The Humanist Student Union from the University of North Georgia collected more than $200 to help Syrian refugees


Beyond Belief NetworkThe Humanist Student Union from the University of North Georgia invited Foundation Beyond Belief Executive Director Dale McGowan to speak on campus as a fundraiser for FBB Crisis Response Beneficiary International Rescue Committee. The event resulted in more than $500 going to Syrian Crisis Response, with $200 of that collected from attendees at their event. We have been extremely impressed with this new BBN team, who put together a Hug an Atheist fundraiser with 24 hours’ notice that made an incredible $300 in four hours! It’s the can-do spirit of club president Devidyal Givens that sets them apart.

Devidyal explains her philosophy of philanthropy:

The most common excuse I hear when I encourage others to host events is “it’s too hard.” Either the average person has a completely different opinion of what the word “hard” means or they really don’t understand how easy it can be to set up an event, especially on a college campus. Campus groups may not realize it, but they commonly have access to ballrooms and meeting rooms free of charge. Community-centered off-campus groups can co-sponsor events with their local student groups, too.

Here are my top five suggestions:

  1. Incorporate fundraising into your regular programming. Every event we host is a fundraiser for a cause. In this case, we wanted a lecture on Syria to benefit the refugees. We learn about interesting topics and raise money at the same time.
  2. Ask your contacts for help. I put out my feelers to everyone I know that might be able to help. In this case, I contacted Foundation Beyond Belief to ask if they had anyone that could talk on Syria. I was told Dale would love to do it. That was that. We had our speaker. It took a total of one email typed in about 5 minutes and sent out to about 15 people I thought might be able to help me. All I had to do is ask. Not only that, but Beyond Belief Network staff took the text I had to advertise the event and made me a flyer.
  3. Encourage, but don’t require, donations. I never charge money for admission to an event because I would never want to turn away a person due to lack of funds. Similarly, I never take money at the door because people that don’t have money may get that far then turn around and leave when they see money being collected. But, to remind people to bring cash, my fliers always read: “FREE ADMISSION but cash donations will be requested.” Sometimes I will put an actual amount that will be requested. I wait until they are in their seats, I have gotten their attention with some heart wrenching story and then “pass the hat.”
  4. If you want people to come, you need them to hear about it, and not just once. The rule of thumb to always remember is that for every 50 people you invite you can expect 3 to show up. Post flyers everywhere: local businesses, bulletin boards, nearby campuses, etc. Email professors, teachers, interest groups, etc. who might send people to you. For example, for the talk on Syrian refugees, I emailed every sociology, history, psychology, Middle East studies, and political science teacher at 10 colleges and universities within an hour’s drive. I also searched the database of each of the 10 colleges for any clubs on their campus that may be interested in the event and I emailed the club’s president. Make event pages on Meetup, Facebook, and any other social media available. Advertise in your local university paper or Coalition of Reason website. Don’t stop there; you’ll need to remind people a few times before the day of the event. Make sure you make it seem like more people are going than not and that people who don’t come are missing out.
  5. There are only so many hours in a day; you have to choose how to spend your time. I am a non-traditional student. I have 3 children and a husband at home, I work out at the gym every day, I take a full 18 credit hour course load and I have a 3.8 GPA. I am busier than almost everyone I know. The difference is what I choose to spend my time doing. Instead of hanging out with friends for a drink or watching a movie with my husband, I choose to spend my time getting people to come out to the events we host.

Putting your humanism to work takes a lot of time. It’s annoying at times and you’ll get frustrated but is it hard? Nope. It’s pretty darn easy. In the amount of time it’s taken me to type this blog post, I could have advertised enough to get 10 attendees for my next event. But it’s not difficult. It’s dedication. What are you dedicated to?

If you are dedicated to charitable service and philanthropy and would like to participate or plan events like Devidyal and the University of North Georgia Humanist Union, consider joining your local Beyond Belief Network team. If you’re already a member of a local humanist group, and would be interested in volunteering as a group, tell your group leaders about Beyond Belief Network. BBN teams can ask for FBB staff to speak at events, request our help promoting events and making flyers, and earn other perks.