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Jun 20 2012

This Is Atheist Charity

Want to make history? The biggest explicitly atheist charity fund drive is now underway. And you can help make it world news. What do atheists do to solve problems? Pray? F no. We do this thing called science. But science costs money. And here’s where you and history come in. The Foundation Beyond Belief is aiming to break a world record for explicitly pro-atheist group giving by raising (at least!) a million dollars for cancer research. In particular, we’re seeking to improve treatments for blood cancers and the care of patients. This FBB project is in cooperation with the inclusively secular (meaning not godless, just not godist) Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (which aims to eliminate blood cancers and help its victims), and in particular their Light the Night nationwide charity walk.

If you read nothing else linked from this blog, read the FBB Light the Night page, which explains their goals, what the money will do, and how this will make news (if you help make it happen). In fact, they are aiming not only to break a record for atheist charities, but to break a record for the whole Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The FBB reports that if they succeed, “This would make the FBB team the first team in LLS history to bring in $1,000,000 or more in their first year!” If you prefer to just give money and not actually get out and do stuff, you can just donate now to their online “virtual” team. But they are especially interested in increasing the number of local Light the Night teams formally affiliated with the Foundation Beyond Belief, and above all, to increase their size.

What do Light the Night Teams Do?

The teams form locally in order to raise money together for cancer research by simply registering to be a team. Or, individuals can join already formed teams. Essentially, this is a massive fundraising effort in order to raise both money for cancer research, awareness, and celebrate the lives of both those who have survived and are fighting cancer. This culminated in a Light the Night Walk where teams gather for a community walk.

Teams raise funds and walk in their communities, carrying illuminated balloons–white for survivors, red for supporters, and gold in memory of a life lost. Walkers also carry dedication banners that provide an opportunity to display a name or message, honoring or commemorating a family member or friend with cancer.

FBB’s effort was launched in honor of Christopher Hitchens (a victim of cancer, though not of this kind) and has another amazing matching grant by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, who will match what we give up to $500,000 (so, if we raise it all, that’s $1,000,000). That means anything you donate counts double. This could become the largest godless charity event ever. The Stiefel Family Foundation is also offering serious incentives for the top teams, who will get reward grants “for being so awesome and thinking cancer sucks ass.” What that means is, the most successful teams will get thousands of dollars that they can direct to any local atheist or freethought group they want (if it’s a legally recognized charity, e.g. 501(c)(3)).

They most want to raise the number and size of real-world teams, to produce a physical, human presence and show that dedicated activism exists in the atheist community. They need a lot more cities (for example, I notice San Francisco doesn’t have one yet). But you can still support the teams there are by donating to one, if you can’t otherwise help. See the Welcome to the FBB International Team web page and read there on how to do that. There you’ll also find links on how to create new teams or join one in your area. You can of course just donate now to the FBB “virtual team.” But we get more visibility and more newsworthy if we grow the number and size of the real world teams as well as raise money. So give that some thought.

The Leukemia & Lyphoma Society as a whole is a highly rated charity in Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. It has continually produced measurable results from its funded research, and spends even more on providing financial and other assistance to victims of blood cancer. Less than 8% of revenue is spent on administration and 15% on fundraising, everything else makes a difference, with roughly one third of its budget going to victim support, one quarter to researching a cure, and one sixth to education. The research it has funded over the last 70 years has increased the Leukemia survival rate from zero to 50%. It could well keep that going with your help, one day reaching a 100% survival rate.

And for those who are unfamiliar, The Foundation Beyond Belief is also a great organization to join. They pick five humanist-friendly charities per quarter (one in each of five different areas of charitable service) and then let you decide how your donation gets distributed among those five (you can also nominate charities for consideration). It’s thus a highly streamlined version of something I once proposed: an atheist website that vets charities for actual secularity and efficiency and thus helps you channel your charitable giving to where you can most trust it will do actual good (and not pay for bibles or proselytizing or disinformation campaigns or diamond mines and ferraris). And it’s awesome. I highly recommend it to all.

But this one charity drive is something special. Something unprecedented. Something to put atheism as a movement on the map. This is your opportunity to help make that happen.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    They pick five humanist-friendly charities per quarter

    Just to be clear, that’s four secular charities and one religious charity.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      Right. But still humanist-friendly.

      The fifth charity selected (which you can decide none of your donation goes to) is an interfaith charity. For example, this quarter the selected charity in that category is a Jewish hunger response charity (Mazon) that is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds,” and they really do that (and don’t use it as cover to proselytize, for example). Previous selectees were Unitarian Universalist charities, interfaith charities, and so on; one past selectee was a Muslim charity, IRUSA, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves all faith communities and provides essentially secular services through well-monitored channels.

      And if you still don’t like that, you can just set that one to zero and divide your quarterly donation among the other four charities selected. It’s a pretty good system.

  2. 2
    Lauren

    Great post, Rick! :D

  3. 3
    David Diskin

    If you are in the Sacramento, CA area, please join our team for fundraising and our Light the Night walk at the Capitol on October 27.

    http://pages.lightthenight.org/sac/Sacra1212/SacramentoReasonFBB

    1. 3.1
      Brittany

      Thanks for forming a team! If you have a fundraising event or need some fundraising ideas, let us (the FBB staff) know what we can do to help! You can get in touch with me at [email protected]. We want to do all we can to make our first year a success!

  4. 4
    Lou Doench

    Great work by the FBB. I had not realized the scale of the Light the Night project. I believe I will end up in the Cincinnati event on October 11th at Sawyer Point.

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