By Harlan Garbell
In our May newsletter, I set out my vision for the next two years should I be elected president of HumanistsMN. It was, simply, for HMN to become the leading secular organization in the metro area for “nones” — the growing number of people without religious affiliation — who are seeking a welcoming, ethically based community.
This vision can only become a reality if the members of our community pull together to make it happen. And, although many of our members are currently working hard on this, the HMN Board of Directors has the responsibility to lead the effort.
In August, the board met for its annual retreat. At these sessions, we examine where we are now as an organization and where we want to be going forward. We essentially try to determine, strategically, where to direct our resources and efforts in the coming year. In essence, we work to provide a roadmap for the organization. We set goals, and we propose the appropriate ways to achieve them. Below are some of the goals the board set for the coming year:
Strengthening the Core. HMN has an organizational infrastructure that is under the radar for most members. This involves the work we do in finance, communications, technology, and membership. Although we have hard-working and committed volunteers, we need redundancy and a “deeper bench” to support these activities. We could lose key people due to illness, relocation, or even just loss of interest. This could result in an unacceptable setback that would squander the progress we have made over the past few years in these areas. As an organization, we need to address and reduce these risks. Simply put, we need to strengthen our core. We will be reaching out to our membership to assist us in these critical areas.
Directing More Attention to Prospective and New Members. HMN expends significant resources (time, money, labor) to attract people to our events. But we need to do a better job connecting up with these people at an earlier stage with the aim of achieving a greater return on our investment. We should be more assertive in acquiring prospective members and retaining existing ones. We are currently putting strategies in place to accomplish these goals.
Social Action/Culture of Collaboration. In my view, HMN’s Day of Reason event at the State Capitol in May far exceeded expectations. It revealed that HMN is in a unique position to serve in a leadership role as an “umbrella” group for other single-issue organizations that wish to leverage their limited resources. This will allow HMN, and the coalition we are a part of, to “punch above our weight” in the area of religion-government separation. Our Social Action Team is continuing its efforts to reach out and build relationships with other groups that share our secular values. Hopefully, this will result in building a robust, local secular coalition that will have a greater voice when policy issues are debated in the state Legislature.
Organizational Structure and Communication. HMN will institute a managerial culture and structure to empower committee chairs and team leaders to make timely and effective decisions where it makes the most sense. This means streamlining our organizational structure to empower our “managers” to move quickly as opportunities arise for improving our activities and programs. To facilitate this effort, we will require greater and more frequent communications up, down, and laterally throughout the organization.
Improve Record Keeping. The organization needs to improve the way it collects and stores written records kept by board members and others. This may sound boring, but it is essential. Officers, board members, committee chairs, and team leaders move on and it is critical that their successors are not handicapped because they lack orderly, legible information to rely on going forward.
Programming. HMN is committed to providing a greater quantity of programming, while also increasing program quality. We will not be reluctant to experiment with a variety of programming at different venues. Moreover, as we consider ourselves a humanist community embracing the entire state, we will seek to expand our programming reach to other communities outside of the Twin Cities metro area.
Finance. Although our main resource is the dedication of our volunteers, HMN needs money to continue offering the programs and activities that make us a vibrant community. Many members may be unaware of our costs. For example: rental of the space at the First Unitarian Society, the speakers we invite, food and beverages; the signage and the literature we distribute at all our events; permits for our picnic space as well as street fairs. There are many other administrative costs associated with our operations and programs. As a result, the board is exploring different options for future funding.
This is not an exhaustive list of our efforts to realize our organizational vision. But, as dues-paying members, rest assured that your elected leaders are working on your behalf to make HMN the leading secular community in the metro area, espousing the values that you believe are important — democracy, separation of religion and government, commitment to the greater good, critical thinking, public policy based on science and reason, and environmental responsibility.
Help us make this vision a reality!
Harlan Garbell is president of HumanistsMN.