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Secularists have a worthy cause and a large minority population. Why shouldn't we get corporate sponsors, like other minority causes do?

First, we'll need to perform some damage control. We need to reverse our reputation as angry and condescending. We need to reverse the idea that we are fighting a War on Christmas. We do not wish to attack religion at all. We just want a seat at the table pf public discourse. We wish to end discrimination, find respect, and be heard.

Working at the local level, we can create a directory of businesses that support the secular movement. If it works, we use this as proof that sponsoring secular causes drives revenue and customer loyalty. Based on that, we'll be ready to generate a charitable event that is so wholesome and good that no one could object to us secularists running it. We then attempt to bring in our first large corporate sponsor.

It will draw money. It will educate businesses about how to be courteous to secular people. It will generate media attention. It will help end discrimination. Even the gay rights movement has large corporate sponsors. If we can pull this off, there will be many benefits.

The Challenge

The secular movement is missing what is potentially our largest source of funding: large corporate sponsors. Many businesses sponsor religious organizations, but none sponsor the secular movement. Unfortunately it makes sense. Why should they bother to sponsor the secular community when we don't seem to form a constituency? When support for us might alienate people of faith who are customers?

We need a way to fight the fear that Christians will boycott organizations that support secularism. We've done pretty well turning corporate greetings of "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays", and that hasn't led to boycotts, but it's caused a lot of complaining on Fox News and elsewhere, with the label "The War on Christmas". We must do better at winning over businesses without animosity.

We must also educate. Corporations are generally aware that they cannot hire and fire on the basis of faith or no faith, but many times secular issues slip through the cracks. Even well-meaning corporations can make secularists feel excluded by ignorance of our needs. So parents placing their children into day care may find that Bible stories are taught. Secularists giving money to nonprofits that seem secular may be shocked when their donations are used to proselytize for faith.

We need a way to turn this around so completely that corporations are not only aware of nonbelief issues of courtesy but may choose to openly sponsor secular causes, in the same way that the It Gets Better project in the gay movement has drawn AT&T as a sponsor and Southwest Airlines and others. There could be a lot of money there for us, and it would do a lot to end discrimination against secular people.

The Opportunity

Fortunately, businesses listen to money. It is powerfully compelling, and we can use that.

At the small business level, we can create a showcase that demonstrates that secular people will rally to the side of organizations that support us. We do this by creating a secular business directory, a listing of businesses that support at least one of our goals. We can give participating businesses stickers for windows or placards for checkout counters so they can show their support publicly.

To make it work, the message must be non-offensive to those of faith. For example, a sponsoring organization might say through a website advertisement, or through the sticker on their window:

  • We welcome everyone here, those of faith and those of no faith.
  • We support an end to discrimination based on faith, or based on no faith.
  • We support reason and science in government decision-making.
  • We support secular people's right to stand up for their beliefs.

Also to make it work, we need to promote the businesses in the directory to the secular community and encourage them to make examples of the early adopters of the program. It only works if sponsorship of secular people draws the shopping loyalty of secular people. Then we fund a study to determine whether engaging with secular people builds customer loyalty and revenue. It should. Religious groups have such directories and they work.

Having proven ourselves at the local and regional level, we then need a public good, such as a charity walk or building a playground, which secular people organize but which can generate media attention for a potential big sponsor. Take the "It Gets Better" project in the gay community, for example. It is a website of videos where adult LGBT people speak earnestly to teenagers, trying to reduce suicide. That's a project so good that no one could criticize a corporation for sponsoring it. We need something similar to draw in our first large sponsor.

Also, we should not forget the synergies that high tech companies need to recruit high tech people, and secularists love science. We can find corporate industries that are particularly well matched to us, giving them an additional reason to see our people as a marketing target.

There are also coupon-based promotions that corporations will run with anyone. They'll offer a $5 lunch discount to the local senior center, to the Boy Scouts, to the Moms Knitting Club, to anyone. These kinds of sponsorships only require us to present a large group to target. Yet they are useful to us in building momentum.


Our high level goals are:

  • Create a professional networking organization for secular businesspeople
  • Secure our first few sponsorship from large corporations
  • Rally the secular community to reward our first corporate sponsors with loyalty
  • Help secularists find atheist-friendly businesses and avoid atheist-hostile ones
  • The entire project should be newsworthy. Generate media attention.

We expect to spend the first year working 20 cities around the world and creating a directory of 10,000 local businesses. Going global will be important because the United States will be a tougher nut to crack. Having success abroad will help in the US.

Unfortunately, 10,000 is the smallest number that would draw nationwide media attention. We should not set our sights lower. That is a big goal if our plan was to harness pure volunteer labor, but if we have a budget for part-time labor, and those people are further motivated by receiving coupon discounts, it is possible.

We would aim in our second year to plan a very large and media worthy event that would generate 100 million media impressions. Instead of creating this event from scratch we may choose to grow by partnering with an existing organization that has momentum. This is the event that we want at least one $50,000 sponsor for. Ideally, this event would be connected to a website that is active year-round so that we can build on this momentum without waiting for another year to pass.

By year three, we want to have a reliable source of $250,000 per year coming into secular causes from corporate sponsors, with our secular directory containing more than 25,000 organizations around the world. Of these, at least 2,000 will have stickers in their windows or placards on their counters.

Project Plan

This project is in the early stages and does not yet have a project leader, a defined plan, or a budget. However, here are our best ideas so far.

Walking around a city's downtown area, a part-time worker should be able to hit 5 businesses an hour, of which perhaps one will say yes when we tell them that we simply wish to list them in our directory as supporters of our target buyers. Local secular groups will have many people who don't have the time to be pure volunteers but will work at discounted rates. To get to 10,000 organizations will take 2,000 hours, or $20,000 to $30,000. We can reality check this number by sending out volunteers to actually try the sales pitch and see how well it works.

We should be able to recoup that cost by selling ads in the directory to chambers of commerce and specific businesses. The directory would not of course be printed. It would be a website and a mobile app, which could cost $10,000 to build and maintain for three years.

We could generate interest in the campaign by holding a contest with a cash prize to design the stickers and placards. That being said, hiring a professional firm to design our handouts might be wiser. We'll need a budget to have stickers and placards printed up. We might discover that it works just as well to do a mass ground mailing than to send workers door-to-door. Still, the personal touch makes us seem non-threatening, helping us overcome the fear that sponsoring secularists will anger those of faith.

Technical recruiters would be strongly motivated to reach out to secular people, but it's hard to build a charitable and media worthy event around a jobs fair. Building playgrounds for needy communities involves some science and would have good visuals. A charity walk to fund medical research might be a good place to bring in pharmaceutical sponsors. Hobby clubs that build robots that fight or compete against each other do great work bringing in sponsors.

We can also target sponsors who want their customers to feel they are "people of the world", such as Benetton, whose ads try to take ownership of rejoicing in diversity.

The secular community has its own version of It Gets Better, which is We Are Atheism. On this website, nonbelievers come out of the closet through video. Working with that group if they become a coalition member of the Secular Policy Institute, or starting something similar but bigger might be a good sponsor concept.


This project is not ready for funding and rollout. What we need is for a coalition member group to step up and take ownership of this plan, fleshing it out and volunteering 100 hours of labor to get a reality check on whether it will work.


Organization: Looking for a Host
Contact Name: Johnny Monsarrat
Contact Email: johnny@secularpolicyinstitute.net