The Atheist Community of Austin is dedicated to promoting atheism, critical thinking, secular humanism, and the separation of religion and government.
This month the Atheist Community of Austin’s Board of Directors made a change to our mission statement. The new statement, above, now includes critical thinking and secular humanism.
So why a change?
Nonprofit organizations are required to have a clearly stated charitable purpose to acquire and maintain their tax exempt status. This is commonly known as a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS. Best practices suggest that nonprofits should review their mission statement every two or three years.
So purpose is a very significant element.
Nonprofits create a mission statement to describe their purpose.
A nonprofit’s mission statement is ideally brief, clear, and inspiring.
As part of our review and revision process, we solicited input from staff and volunteers (including our incredible show hosts and crew) before finalizing and voting on the new mission statement. In the words of our Board Chair, “We absolutely benefited from engagement with folks in our organization on the issue, and adding critical thinking was part of the consensus of our larger organization, including hosts.” Feedback included not only suggestions for wording–but often the thought processes informing those suggestions, and wry and humorous asides about this process and the world in which we live.
Sharing some of the feedback here:
“The path to atheism that we have consistently advocated is one of reasoned critical thinking (skepticism) and not atheism merely via intuition.”
“Were we using the word “positive” deliberately or unintentionally? As “positive atheism” is a thing, the question becomes ‘does the ACA mission statement intend to declare that we promote Positive Atheism, or was the word positive intended to be an adjective (in the vein of “upbeat”) describing (atheist) culture?’”
“...thanks for this opportunity, and I look forward to hearing the thoughts -- not "thoughts and prayers" -- of others.”
“Lastly, I'm just a volunteer and understand that even if I raised a stink it wouldn't have mattered. I do appreciate it being asked of everyone though.”
Wondering what changed?
Here’s the previous mission statement: The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheist culture and the separation of religion and government.
Why a mission statement at all?
There are rules and regulations that govern nonprofit organizations. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3). Further, the Atheist Community of Austin is registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Texas Secretary of State. A lot of people don’t realize that nonprofits (or charitable organizations, if you prefer) are corporations–and like any business we cope with insurance, payroll, budgeting, employee handbooks, audits, strategic planning, copyrights, risk management, tech issues, etc.
What’s different about tax exempt nonprofits is that the work is limited to purposes that are defined as charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency. (That’s all language from the IRS website.)