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The Community Report for January 2018

by | Feb 2, 2018 | Community News | 6 comments

Welcome to the January 2018 Community Report for The Humanist Community of Central Ohio. This report–which is a collaborative effort of the board and other volunteers–is meant to share vital metrics of our organization’s health, direction, and progress on a month by month basis.

If you have an active account with us you should also have access to this month’s board meeting minutes. You can access those minutes from your account page under the exclusive member’s only content section. If you do not have an active membership with us and would like one, simply go to our join page and sign up for the membership level that best suites you.

Ok, let’s get into this month’s report!

Events Overview

To begin, let’s talk about our January event stats. Events are our primary way of engaging with the people of Central Ohio, so keeping track of our growth and performance in this area is important. We’re not necessarily looking for growth in the number of events, but tracking them may provide us with some interesting insights.

For example, a large number of events and low overall attendance may indicate a lack of organizational focus. Or, a small number of events and dwindling attendance may indicate too narrow a focus. On the other hand, if events are up and attendance is up then we’re still discovering new interests within our community. That might also indicate a growth in volunteers as each event requires at least one host to organize and put it on.

Here is what we’re seeing from our current numbers this month…

Event Stats this Month and Year to Date:

  • 6 Events this month
  • 1 New Attendees this Month
  • 42 Total Attendees this Month
  • 6 Events this Year to Date
  • 1 New Attendee(s) this Year to Date
  • 42 Total Attendees this year to Date

Memberships Overview

Our current state of memberships, it must be admitted, is a little troubling. For years now we have had a membership retention problem. Which is altogether different than a community engagement or attendance problem.

It would seem, based on our total number of Meetup members (~1,500), Facebook page likes/group members (~2,700), and our email newsletter (~500) that there are a significant number of people in the Central Ohio area interested in what we’re doing.

So why the low membership numbers?

There are likely two key reasons:

  1. We have not made it a priority in recent years to push for new member signups. Or, for that matter, to even promote the fact that official membership is a thing that casual participants should be aware of.
  2. Until recently, those people who did become offical members had no way of knowing when their membership had expired (unless a volunteer manually reached out to them). This has lead to many people regularly participating in the community and attending our events without ever realizing their membership had lapsed.

Thankfully, the solution to this problem is already in place. And you’re looking at it! The current version of our website now has the functionality to provide our community members with auto-renewing monthly or annual memberships. And if a problem occurs with a payment that results in their membership lapsing, they are automatically notified via email so they can resolve the issue and renew if they choose.

As modest as our current numbers are, we are already seeing an increase in member dues as a result and we expect to see membership retention rise this year as well. Given time we should see our total number of members get back into the hundreds where is has been in the best years past.

Membership Stats this Month and Year to Date:

  • 5 New Memberships this Month
  • 5 New Memberships this Year to Date
  • 61 Total No. of Current Memberships

What is the Current Status of Your Membership?

It is entirley possible that you are reading this right now and fall into the category of folks who’s membership has expired without your conscious knowledge. You can test to see if this is the case by logging in.

If you login and see this message:

“If you’re seeing this page it means you do not have permission to view the content you’re trying to access…”

That means your account has expired. Simply navigate to the join page and choose the membership level you’d like.

And of course, if you do not have a login at all, but would like to join, you can do that too by going straight to the join page and signing up for the first time.

Note: if you have paid your membership via cash or check, your account will need to be manually updated to “active” status. Please email our webmaster at webmaster[at]hcco.org so he can do that for you.

Why Are Memberships Important?

Just in case you’re wondering, “Why do we even have memberships? What do they accomplish?” Let’s take a moment to talk about the role they play in our organization.

It should be made clear right away that having an official membership is not necessary for participation in the vast majority of the events and programs we put on. For the most part, those are 100% free, and of course, open to all.

However, when it comes to the vision and administration of our organization we require more than a passing interest in event attendance. We require a modest financial committment: $1/month billed annually or a higher amount of your choice.

This simple and accessible barrier to entry helps us identify those who are most interested in participating in our organzation and seeing its mission of providing a supportive local community for humanists and other non-theists in the Central Ohio area fulfilled.

We give these people the ability to do the following:

  • Vote on board appointments.
  • Attend board meetings.
  • Access member’s only content that empowers them to participate in the community more meaningfully.
  • Access to member services (currently in development).
  • Get free or reduced ticket prices for our few paid events each year.
  • Host official HCCO events.
  • Join HCCO committees.
  • Join the HCCO board.

In turn, their member dues help expand the scope and quality of the events and programs we’re able to provide Central Ohio.

This includes:

  • Covering the cost of a meeting place, storage, staff, event expenses, and more.
  • Amplifying our collective voice in the community.
  • Expanding our outreach to more people in Central Ohio.
  • Helping us qualify for grants.
  • Creating educational materials.
  • Providing better member services.
  • And more

In short, steady affordable member dues are the organization’s best path to sustainable growth and improvement.

Financial Overview

Financial Stats this Month and Year to Date

  • Membership Dues this Month: $180
  • Membership Dues this Year to Date: $180
  • Donations this Month: $375
  • Donations this Year to Date: $375
  • Expenses this Month: $772
  • Expenses this Year to Date: $772
  • Total Income this Month: $555
  • Total Income this Year to Date: $555
  • Balance this Month: -$217
  • Balance this Year to Date: -$217

A negative balance! What?!

Yes, it’s true. This month we have a negative balance because a lot of expenses come out in January but we’ll have other months where the equation is flipped and the annual average should bear out a positive balance. Additionally, this summary does not take into account what we already have in the bank–so rest assured, we’re not in the negative as a whole, just for this month.

The reason for setting up the report like this is to put the focus on our month to month performance. Ideally, we’ll get to a place where we’re always seeing a positive balance for each month–and a really big one for the year!

Member Dues vs Donations

As you may have noticed in the previous section of the report I made a claim that “steady and affordable member dues are the organization’s best path to sustainable growth and improvement” and yet, we see more money coming in under general donations than member dues. What gives?

I’m glad you asked.

An interesting fact about our donations is that they almost all come from existing members who have chosen to donate more money above and beyond their member dues.

Just like in politics, there are likely always going to be a small number of people who can afford to give large amounts. And while this is great, if we depend too much on it, we risk losing a large percentage of our incoming revenue if we lose a big donor. Which can happen for any number of reasons, including: they move away, can’t afford to give as generously for a time, leave the organization, etc.

If we instead focus on Memberships and Member Dues as our primary source of income, the risk of “member churn” (people coming in and out of the organization) is much lower. And, since our donors tend to be a smaller pool of existing members, if we increase our member base we will also likely increase our pool of big donors.

But the importance of Memberships goes far beyond our financial health as an organization. Members are the people who accomplish our mission! And they do it, primarily, through our nine standing committees.

January Announcements

Now that the above templated reporting is complete, we can move on to some one-off updates and announcements.

New Board members and Officers

On Wednesday January 24th the Board of Trustees met to elect new officers and officially kick off 2018. The 2018 board is composed of three returning members including myself (Carl Tracy), Jeff Dubin, and Nathan Weller as well as two newly elected members: Ben Iten and Karla Norquist.

The officers for 2018 are:

  • President — Carl Tracy
  • Vice President — Jeff Dubin
  • Treasurer — Nathan Weller
  • Secretary — Karla Norquist

You can read the board member’s bios here.

Website

At the beginning of 2017 we had a plan to rebuild our website into something more durable that would last our organization for many years. As often happens with IT projects we had more hiccups along the way than expected and it did cause some problems. Many of you have experienced issues with recurring payments over the last few months. Unfortunately, it took a very long time to pinpoint exactly what was going on. Eventually we did figure it out (PayPal would not allow us to process recurring payments and sell tickets to the Winter Solstice Program at the same time), and it seems to be running more smoothly now with a more modern online payment processing system that does not have these issues (Stripe).

Now that we have a reliable way to process memberships online we plan on actively adding more content to the website with a monthly blog post written by a member of the board. Links to the 2017 Board Meeting Minutes are available on your account page and 2018 minutes will be added as they become available.

Become a contributor

Have something to say about Humanism? We would love to have you. You can read more about contributing to the HCCO blog here.

Housing

Mid 2017 we received word that the SSA was moving their headquarters to Los Angeles and as such we would be losing our space on Old Henderson Drive. The board initiated a search, lead by John Sterling, for a new space we could use for storage of our possessions and a meeting space for our monthly meetings. Since the sublet we had from the SSA was an incredible deal we fully expected to be spending more. After several weeks of working with an agent and a fair amount of Googling we found a true unicorn – a sublet from an organization that had very strong connection to our Humanist values, gave us a small amount of storage space to keep our most critical items and a meeting place. It was not a long term solution, but it was a good short term solution that met our needs and was available when we needed it and ended up being less expensive than our lease from the SSA. A perfect space for us to land while we consider our long-term housing needs.

Unfortunately, at the end of December we received an email from the organization that we were subleting from that due to financial stress they would not be renewing their lease and we had until the end of the year to move out. So we are again without a home and have begun the process of searching for a new place to hang our hat. If you have any ideas on a space we could lease for a reasonable price please feel free to contact me, the Coordinator or any other member of the board. In the short term this means that the location of the monthly program may not be static until we find a suitable location. In the long term we will be even more reliant on your support to fund a location that will almost certainly cost more than what we have been paying for the last few years.

In much more upbeat news – in 2017 we received a $10,000 grant for the purposes of purchasing a building. This provides a good first step toward the goal of purchasing a permanent home for HCCO, and while that goal is still a while away we are thankful to the James Harvey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust for the grant and to our grant writer (our Coordinator Rose) for the opportunity to begin planning for a long-term housing solution for our community.

Events

2017 was a great year for events. From the community kids who crashed the summer picnic (but didn’t seem too interested in the food we had to offer – a little too vegan for them apparently!), to the newly reformatted Winter Solstice Program with all it’s first year quirks, to all the monthly programs we have it’s been a fun year to be involved with the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. I’m looking forward to an eventful 2018 and hope to see even more of you in the coming year!

Closing Thoughts

2017 was a long and challenging year for our organization–no two ways about it. There have been ups and (honestly) more downs than I personally would have liked. Thus is life I suppose. There has been a lot of work done over the last year, but unfortunately due to various reasons we as a board have done a very poor job of communicating what’s going on to our members. I apologize for that and promise to do better.

I hope that this post, and one like it every month, will show how serious we are about moving this organization forward, together. This post is meant to be a first step in communicating more openly and transparently with our members and we’re excited to see how you all choose to respond. Our sincere hope is that you will not only follow along interestedly, but actively engage in making our organization stronger and more effective.

Here’s to making 2018 a great year!

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6 Comments

  1. Doug Berger

    Thank you for posting this data. It helps members and potential members to see how healthy our group is

    Reply
  2. Derrick

    Thank you taking these important steps to clarify the direction of the group and to measure results! This is a valuable way to improve communication and to involve more people in group activities.

    Reply
  3. John Sterling

    Yeah, this all looks good. There is one thing that went through my head when I saw the list of committees again… holy crap… that’s a lot of committees. I wonder if that will dilute our volunteer effort too much… but I would think, people will join whatever committee they want and there might be committees without many or any… that might be ok.

    Reply
    • Nathan B. Weller

      Yeah, the number of committees is definitely much higher in comparison to our pool of volunteers. Personally, I like the idea of standing committees that show what we could potentially be doing if more people engage. Hopefully doing these reports and a concerted effort by the board to funnel interested members into the committees they’re most interested in serving in will begin to fill these committees up and increase our organization’s impact in Central Ohio.

      Reply

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