On April 7, 2011, at the American Humanist Association’s annual conference in Boston, I had the chance to meet with chapter leaders across the country at the Chapter Leaders Roundtable to discuss grassroots and organizing strategies. Recently, it was announced that the number of local groups have increased to a total of 139—73 of which are chapters of the AHA. While not everyone attended (a near impossibility given how many chapters we have and where they’re located), the meeting proved to be fruitful.
Among the attendees were Kristin Wintermute, chair of the Chapter and Affiliate Services Committee, and Roy Speckhardt, AHA executive director, who announced the new AHA chapter program. Under the old chapter program, Roy explained, there were two categories of chapters: chartered and membership. TThe new chapter program merges the two, and by doing so allows for more chapter benefits, among them:
- programming and regional conference grants
- access to an online database of the chapters members (only available to chapter leaders)
- access to the AHA’s professional staff for assistance in fundraising, public relations, and organizing strategy
The new program was met with general optimism and approval and attendees later moved the conversation to how chapters can move forward. The overall theme was: how can we build the humanist movement through the expansion our chapters?
There was no lack of suggestions and best practices. Online presence on sites such as Facebook and Meetup was deemed essential, but so is networking with other groups and advanced planning for programs. Fundraising and diversity were also discussed.
Everyone left with plenty of notes and in the talking spirit, and we ran out of time before we could discuss everything. Yet it was agreed upon that now is the time to push forward with humanism on the grassroots level. With both a new program and a new field coordinator (myself), this is a great time to move ahead.
Eric Nguyen is the field coordinator for the American Humanist Association.