January 21, 2010

Beside my position as the vice president of development at the Center for Inquiry, I have been honored to take on a very rewarding job, coordinating the SHARE program. People sometimes ask me what the SHARE program is and what it has accomplished. So I decided to provide some background at a time when we are facing another horrific tragedy.

We were all stunned and feeling helpless when we heard about the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean region on December 26, 2004 killing thousands. Paul Kurtz came to me and asked me to help raise funds for the disaster using the Internet. He told me about a program of the Council for Secular Humanism called SHARE (an acronym for Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort) that had not been widely publicized. About twenty-one years ago, SHARE was developed to provide an alternative for those who wish to contribute to disaster relief efforts without channeling their support through a religious organization.

At the same time that Dr. Kurtz was looking at ways to help, Arthur C. Clarke, who was living on Sri Lanka during the tsunami, contacted him asking if there was a way that we could help alleviate the suffering on the island country that had been very hard hit. He suggested that if we raised money we could funnel it to a nonprofit called Sarvodaya, since they were already on the ground doing good work. We were eager to do what we could so we sent out a message to our list. We were all amazed and thrilled when we saw the donations begin to pour in.

Several months after raising money for the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area. We are all well aware of the destruction and misery created by that disaster. SHARE again reached out to our supporters to raise money for that cause. We were again gratified at the generosity of our friends.

Many skeptics and humanists have been frustrated that so many charitable organizations, especially those that help people afflicted by natural or human disasters, are affiliated with religious groups. These organizations sometimes proselytize people in need, which secular donors find deplorable.

Unfortunately, many people believe that in order to be charitable, one must be religious. We know that is not the case. So in order to have their voice heard, many skeptics and humanists seek a way to direct their charitable support through some channel specifically identified with the secular/reason community.

As part of the coordination of SHARE, I have had the pleasure of contacting the charities who receive the funds. It is a real opportunity for me to educate people about the generosity of humanists and skeptics. It sends a powerful message when you can tell a charity that you are sending them $40,000 or $80,000. If each person who donates to SHARE sent their gift to the nonprofit individually, it would not have the same impact on the charities. We get their attention with SHARE gifts.

In early 2010, the SHARE program was renamed Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, still maintaining the acronym SHARE. We felt that many skeptics would also want to have their voice heard and help with relief efforts. The SHARE program was also moved under the umbrella of the Center for Inquiry.

We would like to thank all of our friends for their quick and generous response to SHARE’s campaign to help the victims of Haiti. I would like to mention something else—I was very pleasantly surprised when I called Doctors without Borders and the woman that I spoke to was aware of the Center for Inquiry. It seems that we are making headway in many areas.