For Secular Organizations Who Would Like More Members and Donors

mailboxes in the U.S.
Photo by Paula Hayes on Unsplash

Dear national secular organization,

Times are tough. It seems like much of the secular progress we've made over the last 50 years is at risk. Lots of people are trying to figure out what they can do to preserve the separation of church and state. We need a renewed commitment to secular activism. That's where you come in. Supporting you is one of the things we can do.

With that in mind, I would like to join you as a paying member. I value the work you do, and I'd like to support you in doing it. Sound good? Unfortunately, there is a problem. I need 3 things from you before I can join and support you. All 3 are easy, and most of you are already doing one of them.

1. Opting out of receiving postal mail

Your online membership form must provide me with the option of opting out of all postal mail. I don't want your newsletter, solicitations for more money, renewal notices, or anything else. I live in an area where it is not safe for me to receive mail with the name of your organization on it. Not having an opt-out option at the point of joining is a big deterrent.

I know you want me to join now and then request removal from your mailing list later. This does not work for me. I went through this with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It took months for them to remove me. Then the mail resumed a few months after it had stopped. It took several letters, emails, and phone calls before they finally removed me. I'm not interested in going through that again.

By making it easy for me to opt-out of all postal mail up-front, think of the money you'll save on postage! This is a win-win. You'll save money by not sending me something I don't want, and I'll be safer so I can keep contributing.

2. Opting out of having my contact information sold to others

Your online membership form must also let me opt out of you sharing my information with anybody. I know you don't want to do this. You earn extra money by selling member and donor information to others. You don't want to make it too easy for people to opt-out of this. For the reasons stated above, this is a dealbreaker.

You want me to join now and then contact you later to request that you not sell my information. We both know it will be too late then. You will have already sold my information, and removal takes time. I need your assurance that you will not add me to those lists at the time I join.

I know all organizations do this, including activist groups as well as charities. All I can say is that this is the #1 reason many of us won't donate. Ending this practice will mean more members and donors. Adding this checkbox to your online membership form would show that you respect our privacy. That matters.

3. Enable the RSS feeds on your website

If you haven't already done so, I need you to activate the RSS feeds on your website so your action alerts go out via RSS. Most of you have already done this because you recognize how valuable it is in promoting your work. At the time I'm writing this, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is the one outlier that hasn't.

There are two reasons this is important to me. First, as much as I want to join you, I have no interest in receiving your updates and action alerts via email. I prefer to use RSS because it makes it much easier for me to amplify your message on social media.

Second, requiring people to sign up for your email list to receive action alerts is a poor choice. It sends the wrong message about your commitment to secular activism. If you want more activists, you'll want this information to be more accessible. Nobody is going to join you to receive these alerts via email. They are going to join you because they see what you are doing and want to support it. Make it as easy as possible for them to see what you are doing and spread the word.

I'm in the mood to join some secular organizations. What do you say? Will you help me support you?