SSA Week: On Criticism, Improvement, and Asking for Help

We’re in the middle of SSA Week right now, the Secular Student Alliance’s annual major fundraising push. It’s unusual for a fundraising drive in that the SSA often concentrates more on the number of donors than on the amount raised. This is particularly true this year, when their challenge grant isn’t a matching grant but $20,000 in donations that will kick in if 500 people donate by June 17. Small donations mean even more this year.

Text banner for SSA Week: "Secular students week, June 10th-17th, 2015. Help us get to 500 donations!",
I know a lot of people are burnt out on atheist organizations after the last few years. I am less so than most people I know, but even I feel it from time to time. Still, the SSA is one of the groups that continues to regularly receive the revenue I make from this blog. Let me tell you a little bit about why.

Everybody screws up. That doesn’t make every screw-up equal, much less trivial. It does, however, mean that I pay more attention to what happens after something goes wrong than I do to the fact that something bad happened. Does the person or organization try to attack or undermine whoever points out the problem? Or do they take responsibility, look for the root of the problem, and try to find ways to keep it from happening again?

I talk to a lot of people working for movement organizations about ways to make the movement better. There are people at almost every organization who work incredibly hard to improve things, and when some of us get together, we geek.

All too often, though, these conversations happen furtively. There’s a sense that if bosses and/or donors knew that movement employees were putting heads together with someone who has been a vocal critic of movement organizations even when that person has also been a vocal supporter, things wouldn’t go well. Despite the fact that these organizations make changes in the name of improvement all the time, there’s a feeling that it’s a problem if criticism is explored rather than fought.

With the SSA, I don’t get that sense. In fact, the SSA has several times directly and officially solicited my feedback on problems they face or solutions they were considering implementing. This is not standard procedure. It’s not unheard of–several organizations have asked me for input on codes of conduct–but the SSA has done so on a much more regular basis.

Nor is mine anything like the only input the SSA has solicited. (Thank goodness. I’m a geek, which makes bouncing around ideas fun and potentially illuminating. I’m not a guru with all the answers.) When I talked to August Brunsman a couple of months ago about the SSA’s new mission statement, he was clear that the direction the SSA was taking on this came out of the priorities of student groups. He also said that ideas for implementation would continue to be influenced by the groups themselves, as has always been true for the SSA.

That openness is why I continue to support the SSA. If it appeals to you as well and you can afford it, I encourage you to take advantage of SSA Week to make that support concrete.

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SSA Week: On Criticism, Improvement, and Asking for Help
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One thought on “SSA Week: On Criticism, Improvement, and Asking for Help

  1. 1

    Thanks for the signal boost. I’ve been meaning to donate, but always think of it at damned inconvenient times.

    So yeah, can’t spare much, but $10 and another increment towards 500!

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