You found our hidden forum :) I’ll try to answer all your questions.
We recognize that the organization of CFI–Portland is confusing. We utilize a lot of online tools for communication (facebook, twitter, centerforinquiry.net, google groups), have several meetup sites, and more events than any one person can keep track of. It’s why we are creating a welcome packet to explain it all. We already created a handout which gives an overview: CFI Welcome Packet 5Page.pdf
It’s a year old and is already out of date. I created the content of this one, and it’s basically up to me to update it to the expanded one which explains EVERYTHING in detail. Unfortunately, this has been on my TODO list for over a year now. I need a solid uninterrupted 8 hours free to work on it… and I haven’t had that since my son was born a year ago. I’ve tried delegating out parts of it, but that has never gone anywhere.
Our online discussions have evolved over the years. Originally we used Meetup’s default mailing list. This was fine when we had 30 members. As we grew to 200+ it became a problem. It was opt-out, not opt-in, so people were getting dozens of emails per day they didn’t want. To counter that, we set up several folders on the Meetup Bulletin board organized by topic. BUT… hardly anyone used it. So, in addition to urging from our national CFI, we set up this forum. This forum has a lot of advantages that a mailing list (like google) doesn’t. I also like that it is tied in to the larger CFI forums, so our local members can connect with other CFI members from around the nation. We pushed very hard for people to start using it. We even risked shutting down the valuable online conversation by locking down the meetup mailing list. It had a little bit of success at first, but in the end people didn’t use it. So, we opened up a Google Mailing list. This seemed to be the forum that our members were looking for. It was very similar to the meetup mailing list that they had grown to love, but it provided a “sandbox” where our philosophers could talk without scaring away the newbie’s with 200 emails the first week they join. Perhaps we should shut down the Meetup Bulletin board, and this forum since no one uses them?
We have over 1200 people in our various meetups. We have so many events that we have split them up by location. Most people go only to the events near where they live. This creates smaller, more intimate settings where people make more meaningful relationships. A couple of times per year we have an event that we try to encourage everyone to attend. We are trying to change that though. As of this month we are starting up a monthly lecture series and combo dinner. We hope that this will turn into the “big monthly event that everyone goes to” so it will feel more like a single solid community, rather than several pods tied together in common cause.
CFI–Portland has an Advisory Board consisting of a handfull of extremely dedicated volunteers. They put in many hours every week doing logistics to keep CFI–Portland running, checks paid, and updating the various websites. They decide what future events should be, communicate with the national headquarters, drafting wording for public statements, creating the newsletter, and all other decisions. The Advisory Board members are constantly shifting. It is a big job and since we’re 100% volunteer, people move in and off the board as their lives deem fit. As of today, the board consists of: Sylvia Benner (Co-Coordinator), Sherry Hansen (Co-Coordinator), Kurt Johansen (Treasurer), Shannon McNair (Founder), Dani Tofte (Communications chair), Brock Wilson (Membership Chair), Kenna W (Student Represenative), Barry Ruffin (Outreach).
There are a couple of ways to do that. 1) Is to email the above address for any pressing concern. 2) If you are wanting to discuss fairly high level strategy, then the best thing would be to do so at one of the monthly advisory meetings. Just contact us and we’ll add it to the agenda. Or if it requires several months or a year to complete, it might be best for that person to join the board. 3) We usually try to discuss things like that at our yearly ‘Member Appreciation Party’.
COORDINATION BETWEEN GROUPS:
Beaverton Atheists, Secular Humanists of East Portland, Vancouver Skeptics, CFI Portland meetup, and Secular Family Network all have regularly reoccurring monthly events. We originally made sure we never had events overlap… but we simply got too many events, so now some do. We tried to have a mix of events on different days and several types to meet the needs of different members. There is only 1 organization. The different meetups are all run by the same people, and for the most part are all interconnected and known. There are some guidelines we loosely adhere to for determining which types of events we put in which meetup. First is location. Second, is type. If it is a non-regular event, or one that we think will have broad appeal that people won’t mind driving across town for, then we generally put it on the CFI Portland meetup. That meetup is the clearinghouse for all the others. We wanted to make it so that if a person only wanted to join one meetup, they would join that one… and the calendar would reflect every single event that is going on in all the other meetups via links on the calendar.
PAHM / BAM / SHEP:
The Portland Area Humanist Meetup is not a CFI meetup. It belongs to The Humanists of Greater Portland. SHEP (otherwise 10 syllables) and BAM (otherwise 6 syllables)... are useful acronyms that pretty much everyone uses; and I’ve found it’s very difficult to get people not to. I personally try not to use them especially when talking to new people. We wrote out their SHEP and BAM acronyms on the pages’ banners along with the full name specifically for this reason, hoping that people pick up pretty quickly what we are talking about.
Branch is a new term. We used to be called “Community”. CFI re-branded all “Centers” and “Communities” to all be “Branches” so there’d be less confusion. You can see the list of branches here: http://centerforinquiry.net/outreach/branches CFI–Portland is a Branch. Within the CFI–Portland Branch there are many satellite groups: Beaverton Atheists, Secular Humanists of East Portland, Vancouver Skeptics, Secular Family Network, Rogue Valley Freethinkers, Skeptics of Eugene, South Coast Skeptics, and the Salem Humanists. That makes 9 meetups total making up the CFI–Portland Branch. We technically are the branch for all of Washington and Idaho too, though we currently do not have any satellite groups in these areas (beyond Vancouver).
Hope that answers your questions. Let me know if you have any others.