As supporters of the Atheist Community of San Jose, you may be interested in the following year-end summary of our progress. It really is amazing how much we have grown and how much we have achieved in only nine months. I would like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who have committed your time and money to support this organization. We have big goals for the next year and I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming events.
President and Founder
This was quite a stellar year for the Atheist Community of San Jose (ACSJ). The ACSJ was formed only nine months ago, on 1 April 2013, though the foundation for its success was laid several months prior. It grew from small group individuals who had cast off the yoke of religious indoctrination and were looking for like-minded individuals with whom to build community that did not require allegiance to a doctrine of faith.
From this goal grew the ACSJ mission statement, which is to develop and support the atheist community; to provide opportunities for socializing, philanthropy, education, and friendship; to promote a positive public perception of atheists and secularists; and to work with other organizations in pursuit of common goals.
As the ACSJ continued to grow, it became clear that a recognizable icon for the organization was needed. In June, the ACSJ commissioned the generation of a logo and a social media avatar.
Figure 1. ACSJ Logo
Further growth in the ACSJ community made apparent the need to address financial considerations. Organizational costs began to grow, including those associated with the purchase of audio-video equipment, venue rental fees, speaker fees and travel costs, event registration fees, monthly fees for web hosting and online accounts, post office box rental fees, and more. This motivated the organization to seek 501(c)(3) non-profit (NP) status so that contributions to the ACSJ would be tax deductible, and so that the ACSJ could apply for corporate grants. In order to file for NP status, the organization was required to document a clear statement of purpose that conformed to one of the IRS categories for eligible non-profits.
The ACSJ statement of purpose, as codified in the Articles of Incorporation, is to educate the public about: atheism, skepticism, and free thought; the advantages and benefits of a secular society; the rewards of community diversity that includes atheists; and secular morality as a sound basis for humanitarianism and service to the community.
In support of this mission and purpose, the ACSJ engages primarily in educational and community-building activities, which include general meetups, topical events, social and community-building activities, and philanthropic events. Additionally, the organization maintains a robust and active online presence through which it provides educational materials and resources relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism.
The ACSJ Board of Directors for 2013:
|Vice President:||Scot Haire|
Additional support staff:
|Web Support:||Dana Nourie|
|Web Support:||Jim Wissick|
|Legal Support:||Tom Higgins|
|Social Media Support:||Sean Washington|
The greatest success story for the ACSJ in 2013 has been the development, sustainment, and continued growth of an organization for a growing community of atheists and like-minded non-believers in San Jose and the greater Bay Area.
The ACSJ started with fewer than 50 members in April 2013. Throughout the year, that membership grew more than five-fold to over 250 members, which is stunning growth in a short nine-month time span. Equally stunning is the fact that roughly 65% of that membership was active in the organization, meaning that they participated in events and activities throughout the year. Clearly, the ACSJ is meeting a need in San Jose and the Bay Area for the community of atheists and like-minded non-believers.
Meetups, Events, & Activities
Contributing to the stellar growth in ACSJ membership was the outstanding repertoire of meetups, events, and activities. Over the course of the year, the ACSJ hosted General Meetups, topical events, member-suggested meetups for social & community-building activities, and philanthropic activities. Seventy events were hosted over the course of 2013, which is an average of approximately one event every four days. And, with over 65% member participation, it is clear that the ACSJ is an active, thriving community of atheists, secularists, and non-believers.
Figure 4. ACSJ Meetups, Events, & Activities for 2013
Throughout the year, the ACSJ Board of Directors experimented with the format and content for the General Meetups, which are held every other Wednesday. We quickly converged on a General Meetup architecture that provided meaningful content to the ACSJ membership as well as opportunity for meaningful interactions and open discussion.
- Introduction: This section includes a welcome to all participants, general organizational information, announcements, and information regarding past and upcoming events of interest relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism;
- In the News: This section highlights current news stories, articles, and books relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism;
- Guest Speaker: This section contains a lecture by a guest speaker on a topic relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism;
- Open Discussion: This section contains a general forum for participants to engage in open discussion on topics relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism.
Guest speakers included both invited guests and ACSJ members. Guest speakers and topics for 2013 included:
A special thanks is offered to the members and guests who put in the time and gave the extra effort to generate and present on a relevant topic at a General Meetup. While some topics were more successful than others, the organization continues to scrutinize the General Meetup content in order to provide enjoyment and educational value for all who participate. Member feedback is crucial in this process and we appreciate the constructive comments.
Topical events are those that address specific topics, or are hosted by persons of note, that are relevant to atheism, skepticism, or secularism. There were several topical events attended by the ACSJ membership throughout the year. Topical events included the following:
Table 2. ACSJ Topical Events for 2013
Social & Community-Building Activities
The ACSJ supports social and community-building activities as being important to a secular society. Numerous member-suggested meetups were hosted throughout the year, focusing primarily on social and community-building activities. These activities included:
Table 3. ACSJ Social & Community-Building Events for 2013
The ACSJ supports service to the community as an important aspect of a secular society. While individual members participated in their own philanthropic endeavors, the ACSJ organized group participation in a few philanthropic activities this year. Those activities included the following:
With the help of several very skilled ACSJ members providing web and social media support, the ACSJ has developed and maintains an active online presence.
On the website is the ACSJ blog post where members of the website can post references to materials relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism. Also posted on the blog is original content by ACSJ supporters in the form of articles and videos. Additionally, there is a “Resources” section that contains links to several sites relevant to atheism, skepticism, and secularism.
Several administrative goals for the organization were completed this year. The primary goal was to submit the application for 501(c)(3) NP status with the IRS before the end of the year. Working with Tom Higgins, who provided legal support, the Board of Directors initiated this process in August. By September, drafts of the organization’s mission statement, statement of purpose, bylaws, and Articles of Incorporation were completed. Those documents were submitted with the organization’s application for incorporation to the State of California. In October, it was confirmed that the ACSJ is incorporated with the State of California.
Once incorporated, the arduous process began to complete the Form 1023 application for 501(c)(3) NP status. The Board of Directors and Higgins spent several hours meticulously stepping line-by-line through Form 1023, gathering the necessary information and generating the necessary documentation. They worked together over several weekends, and many additional hours individually during the week, to complete the form. The application was completed in December, and submitted in January 2014.
Additionally, the ACSJ was able to secure a corporate banking account and mailing address. The mailing address is:
Atheist Community of San Jose
P.O. Box 10044
San Jose, CA 95157-1044
This has been a great first year for the Atheist Community of San Jose. It has enjoyed much success in many areas, including membership growth with an active member community, development of a General Meetup format and numerous other events & activities, development of an active online presence, incorporation in the State of California, and submission of the ACSJ application for 501(c)(3) NP status with the IRS. Without question, the greatest success story for the ACSJ has been the development, sustainment, and continued growth of an organization for a growing community of atheists and like-minded non-believers in San Jose and the greater Bay Area. Support from the member community, both in participation and financially, has given this organization life and has sustained its growth.
The ACSJ goals for the coming year are to continue to honor our mission statement to provide community for atheists and like-minded non-believers, and to honor our statement of purpose to educate the public about atheism, skepticism, and secularism. Additionally, we continue to look for opportunities to grow the organization in ways that further our mission and purpose.