By Audrey Kingstrom
The year 2017 brought many new developments to Humanists of Minnesota. These efforts took a lot of work on the back end for the Board and diligent member-volunteers, but for the record and the benefit of the entire membership, here’s an overview of what transpired this past year.
First off, let me reiterate my mantra: we are an all-volunteer organization. We exist because a group of people with a shared humanist worldview are committed to promoting humanism. Things get done because dedicated members do stuff. Lots of stuff. Run programs. Plan events. Recruit speakers. Do community service. Stand up for humanist values in the public square. Keep our social media presence functioning. Write articles. Attend to our membership database and outreach. Set up for our educational and social gatherings. Provide refreshments. Oversee our finances. These are many of the tasks and responsibilities that have been undertaken to a greater extent this past year than ever before in our over-30-year existence.
We continue to be on the move. We have maintained our robust programming of recent years by offering events and activities on a weekly basis. This year we added another new educational program, on organizations and management, – thanks to the dedication and talents of long-time member Jerry Smith. We took on another community service project, the Minneapolis Mobile Food Shelf, thanks to the conscientious service of long-time member Nathan Curland. The commitment of many of our members to end-of-life issues and medical aid-in-dying helped us take leadership in the civic arena through our involvement with Compassion and Choices. In particular, Bobbi Jacobsen, Dick Segers, Janet Conn and I led that charge.
More broadly, however, we made strides this past year in developing a deliberative social action program within our organization. Humanists care about so many issues, but we concentrated on educational forums and advocacy work around four issues: health care for all, the environment, criminal justice reform, and medical aid-in-dying. Meline Juarez agreed to chair our action team and she along with several other members began making connections with potential non-profit partners so we can be more effective advocates. One particular highlight of the year was our strong showing at the March for Science last April.
New Time for Chapter Meetings
Another notable development from a programmatic standpoint is that we moved our monthly chapter meetings to Saturday afternoons after many, many years of having them on Saturday mornings. It proved not to be as difficult a move as some had feared, no doubt because other Saturday afternoon programming had become the norm in recent years.
While we no longer enjoy catered lunch together once a month, our “mocktail hour” following the presentation is proving to be an agreeable substitute.
This year we also undertook some significant administrative and logistical changes within the organization. We went from a paper and pdf e-mail version of our newsletter to a completely online newsletter with new format and delivery system. Several dedicated volunteers helped with the planning and implementation, but most importantly, Suzanne Perry, a recently retired professional journalist, took over the responsibilities as editor and coordinator of all our communication channels. We are excited to have Suzanne at the helm of these new efforts just as we are ever so grateful to Nathan Curland for his many years of service editing our former newsletter.
Tech-savvy Board member Rohit Ravindran spearheaded the effort to create a new website with support from Seth Engman and Rebecca Chesin. We now have a contemporary-looking and dynamic website that is not only more user-friendly; it is also far easier to maintain. In conjunction with developing the new website, we transferred to a new more user-friendly membership data base system.
Dave Guell has been hard at work this past year to integrate this system into our website and make the online member experience easier to navigate. If you have not yet added your name (and whatever additional information you are willing to share) to our online membership directory, I encourage you to do so NOW. One last change rounded out our online upgrades—a new payment system for greater organizational accountability and better website integration.
Give to the Max
This year for the first time we participated in Give to the Max, Minnesota's online giving day. We raised more the $900 for outreach activities, including Facebook ads. Thank you to everyone who gave. And check out our page on GiveMN.
Over the years many people have contributed to Humanists of Minnesota. Many more have stepped up this past year to help sustain and grow the organization. It’s been a rewarding and fruitful year. Thanks to all who helped make it so. We welcome everyone’s participation in the coming year and are hopeful that we can continue to grow our community and increase the visibility of humanism within our region.
Audrey Kingstrom is president of Humanists of Minnesota.