One thing crucial to this debate, and something I haven't figured out yet, is exactly what it means to be an Independent affiliate.
One of the most frequent complaints is that they will not be guaranteed space at GA for a workshop.
My suggestion for that is as follows:
1. Somebody should convince his/her congregation to sponsor the workshop.
Failing that, the organization can:
2. Go here. Pick a hotel. Call said hotel, say “Hello, I am bringing my organization into town for a conference on June 25-29, 2008. I would like a conference room for two hours or so one afternoon during that period. If members of my organization agree to rent five rooms from you during that period, can have that room for free?”
3. Send a letter to your members. “We would like to have a GA workshop, but we have to sponsor it ourselves. As the president of the organization, I’m willing to pay $50 toward photocopying fliers advertising our event, but we still need $100 to rent a hotel conference room for two hours. Will five of you please kick in $20 for this?”
If an organization can’t get five UUs to pay $20 apeice, then I don’t think it would be possible to make an argument that the UUA should be supporting them in any way at all. Clearly, they do not have sufficient support among UUs to be worth the UUA’s attention.
At GA this year, the humanists had to do this anyway even though they had an official slot in the program because whoever assigned the rooms assumed that just because William Murray had just written a book and a widely discussed UU World article and is a well-respected UU smart guy, that didn’t mean all that many people would show up to hear him talk. (Literally hundreds of people were turned away. CC was one of them.)
While some IA’s the UUA could live without (IMHO, the political ones that are poor men’s versions of actual political advocacy groups that non-UUs care about,) I see the Religious IAs as good things.
I just don’t see why the level of affiliation to the UUA is or should be an especially important point.
I've also heard around that the IAs get a discount on advertising in UU World. I asked Philo in his editor hat exactly how much the "affiliate discount" was and he responded, "UU World hasn’t adjusted its advertising rates yet for any of the organizations affected by the board’s decisions this year concerning independent affiliates, and is waiting for the administration to clarify its policies in response to the board’s decisions."
Here’s what I would do if I were trying to get my IA to have an influence on the congregations, and none of it has anything to do with getting listed in official UUA directories. (I don’t recall EVER even looking at a UUA directory.)
1. Have an active internet presence. A big website, a message board for discussing things, constantly updated links talking about what’s new. Enthusiastically review good books about your issue by non-UU people with name recognition and try to get them interested in your organization. Write about your organization’s take on what’s going on in the world and how it relates to your issue. Offer an e-mail mailing list for ministers and RE professionals. If the Chaliceblog can get 150 hits a day on a good week, and your organization isn't doing better, there's something wrong with your website.
2. Every year, every minister or board president and every RE director gets a letter saying that the Organization is happy to provide speakers and RE materials at a low cost. Send a really good “Time for all ages” story or something along with the letter.
3. Have a “sermon packet” with LOTS of information about your issue and your issue’s take on various interesting things ready to go and a well publicized phone number where ministers can call to request it.
4. Run a charitable project every year, ask churches to help or offer to partner with one large UU church a year.
5. Have some sort of GA program at a nearby hotel to energize the GA attendees and send them home with cool materials.
6. If your issue becomes very important in the news (E.g. You’re the Buddhists and the Dalai Lama dies,) be ready to send out a letter to the congregations with lots of information about what has happened, how your group is reacting and ways people can become more informed.
I’m guessing that the total cost of these suggestions is about two thousand bucks in the first year, less if you know a web designer willing to donate some work and/or if you can handle some of the letters over e-mail. And they would all take a decent chunk of time, though I’m pretty sure one really committed person could do it all if he/she had to and with spreading the labor to a few people it wouldn’t be bad at all. (Again, probably less work than the Chaliceblog.)
This is, by design, a bare bones plan that ignores the social and focuses on educating the congregations about who you are and what you believe. Obviously, the more members you have, the easier it is to have a conference, have every worship committee chair get a call from your organization, etc. But nobody has suggested that this affiliates issue will matter much to the larger affiliates anyway.
Edited: I removed the Ps. about postmasters, which was germane to something I edited out.
Your suggestions are in a strong direction, CC. I hope that they will be noticed by the IAs, although I think that ideas in that direction were already being floated at the GA in Portland.
An additional point of course is that individual IAs do not have to do this; groups in the same area
(religion, history, UU professionals, etc.) could do so and end up with a much more rational grouping of workshops than is customary at GA, although there might be problems of timing overlap, which would require more consultation.
Makes sense to me, CC. Good thinking.
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