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Current Projects

Last updated: July 23, 2017 – Change log at bottom of this page…

This page is for getting the latest status on all of our current plans and projects in the works!  There are many minor (but important) tasks and efforts that go on all the time in the running of our organization that may not be listed here, but the following are some of our major efforts and where we stand. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, or would like to volunteer to help out on these or new areas of activity, please let us know!

Note: IT/Tech isn’t listed separately because projects in IT are described in the goals area of nearly all departments and projects, and important everywhere… [Tony Schlisser, Jacob Pewitt, Nicholas Johnson]

 

Administration Tasks

Reception/Communications: Seeing to it that incoming messages are answered timely or forwarded to the appropriate people. [Leigh Anderson, Daniel Strain]
Goals: We need to get Daniel into the habit of using his own email rather than the main SNS email, so Leigh can take a more central role in this and forward only necessary communications to him.

Volunteer Development: Responding to those who offer to volunteer (either through email, social media, or in the membership signup form). Helping them to get acquainted with our team and find a role that they will be happy and helpful in. [Leigh Anderson, Daniel Strain]
Goals: Jean Schlisser has kindly offered to take this off Leigh’s plate as Volunteer Coordinator and put more attention on this than is practical for Leigh to handle along with her other areas. However, Jean is currently occupied with personal matters and not yet ready to take this on. Daniel will continue to check in occasionally with her.

Financials: Updating the ledger to keep track of all donations and expenses, and make sure all vendors and reimbursements for staff expenses are paid out or transferred accordingly. [Daniel Strain]
Goals: Ideally this should be handled by another Council Member than the Executive Director, but in order to be responsible for now, these documents have been made viewable to all Council Members.

Staff Community: Community Facilitator, Michelle LeBlanc keeps track of all staff birthdays and collects well-wishes from everyone as they approach so they can get a joint birthday message. We hope to extend these kinds of nice things to the membership, and to other forms of keeping up with one another as more hands can assist Michelle. [Michelle LeBlanc]

Progress Measurement: In the earlier days of SNS the founder was able to keep track of several statistical indicators and created charts for them. These included social media following, membership, supporting membership, subscribers, how people came to find us, geographic member distribution map, web traffic, and so on. It would be good to have someone who could pick this back up again and provide useful data to the Council.

 

Publishing

Public Articles: We publish four articles each month on our website. Writers on our writing team are scheduled in a rotation to submit their articles and the Editing Director edits them, ads pics where needed, formats to standards, and publishes on our website. Note: our articles and other publications could be considered a part of both our education and outreach areas, but are listed here because publishing is such a large project. [Julie Strain] [Writers: Jay Forrest, Brock Haussamen, Thomas Schenk, Daniel Strain, Jeff Worthy, Daniel Scharpenburg, Eric Steinhart, Émile Wayne]
Goals: Julie is only ‘acting’ Editing Director. As such, she is handling this minimal task, but unable to do all of the things the Editing Director should ideally handler (below). We need to find an Editing Director familiar with blogging and WordPress.

Writing Team Management: Our writers are fairly self sufficient, but this refers to designing and maintaining the publishing schedule so that they are each published according to their desired frequency. More importantly, it includes the continuous effort to research and reach out to new writers to invite them to the writing team, or ask for one-shot guest articles. [open]
Goals: This would ideally be handled by the Editing Director, which we need to find.

Anthology Book Editing & Publication: Each year we publish an anthology of all our public articles, from September to August. We often include some select works from the Archives as well. This process includes many parts: finding artwork for the cover (preferably from an artistic member of our community), arranging the outline of articles into sensible categories/parts (Daniel Strain), and then the extensive process of editing articles meant for web publishing into paper publishing. Lastly, the somewhat tasking effort to get them into publishing tools and handled by all book sites the way they should be, in both paperback and several eBook formats. [Julie Strain]
Goals: Given the highly specialized knowledge needed to do this properly, Julie would likely continue handling this even once we get an Editing Director. Right now we are behind – Daniel needs to get Julie the organized outline for the Year 4 Anthology.

Book Reviews: We have a new page where we have brought together book reviews. It would be great to have some people focused on writing book reviews. They could select from books in our Amazon shop, or propose other options to the Editing Director for approval. [Émile Wayne]

Other Publications: Along with the articles and books, we should be thinking creatively about other options in publishing. As volunteers become available we might, for example, be able one day to publish a monthly or bi-monthly magazine. [open]

Content Networking: We are always looking for other websites, publishers, and other outlets that publish articles, blogs, or essays. We approach them to see if they are interested in syndicating or re-posting SNS articles. [Murtadha Ahmed]

 

Podcasting

Spiritual Naturalism Today: Our podcast is published on the 1st of each month. Some episodes are conversations on topics related to Spiritual Naturalist practice or issues. Occasional episodes are interviews of guests, but even here, they tend to be participants in a conversation with the topic being that guest’s area. Co-hosts Daniel Strain, Jay Forrest, and sometimes Leigh Anderson participate. Then Jay handles the editing and publishing of the podcast, as its Technical Director. [Jay Forrest]
Goals: We need to get our planned schedule of topics and dates for recording worked out further into the future. We are often coming up with topics within the month we are recording. We might also think about creative ideas to promote the podcast for increased exposure.

 

Education

SNS 101 – Introduction to Spiritual Naturalism: This online course has been wonderfully designed by former Education Director, B. T. Newberg, who mentored the first several sessions. We have reformatted the course so that those taking it can take at their own pace and timing, rather than in guided sessions at certain times. As our new Education Director, Jay has fortunately offered to take over mentoring new applicants as they sign up and as needed. [Jay Forrest]
Goals: The shifting of the course to a ‘take at your own timing’ mode was a matter of practicality due to a limited staff size and some limitations in the current technologies we are using. It would be good to return sometime to a more scheduled session with a more active form of mentoring and evaluation as we had before. While the value to the student is likely to be similar, it would allow for time-sensitive announcements, which get more attention and action from the public, turning a ‘static product’ into more of an ‘event’.

Spiritual Naturalist Archives: We have a huge volume of Spiritual Naturalist teachings, wisdom, art, and music from many traditions, available in the archives on our website. These tend to be longer, scholarly, or more detailed kinds of materials than are typically found in the public articles (though not necessarily). Even at the launch of SNS it was equivalent to a large volume 200,000 words in size and has only grown since. We intend to add regularly to this body of work. [open]
Goals: When demands on staff were less, we once added very regularly to the archives but this has slowed. It would be good to have a standard goal of at least one new work added to the archives each month, with news of it passed on to the Membership Director for inclusion into the newsletter. Perhaps Jay can take this on? If not, we should look to add more volunteer help in the Education department under Jay.

 

Outreach

Social Media: Our Facebook presence has been one of our greatest successes and where we’ve spent most of our outreach attention and resources. Our Facebook page following currently exceeds 22,000 people. We also have a Facebook group that has several hundred members. We are not as active or present in other forms of social media. Community Facilitator Michelle LeBlanc posts each article to FB as it comes out on the website, and Daniel boosts the articles using his own credit card, which is then reimbursed to him from the SNS account and logged in the ledger. She and Membership Director Aron Gamman keep up with communications on FB and engage people there. [Aron Gamman, Michelle LeBlanc, Daniel Strain]
Goals: We could use a lot more activity and attention in other forms of social media. Getting some volunteers familiar with them to pass along our articles and announcements, and build connections on SNS pages there would be good. On FB (and perhaps elsewhere) we would also like to have more automation, so that posting of articles from our website automatically posts them on our social media sites. Then we could use volunteer time elsewhere to do even more.

Wikipedia: SNS has now been established long enough, with a large following of over 20,000, and has been featured in many independent major sources which should make it noteworthy by Wikipedia standards. It deserves to have a page in Wikipedia, but it does not yet. Anyone who could help with this is invited to contact us for any needed information.

Other Outreach: It would be good to get people to help us explore more outreach options. These might include: better search engine optimization (SEO), knowledgeable help making Google AdWords effective (there is an art to making it effective enough to be worth it), procuring interviews with the E.D. in prominent places (television, radio, major websites) where spiritual practices, naturalism, secularism, or ethics, are being discussed. Putting on special events. Looking into new places for affordable and effective advertising would be good too. For these things, we need more volunteers knowledgeable in these areas.

Opening Up Our Organization: The public creation of this page which shows our internal projects, activities, and goals is one part of an effort to ‘open up’ SNS more to the public. By sharing more of our ‘behind the scenes’ logistics of the organization we give more people the invitation to become interested and involved at the exciting things we’re doing – and to see where they can be helpful jumping in. Another thing that falls under this category is that we will be sending out public invitations to sit in on our monthly video chat planning meetings (as a FB event/announcement).

 

Member Services

Monthly Member Newsletter: This email newsletter keeps all our members aware of the latest news within the organization, needs and plans for the future, and sometimes external items of interest such as news from our partner-organizations. The Executive Director writes a monthly message included in each issue and the Membership Director arranges and sends out the newsletter. Michelle LeBlanc helps with proofreading each issue. [Aron Gamman]
Goals: Aron has put a lot of wonderful work into learning and taking over this task, which was originally being handled entirely by Daniel. There is still a few more details that would be helpful to shift from Daniel, though the E.D’s message should always come from him. On a technical side, we hope to eventually have the list and sending mechanism for the newsletter more integrated with the member registrations on the main website, so there is less duplication of data to be managed.

Member Forums: Our forums have not been as active as they could be. While social media shows our community is large and wants to communicate, there are some problems with the nature of traditional internet forums. In our case, we had originally restricted them to supporting members instead of the full membership (since these were the only ones required to have a website login). Plus, having a separate login means participants have to remember to return to the forums and engage rather than it being something easily integrated with their online experience. Aron has spent a lot of time trying to start up conversations and be active on the forums, but it is difficult to gain momentum as they currently are. [Aron Gamman]
Goals: We have been exploring technical options here. We would like to have both article comments and forums that are integrated with Facebook, but which are not exclusive to Facebook. That means we need them to: (1) Be embedded on our website, (2) also visible on Facebook and appearing to followers there, (3) be usable with or without a Facebook account, (4) be accessible in a forum-like categorization. Some research and work is needed to upgrade to something like this.

Online Events: We have had the most success with ‘asynchronous’ programs – those which people can participate in on their own timing (online posts, views, downloads, etc). ‘Synchronous’ programs are those that require all participants to take part at the same time. This includes live video chats, text chats, livecasts, and so on. It makes sense that availability will be smaller for this. But now that SNS is growing and reaching more people, we may have a critical mass to try again. Our new video chat tool (Zoom) works well and Daniel is entertaining the possibility of a live weekly meditation and philosophic discussion.  There are other options we need to learn more about and use, such as Facebook and YouTube’s livecasting features. These would let us have synchronous events, but then transform the product of that into an asynchronous item people could continue to watch and enjoy thereafter. But Daniel needs to educate himself more on these tools and we could use some volunteers who are knowledgeable in them to help.

 

Local Communities

We have long been interested and committed to building SNS to the point where it can be a valued partner in supporting and building local communities of face-to-face spiritual naturalists. There could be social clubs doing fun things together, spiritual communities sharing in practices and rituals, and/or some combination thereof. The reality is that Spiritual Naturalists are still a minority and our population is spread out over a very large area. Fortunately, online tools have allowed SNS to help bring the first of us together in this global organization. Also, the realities of limited people and resources meant we had to focus on getting SNS up and running. But as we grow in our ability to do more things, we hope to be much more involved in local communities. To really do justice to the things listed below, we need at least one volunteer passionate about it to take this on and become our Local Groups Facilitator.

Networking & Cooperation: The first step will be to research existing local groups of similar mind, who might not be specifically Spiritual Naturalist by name, but be interested in naturalistic forms of contemplative practice. This could be UU congregations, Humanist groups, Freethought groups, or liberal religious groups. Once we have a robust list, we need to begin writing them and inviting them to be listed and linked on a large page where people can find others of similar mind to them locally. Then we need to begin building a close relationship with these groups through continued communication.

Supportive Materials: We would like to put together packages for local groups, with all kinds of helpful resources, ideas, and programs local groups could engage in to explore and practice naturalistic spirituality together. Then we can begin sending out these packets and following up to hear success stories of exciting events locally, and announce them to our national audience as inspiration.

Local Chapters: Eventually, we can begin inviting existing groups to become a chapter of the Society. This would get them a more prominent listing and the possibility of material assistance by sharing more announcements, connecting our members to them, and even funding where possible.

Local Events: Wherever a lively local community exists, it may be feasible to help put on or fund local events, send speakers, and so on.

 

Special Projects

National Gathering Project: Our biggest special project right now is an effort to reach out to several other organizations which are open to or focus on various forms of naturalistic spirituality, religion, or practice. This, in the hopes of someday creating a jointly-hosted national gathering of some sort (part conference, part retreat perhaps). We have so far put together an Email group called the NSAR Committee (Naturalistic Spirituality And Religion). This committee is composed of representatives from many organizations and we are working on plans for such an event at some undetermined time in the future. It has so far been decided that we will focus on picking a venue first. A Venue Subcommittee has been formed and those on it are evaluating a list of places, and will present their top three picks to the larger NSAR Committee for a vote. This has been out a while and needs following up on.

 

Other Staff Matters

Volunteer Needs: As you can see here, we have a lot going on and a lot more exciting goals that we have yet to really get to. It should also be expected that way may lose some volunteers over time as the needs of their lives change. So, we have a great need for volunteers and it takes at least one volunteer (or more) to really be focused on this specifically. Most people who voice an intention to volunteer are never developed into an actual, active and regular volunteer. It often turns out they have misunderstood what Spiritual Naturalist is, or they simply disappear on us. So, there is a certain amount of sifting to find people who are passionate about SN, committed to helping out, capable, and dependable on following through. Right now, building our volunteer team is one of our most important projects.

IT/Technology Situation: We have a lot of technical needs (as described in many of the goals above). Among them, we need a lot of improvements to our website, web-based tools and features for members, better handling of member registrations and account handling, more automation, and more. Unfortunately, our current IT Director has less time these days than before, so we are working to get more functions redundant across other IT volunteers. We are also very open to new IT volunteers who are experienced with websites, blogging, and/or WordPress.

 

Current Active Staff Roster

ADMINISTRATION
*Daniel Strain – Executive Director / Writer / SN Today host
*Leigh Anderson – Administration Director / SN Today host

EDUCATION
*Jay Forrest – Education Director / Writer / SN Today host & tech dir.
B.T. Newberg – SN Today host (periodic)

PUBLISHING
Julie Strain – Editing Director (acting)
Thomas Schenk – Writer
Brock Haussamen – Writer
Jeff Worthy – Writer
Daniel Scharpenburg – Writer
Eric Steinhart – Writer
Dennis Oliver – Writer (poetry)
Émile Wayne – Writer (book reviewer)
(also writers: Jay Forrest, Daniel Strain)
Murtadha Ahmed – Content Networker

MEMBER SERVICES
*Aron Gamman – Membership Director / Writer Scout
Michelle LeBlanc – Community Facilitator

ARTS & MUSIC
John Klemesrud – Arts Director (acting)

I.T.
*Tony Schlisser – IT Director
Jacob Pewitt – IT Associate
Nicholas Johnson – IT Associate

OTHER VOLUNTEERS (to be developed into roles)
Jean Schlisser – volunteer (on-hold)
Aminata Mansaray – volunteer (at large)
Lindsey Halpern-Givens (at large)

*SNS Council Member.

 

Change Log

This is a log of the last five changes and additions to this page…

July 23, 2017: Updated staff roster and staff listed in Publishing section.

July 20, 2017: Updated staff roster.

July 13, 2017: Added ‘Content Networking’ under Publishing and updated Staff Roster.

July 11, 2017: Updated ‘Current Active Staff Roster’.

July 7, 2017: Added Council designation and more functions to some on staff roster.

~~~
June 22, 2017:
This page first published.