The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guidepost for all of us in our actions during the year 2016, so that we are looking at our mission and a long term vision for SNS. Generally, our goals include the following:
(a) to grow the membership and subscribers/other readers and followers of SNS;
(b) to increase general awareness of SNS and Spiritual Naturalism (SN) in the world
(c) to provide even better services for our members, helping them in their practice and fellowship;
(d) to provide better support for local groups and grassroots activities related to SN;
(e) to have better interconnections and relationships with other organizations compatible with our mission.
Our 1-Year plan should be viewed in the context of longer-term plans. One of our tasks for 2016, can be to develop more concrete goals for the 5 and 10 year mark.
II. CURRENT STATE & CHALLENGES
We have had a great start and a productive second year. All of our major paperwork, organizational structure, and core department activities have been established and are functioning. Publishing, online presence, public engagement, member processing, are all active. Our challenges now include the following:
- Refining our current operations to be more automated, professional, and efficient.
- Filling out missing roles in our staff and adding many more volunteers in general.
- Finding more effective and rapid avenues for outreach and growth.
- Expand the ways in which we have covered, supported, and expressed Spiritual Naturalism to include more traditions, and include more current and modern thought and research (as Eric suggested in his letters).
- Increasing the effectiveness and methods of building personal relationships among our volunteers, members, and community, despite the distances and virtual interaction inherent in a national/international organization.
One challenge is not to get complacent or too much into a cyclical habit with current functions of the organization. Rather, to continue moving forward in our plans. In many ways, SNS is now like a well-set dinner table waiting for the guests to come and take their seats. We have far more organizational structures, tools, programs, features, and abilities than our volunteers can properly administer, and our current membership size are currently taking advantage of. The main focus now should be on getting people in the seats so this machine we’ve created can function smoothly.
In the following sections (III – IX), we will discuss our larger view, but itemize our top and first priority (A-list items). At the end of this document, we will summarize B-list items (those we hope to get to after the A-list items). After that, will be items in reserve. This means we do not currently believe they can be part of a 1 year plan, but would likely be part of a 2-5 year plan. Having said that, items in reserve are available to be picked up should increased personnel allow for it.
Please note: These items reflect expansions to current functions. Therefore, the staff mentioned as assigned to these are not the only staff members – many of whom are already, thankfully, fulfilling important ongoing functions that are planned to continue into the next year as well. Their work is what makes these additional goals possible.
One of the more major areas we will need to work on is how to reach out to, bring in, and develop/train more volunteers to join our team. This will lighten the workload for everyone and ensure SNS is doing all it can and should be doing to be ever-better at its mission.
The first and foremost need here, is a Volunteer Developer – a volunteer who can focus on recruiting more volunteers, and getting them into their roles without taking up the time and resources of other existing staff in those areas. Something like an HR person perhaps. Daniel and Leigh will have to take the lead on finding such a person, but as with all things, anyone might have a connection to share.
1-Year Goal: Have a Volunteer Coordinator on the SNS Staff
(Staff assigned: Daniel, Leigh)
IV. MEMBER SERVICES
Member services include distribution of the newsletter. For supporting members, services also include: (1) robust and active forums which are moderated and kept active by volunteers focused on member community; (2) Educational and Inspirational SN Archives which are grown regularly with quality content, both original and collected works; (3) occasional special online events and projects; (4) community-building activities such as birthdays, articles on members, and other things designed to help members socialize and get to know one another, and more. Our books and courses could also be looked at as member services since they are made available to supporting members at a discount, but books and courses are covered in a later section.
Aron is currently working well to make the forums more active, but more activity there would be ideal. This may likely simply take more time. The archives have not been growing at a desirable rate. We could use more help from education staff, and need more member-services volunteers to build and collect these works. They should have a sense of excitement about what they have collected to share with the supporting members. The works in the archives are designed to be more in-depth than the materials in the public articles. Our special events have been lacking, but this has been appropriate to the level of interest and participation by the current membership. As our membership grows, participation in possible events will be more reasonable.
1-Year Goal: Form a Social Committee, who will appoint a head. Gradually increase the frequency of online member socials from quarterly to monthly (June, August, October, November, December). Committee will come up with a schedule of topics for the socials, which increase interest. In between, they will follow up with attendees, thanking them for coming and continuing communications, encouraging attendance at the next social.
(Staff assigned: Tony, Leigh)
Our website was put together by a variety of people over time and is not optimal in its internal structure, it is not optimal in its layout and user experience flow, and it is not geared well for mobile and pad users. We are also seeing increased incidents of the site being down or very slow, which is due to increased traffic to the site, and increased usage of the site by more staff and students.
In this next year, we need to have a complete rebuild of the site to meet these needs. This should begin with a purely aesthetic and marketing layout design, focused on what formats will draw the readers eye to the most important elements, will allow users to make sense of the site and SNS, and make their experience as easy and intuitive as possible, including the process of becoming a member, making donations, etc. It is during this stage that we can review user account, membership, and other signup functions on the site – and work in concepts for new functions and features as well.
The design stage should produce materials IT can use as a blueprint for rebuilding the site. All of this must be done in a way that is invisible to current members, and must not require them to have to sign up again or inconvenience them in any other way. It must also be done in a way that does not endanger current data being lost.
1-Year Goal: A completely re-designed and rebuilt site that is compatible with current technologies and optimized for pads and mobile devices as well. New site should have increased hosting capacity, uptime, speed, and SEO.
(Staff assigned: Tony, Nicholas, Daniel, others consulted in their areas)
SNS is now geared to do much more in outreach. This includes advertising, public events, being interviewed in major media, panel appearances, and possibly being published by a major publisher and finding high-profile spokespersons. We need to start moving beyond our current means of outreach to make contact with circles and demographics we have not yet reached.
1-Year Goal: Gather robust contact data on several marketing channels/media and have built a long-term marketing plan, and have already experimented by placing ads with a few options with the best potential for our budget.
(Staff assigned: Brandon, Daniel)
This area includes our public articles, books, and the podcast. For the articles, the first order of business is to get a long-term Editing Director (which we have made a goal in the Volunteer section above). Someone with experience in blogging would be good. This is important not just for the task of managing the schedule and publishing the articles, but mainly so we have a dedicated person looking out for new authors to either approach for guest pieces, or to join our writing team. This will be important to keep growing.
On the books, Julie will be handling the editing of the anthology (article collection) books. She and Daniel need to work out a smoother process for getting the anthology books out the door. But in addition to the anthology books, Daniel will be trying to have a Spiritual Naturalist Handbook picked up by a major publisher. This will, of course, also be a great way for SNS to gain more exposure (as it will be mentioned extensively in the book).
On the podcast, things are going great, but we have been doing episodes as they come. We need to come up with longer-term plans for future guests, as well as a topic schedule for the year for episodes without guests. This will also help in promotions of the podcast.
1-Year Goal: Have a 1-Year schedule of topics and guest episodes, have procured guests for all planned spots for the year, and/or have adapted the schedule around what we were able to get.
(Staff assigned: Brandon, Daniel)
Here we need to look at a combination of our vision for SNS educational services, what we can practically achieve this year, and how available personnel will affect these things. With Brandon going to graduate school and having less time, we need to situate ourselves accordingly.
One thing we might look at is perhaps moving the SNS 101 course to taking place once per year? This may better match the current rate of interested party accrual. It would also give us more time for promotion of the course, more time to work up awareness and excitement, and make the course time seem more special. It would also be lighter on volunteer needs. In any case, we need to have others trained in giving the course to increase our redundancy and flexibility.
In the future we would like to have courses on more specific or advanced aspects of SN. While expanding to more types of courses may be difficult for this year, we should discuss possibilities for achieving some of the first steps of developing these other courses.
We should also look greatly into the many excellent thoughts, ideas, and references in Eric’s letters – especially here: those pertaining to focusing on human development. Education also includes growing the archives with more materials, but we have already stated goals on this in the Member Services section above.
1-Year Goal: Have established a course schedule assuming one annual SNS 101 course, and a plan for publicizing it.
(Staff assigned: Brandon)
IX. LOCAL GROUPS
We aim to be more useful to existing compatible local groups across the United States (as a start). This means better contacts with them, better interactions, cross-listings, helping members find them, etc. It also includes creation of Spiritual Naturalist practice packages which can be helpful to any groups interested in contemplative practice.
1-Year Goal: Complete our list of existing potential local group partners, and have them all approached with proposals for link-sharing.
(Staff assigned: Leigh)
In the following section, we will summarize B-list areas and goals. These are a part of our 1-year plan, but can only be considered once A-list items are addressed. Completing all of the following in 1 year will be considered an excellent outcome.
1-Year Goal: Have other mission positions filled (inc. Editing Director)
1-Year Goal: Have more support in these departments: (Arts, IT, Outreach)
1-Year Goal: Have built a robust contact and data sheet on all major media and advertising options in several channels (radio, TV, billboards, newspapers, websites, blogs, etc).
1-Year Goal: Have procured at least one interview in a major media outlet (local to a major city or national).
1- Year Goal: Have reached out to at least three high-profile figures with a request to discuss working with them.
1-Year Goal: Have at least two other staff members who are willing trained on how to give the SNS 101 course.
1-Year Goal: Have projects in place that help to expand SNS representation of SN through more traditions and through current research and current thought and movements.
1-Year Goal: Complete first SN-packets for local groups.
One of our aims for SNS has always been to have a think tank aspect to the organization. Eric has put together some excellent writing on possible components of such a think tank, and his most recent letter should be taken as an Appendix to this document for reference purposes. We definitely need to discuss this more, and convert into concrete first steps achievable this year. Leigh has also had some excellent ideas on engaging universities and professors. Perhaps we can begin by finding professors across the country who may be willing to join in a conversation or committee to discuss the building of such a think tank which could do original research and put out papers, etc?
1-Year Goal: Have invited college professors who have formed a committee on establishing a think tank on Spiritual and Religious Naturalism
ITEMS IN RESERVE
The following items are not a part of our 1-year plan. But they are a part of our long-term plans for the future. Estimates that we will be able to get to these in following years are based on current personnel resources. If these should increase, then this section can be looked at as a grab-bag, allowing us to bring them into the 1-year plan.
1-Year Goal: Have put on at least one public event in a major metro area (a talk, hosted discussion, meditation, class, other rituals, panel representation, etc) in which we can also talk about SNS.
1-Year Goal: Have established reasonable first steps on development of other courses and have them accomplished.
1-Year Goal: Have all local groups in our link listings approached with proposal for official SNS association.
1-Year Goal: Have submitted a book proposal to major publishers and (hopefully) have been accepted for publication.
Creating the very 1-Year Plan could be looked at as the first goal in the area of Administration this year. Once this plan is finalized and approved by the council (after our discussions), it will need to be converted into specific action items, placed on a calendar with due dates, and each one assigned to specific staff members willing to take them on. We may find some things may need to be removed from the 1-Year plan due to simple time and personnel constraints – at least provisionally, until more volunteers come on board.
Leigh had a wonderful idea of approaching universities and junior colleges to see if they might be willing to offer credit to an internship with us (sociology, psychology, philosophy, religious studies, or perhaps even business/non-profit fields). This can correlate to our outreach to universities to find professors interested in building a think tank (above).
A third area of need in Administration is more automation of functions like welcome letters to new members, contact response form letters, direct signup-to-contact records automation, and MailChimp if possible. Jay has already volunteered to help with some of this and we’ll need to make sure the new website refurbishment keeps or even expands on this automation. The more time we save, the more time volunteers have to do other things for the Society.
1-Year Goal: (put goals – professors) Have contact list of major universities and appropriate departments built. Have contacted them all with proposals for creditable internships.
1-Year Goal: Full automation of all needed regular admin functions.
- Joint participation (representative w booth or giving talks/workshops) in existing conferences/conventions (AHA, other spiritual-type?, other ideas?)
- Transformative festivals / burns. Possible camp of SN people? (Temple of SN – host meditation? Spiritual drawing class? Drumming workshop?) – create list of burns & tr fests and list/contact groups for SN burners?
- SN retreat – first steps, designs, plans?