In this second year, the Atheist Community of San Jose has once again seen tremendous growth. Thanks to your continued support of the organization, we have reached a level we knew we could achieve, and we are confident of continued success in 2015. As many veteran members may recall, we had very humble beginnings meeting in coffee shops and pizza party rooms. Now, with our meetings averaging 50-100 or more, we have a much better venue for larger events. As this trend continues, we are expecting to outgrow this venue as well – but where do we go from here? Not to worry, as our volunteer staff is hard at work preparing for 2015. But, right now, we want to take a look back at all we have accomplished in the past year.
Our Vice President, Scot Haire, has been compiling data all year in order to bring you a snapshot of many of these accomplishments. The following article is the end result of that compilation. We should all be proud of the impressive growth and success we have achieved, and of each member’s contribution to making it happen. Our impact is more than local, as people have been consuming our content all over the world.
Thank you all again for your continued support of the Atheist Community of San Jose. We look forward to an inspiring 2015.
President and Founder
This has been another great year for the Atheist Community of San Jose (ACSJ). This community has enjoyed much success in many areas. Some of the highlights of 2014 include:
- Membership increased to 521, more than doubling our 2013 numbers
- Attained 501(c)(3) non-profit status
- Hosted notable guest speakers, such as Dr. Richard Carrier, Dr. Peter Boghossian, Rev. Barry Lynn, and Matt Dillahunty.
- Hosted our first debate, which addressed the question: “Does the God of Christian Theism Exist?”
- Hosted the first Annual ACSJ Picnic
- Achieved four-fold increase in philanthropic activities
- Extended membership beyond the SF Bay Area into greater California and nationwide
- ACSJ event videos shown on Atheist TV
- Tremendous growth in ACSJ YouTube Channel viewers and subscribers worldwide
- Refresh of the ACSJ Website
- Welcomed an additional board member and an additional support staff member
- Purchased audio/video equipment, which greatly improved the member experience
Through the hard work and dedication of the Board of Directors and Support Staff, as well as many ACSJ members, our community continues to thrive and evolve as an organization that has served atheists and like-minded non-believers in the SF Bay Area and well beyond.
Active involvement of the community members continues to drive and grow this organization, resulting in an overall favorability rating of 93.8% and in member comments like that shown in Figure 1.
The ACSJ ended 2013 with approximately 250 members. Of those, 211 have remained. In 2014, we added 310 members for a year-ending total of 521 members. So, in our second year of existence, we more than doubled our membership. This is clear evidence of a growing, thriving, and vibrant community. Clearly, the ACSJ has had a positive impact for atheists and like-minded non-believers in the greater San Jose area (and beyond).
Figure 2 shows the organization’s membership growth over the past two years. An active member is someone who has visited the ACSJ Meetup site (while logged into their account) within the past 30 days. So, this “active member” status refers to members’ online activity, not event activity.
Equally interesting is the geographic distribution of the ACSJ membership, which blankets the Greater SF Bay Area and extends through 10 states as shown in Figure 3.
Beyond Local Community
Clearly, the ACSJ organization is reaching the local community and beyond. The geographic distribution of our membership shows that we have members all throughout California and across the country.
ACSJ event content is reaching people across the world. They are viewing, commenting, subscribing, and sharing the event videos that we post on the ACSJ YouTube channel. The ACSJ YouTube Channel has over 50,250 views and over 400 subscribers. Figures 4 through 7 show how the ACSJ YouTube Channel has seen tremendous growth in viewing activity over the course of 2014.
Figures 8 through 11 show the growth in subscribers to the ACSJ YouTube Channel over the course of 2014.
Figure 12 is a screen shot of an ACSJ YouTube Channel subscriber’s comment describing how our organization is serving the needs of atheists and like-minded non-believers beyond the local community, reaching out to the global community.
Even more, our video content is reaching a much larger audience of atheists and like-minded non-believers around the country who subscribe to the new AtheistTV from American Atheists. A quick glance at the AtheistTV schedule shows numerous ACSJ videos in the daily lineup. We’re making a positive impact for the atheist community. We’re making an impact in the SF Bay Area, throughout California, nationwide, and even worldwide.
Members of this community are contributing to that positive impact by:
- Participating in the Meetup events and activities;
- Participating online with comments on Meetup, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.;
- Presenting relevant material as a guest speaker;
- Writing articles for the website blog;
- Volunteering time and expertise in support of the organization;
- Continuing financial support;
- Continuing to promote a positive public perception of atheists and secularists in daily life as well as online.
Meetups, Events, and Activities
Once again, the ACSJ hosted a wide variety of guest speaker events, topical and educational events, member-suggested Meetups for social and community-building activities, and philanthropic events. In total, we hosted 96 events over the course of 2014. Figure 13 shows the distribution of events and activities.
Guest Speaker Events
Guest speaker events are those in which an invited speaker presents on a topic relevant to atheism, skepticism, or secularism. Guest speakers included invited guests and ACSJ members. The 21 guest speaker events are shown in Figure 14.
Of special note are the two events at which we had over 100 attendees. These were the debate “Does the God of Christian Theism Exist?” and “An Evening with Matt Dillahunty”.
A special thanks goes out to all the ACSJ members who put in the time and gave the extra effort to present to the community on a relevant topic. The ACSJ is very fortunate to have much talent and expertise among our diverse community of members.
Topical and Educational Events
Topical events are those that address specific topics, or are hosted by persons of note, that are relevant to atheism, skepticism, or secularism. Educational events are those that are intended to provide resources and/or information relevant to atheism, skepticism, and/or secularism. There were 23 topical and educational events attended by the ACSJ membership in 2014, shown in Figure 15.
Social and Community-Building Events and 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. Shown in Figure 16 and Figure 17 are the 37 Social and Community-Building events and activities in 2014.
Philanthropic Events and Activities
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 many philanthropic activities this year. Those 15 activities are shown in Figure 18.
While it doesn’t appear as a philanthropic event on the Meetup site, the ACSJ did participate in the San Jose Christmas in the Park event for a second year in a row. We purchased for $1000 a tree in the Fairmont San Jose Christmas Trees of Hope program. This purchase provided philanthropic support for both The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Christmas in the Park.
Additionally, the ACSJ made a $233 donation to the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) in the name of Prof Sheldon Helms. Prof Helms was gracious to waive his usual speaking fee in return for the proceeds collected at his guest speaking event to be so donated. The ACSJ fully supports the mission of the JREF, and we were more than happy to accommodate.
The Top Tens
Of all 96 ACSJ events in 2014, the top 10 most attended events are shown in Figure 19. Our highest attended event was our very first debate, which addressed the question “Does the God of Christian Theism Exist?” Gratifyingly, the attendance was almost evenly divided between believers and non-believers.
The next highest attendance was seen at the event “An Evening with Matt Dillahunty”. We were very fortunate to host Matt for this event, as well as for the “Pub Crawl with Matt Dillahunty” event (see the Social and Community-Building Events and Activities section).
The ACSJ community is nothing if not vocal. In the comment sections of 2014 events, 182 members posted 2758 comments and replies. Of course, with each event there were varying degrees of posting activity. Figure 20 shows the Top 10 events that drew the most posting activity in the event comments section.
And, what would comment posts be without the posters. Figure 21 shows the Top 10 members who contributed the most activity in the event comment sections, and the Top 10 members whose posts received the most “likes”.
It is interesting to note that, of the 182 members posting 2758 comments, the Top 10 posters contributed just over half the total comments with 1392 posts (50.5%).
With the help of several very skilled ACSJ members providing web and social media support, the ACSJ maintains an active online presence, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1. ACSJ Online Presence
Note the change in the ACSJ website URL from .com to .org. Through the tireless and inspiring efforts of our Webmaster Dana Nourie, the ACSJ website has undergone a refresh. The site is now more engaging than ever. As time proceeds, more and more site content will be included. Everyone is encouraged to visit the site, and ACSJ members are encouraged to contribute content.
The ACSJ blog post is 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.
Administrative and Organizational
On 21 July 2014, the ACSJ received the IRS determination letter informing us that we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, classified as a Public Charity. As such, all contributions to the ACSJ are tax deductible.
This was a major milestone for the organization. It enables additional options for financial support, including corporate grants, tax-deductible donations, access to reserved goods and services, reduced pricing for some goods and services, and more.
Board of Directors and Support Staff
The ACSJ welcomed a new board member in 2014. Lyn Chiu was added as the Public Relations officer. In her role, Lyn assists in developing public relations plans for the ACSJ; implements and maintains those plans for the organization; works to increase membership through advertising, outreach, publicity, etc.; publicizes ACSJ events and achievements in local periodicals, radio, websites, etc.; and coordinates public interactions for the organization (interviews, public statements, etc.). Table 2 shows the ACSJ Board of Directors for 2014.
|Vice President:||Scot Hairefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Public Relations:||Lyn Chiuemail@example.com|
Table 2. ACSJ Board of Directors for 2014
The ACSJ also welcomed an additional support staff position for the organization. Kevin Harms volunteered for the position of Documentarian. The role of the Documentarian is to capture descriptive video and photos documenting ACSJ events; to organize, edit, and publish all footage; and upload select footage to social media portals such as Meetup, Facebook, YouTube, and the ACSJ website. Table 3 shows the ACSJ Support Staff for 2014.
|Web Development:||Dana Nourie|
|Web Support:||Jim Wissick|
|Legal Support:||Tom Higgins|
|Social Media Support:||Sean Washington|
Table 3. ACSJ Support Staff for 2014
Thanks to the Support Staff, Board of Directors, those members who volunteer their time and expertise, and those who donate money to ensure the health and continued success of the ACSJ.
The ACSJ has seen a marked increase in donations over the past year, especially since gaining our non-profit status. Figure 22 shows the treasury data by month during 2014. Those generous donations from our active and engaged membership have enabled the organization to improve greatly the member experience in the following ways:
As the ACSJ has grown, venues sufficient to accommodate our membership have become more scarce and expensive. Through member donations and patronage, the ACSJ has been able to acquire a standing reservation of the back banquet room at Harry’s Hofbrau for our events. This is a mutually beneficial relationship between the ACSJ and the management at Harry’s Hofbrau. The back banquet room is large and accommodates up to 160 or so persons (which we almost breached at the debate event). Those who attend the ACSJ events held at Harry’s frequently patronize the restaurant and bar, and retain receipts for the purchase of food and alcohol. Those receipts provide the ACSJ with the evidence of our members’ patronage, which motivates the management to then reciprocate with reduced venue costs.
Member donations have enabled the ACSJ to purchase a laptop for use at ACSJ events. This laptop is used with audio/video equipment to enhance the member viewing experience. The laptop is also used for ACSJ administrative purposes.
- Video Projector and Screen
The Board of Directors purchased a video projector and projection screen using funds donated by ACSJ members. This purchase has significantly improved the member experience at ACSJ event. The Epson projector is more than sufficient to provide the video projection, and the projection screen is one of the largest freestanding models available at 8×10 ft. These items have provided the visual experience necessary to accommodate the large attendance we have enjoyed at ACSJ events.
- Audio System
The Board of Directors purchased an audio system. This purchase was as instrumental as the video purchase to improving the member experience at ACSJ events. Once again, the generous donations of the membership enabled this purchase. It includes a dual speaker audio system, 4-channel audio mixer, wireless hand-held microphone, wireless headset microphone, and wired lapel microphone. The quality of the presentation experience has greatly improved now that the speaker’s voice is amplified through the audio system, making it easier for everyone in the audience to hear clearly the speaker’s presentation. Equally improved is the ability for audience questions to be heard by everyone with the use of the hand-held microphone.
- Guest Speakers
With the increase in donated funds came the ability to invite notable speakers from across the country. Some speakers have been able to donate their services as guest speakers, which is greatly appreciated. Others have required financial support to cover travel costs and speaking fees. These costs and fees are considerable, but generous member donations have enabled the ACSJ to bring such notable guest speakers as: Dr. Richard Carrier, Dr. Peter Boghossian, Jaclyn Glenn, Justin Scheiber and Ignacio Reyes, Rev. Barry Lynn, and Matt Dillahunty. Without member donations, these events would not have been possible. And, the continued generous financial support of the ACSJ will enable us to continue to bring more notable speakers from around the country in 2015.
The ACSJ Board of Directors and Support Staff have been good stewards with the generous member donations. We have fully supported the ACSJ mission by providing this community with online community resources, excellent guest speakers, a wonderful venue in which to host those speaker events, and the necessary tools to make those events enjoyable experiences.
2014 saw a significant increase in the ACSJ’s philanthropic activity. There were nearly four times the number of philanthropic events and activities in 2014 than in 2013, and all indications from the membership are that there is a strong appetite to do even more. So, to accommodate this growth area in the organization, the Board of Directors is standing up a Philanthropy Team. This team will organize and coordinate philanthropic events and activities for the ACSJ. All members are encourage to participate in philanthropic activities, but the few members on the Philanthropy Team will organize and coordinate those activities. Anyone interested in participating on the Philanthropy Team should contact the ACSJ at firstname.lastname@example.org to make that interest known.
This has been another great year for the Atheist Community of San Jose. We have enjoyed much success in many areas, including: membership growth, both local and nationwide; community growth worldwide through the ACSJ YouTube channel; active membership engagement through numerous events and activities; notable guest speakers; acquisition of our 501(c)(3) non-profit status; improved member experience at ACSJ events with regard to venue, audio, and video; and more.
The greatest success for the ACSJ continues to be the sustained growth of the organization for the growing community of atheists and like-minded non-believers in San Jose, the greater SF Bay Area, the wider California region, the nation, and the world. Support from the member community, both through participation and financial contribution, continues to give this organization life and sustain 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 look for opportunities to grow the organization.