’ve been very careful to consider the responsibilities we accept ourselves, and careful not to overwhelm each other with responsibilities, respecting each other’s time as a valuable and generous gift. We will continue to work with many other local organizations and businesses in a continued effort to let people know we are here. We look forward to many more years as a chapter of the American Humanist Association.

Rose Jansen is president of the Humanists of West Florida, a Chapter of the American Humanist Association, and a resident of Pensacola.

Are you a leader of a local humanist/atheist/skeptic/freethinker group and interested in receiving resources and being eligible for grants from the American Humanist Association? Learn more about becoming a Chapter of the AHA here or contact AHA Grassroots Coordinator Rachael Berman at rberman@americanhumanist.org or 202-238-9088 ext. 113. Program grants range from $300 to $2,000, and this year’s application will open on November 1, 2013.