November 12, 2013

Does #CFI, #CSH, or #SOS still have financial problems?

First, let me spell out the alphabet soup up top.

CFI is Center for Inquiry, once the leading secular humanist organizatoin and now, in my opinion, trying to become the leading Gnu Atheist organization. CSH is an affiliate, the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of The Humanist magazine and doer of other things. SOS is Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a 12-step group alternative. (Disclosure: I have connections with another 12-step alternative, one of my reasons for interest in all of this, as well as my interest or concerns about things Gnu Atheist.)

A month ago, as I blogged here, SOS sent out an urgent fundraising appeal, with the full appeal and parts of surrounding text following.
For over 23 years, the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) has financially supported Secular Organizations for Sobriety. Now, due to their own loss in funding, CSH will severely cut their financial support for SOS. This is set to occur at the end of March 2014; however, CSH has recently agreed to continue their current level of financial support for SOS if SOS can raise $75,000 prior to March 31, 2014. We urge you to send your tax deductible donation today to:


Save SOS

4773 Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(Credit card donors call 323-666-4295 24 hours)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety has helped countless thousands of addicted persons reclaim their lives for over 28 years. We need your help now in order to effectively continue the implementation of the world’s oldest and largest alternative to 12-Step religious support groups.

Thank you so very much!

Jim Christopher

SOS Founder
SOS is officially headquartered at CFI West's office in L.A., and the Council for Secular Humanism is a CFI affiliate, to spell out the connection. Sidebar to the end-of-email claim. The "largest" is highly doubtful. SOS's list of meetings is largely populated with inactive ones or "pre-meetings." Below the listings for each state is this message:
There is someone living in this zip code who has started an SOS Meeting or is interested in meeting with others.
"Interested in meeting with others" is not a meeting, and which is which aren't always clearly distinguished. (That said, the listing of "orphans seeking meetings" is not necessarily bad.)
Also, its online presence in general is quasi-amateurish, despite the buckets of money it gets. You want proof? Here you go: the SOS homepage. (It actually looks less crappy by far than it did 2-3 years ago, when it really looked sad.)

Well, on Nov. 11, Jim Christopher renewed the appeal. Which I posted on Facebook, in part because neither CFI nor CSH has given me a straight answer on their current financial well-being.

There's actually a third reason, specific to SOS. As noted above, I have connections another 12-step alternative. SOS not only gets whatever subsidy it does from CFI, it's also headquartered at CFI West, paying below-market rent, if any. I'd also like to see exactly how much, or how little, in donations it gets, if ithat's broken out somewhere, which it should. SOS's appeal (and I'm assuming CSH is offereing a 1-for-1 match, like enviro groups regularly do), is a month old.

That said, I'm venturing that SOS's renewed plea indirectly answers my question about it. I'm guesstimating that whatever CSH's current funding level is, whether $75K or higher, SOS does no better than one-third of that in donor contributions.

At the same time, I'm still trying to figure if the CFI complex and funding affiliates like CSH are trying to "monetize" other low-rent entities, too, whomever they might be. That's something that nobody from nowhere in either one of the organizations would directly tell me, no way, no how, when I started inquiring at the time of my initial blog post.

So, to Ron Lindsay's minions? If SOS has another email appeal in a month? I write another blog post, even stronger than this one, if I don't get more information than I did a month ago. And, I can start looking through your 990s as I have time, myself, and making guesstimates, or flat out assumptions, from there.

At the same time, to Jim Christopher and Duaine Metevia, his No. 2 and chief apple- and pedestal-polisher? I want more specific answers from you, too. I suspect the financial problems, relative to total budget, are worse with you than with CFI/CSH. Unfortunately, Christopher surely continues to be a bad manager, with the same founder's syndrome issues as many other organization starters, while Metevia not only enables this, but spreads this word to the SOS masses. (I know because I've seen it in person and know why SOS had a split/offshoot 15 years ago. And, indirectly, I've gotten additional confirmation of why that split was a good idea, and that, sorry Paul Kurtz touters, but this goes back to his doorstep.)

To be honest, SOS, with the CFI resources behind it, should be as big as SMART Recovery plus Lifering Secular Recovery combined, and I know that it's nowhere near that.

So, I suspect this is more on SOS's dime than CFI's or CSH's. It should still be honest, though. Assuming this is an SOS issue, and more precisely, a Jim Christopher issue, CFI isn't doing SOS any favors by not being even sterner than it is. And, being that much on the CFI/CSH dime is as bad as the larger CFI, under Kurtz (even if this has allegedly been overstated to a degree) basing a quarter of its budget on one donor.

And, this is also why, although I don't cotton to most of Gnu Atheism, I know that CFI needed to make some sort of "move" a few years back. Ron Lindsay may have been the wrong move. But, Paul Kurtz could have prevented that with his retirement and a name of another successor.

And, that all said, this may be a "test" of Christopher. If he gets close to the match amount, he may stay on. But, if not, CFI and/or CSH may pretty bluntly tell him it's time to retire.

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