The central Sunday Assembly organisation, having appointed Sanderson Jones as their CEO have started a campaign of contacting local atheist, secularist and skeptic groups and individuals to get them to help in the next phase of expansion.
Included in the emails they have been sending out to potential supporters is a link to this video, which was first uploaded to Youtube in March 2013. Since that time, much has changed.
At 1:15, Jones says the following:
“In April we’re gonna launch a kickstarter to raise money so that we can start filming some sweet, sweet speakers doing awesome talks.”
That particular kickstarter never materialised. What did materialise was a kickstarter that sought £500,000 (yes half a million pounds) so that a “Digital Platform” could be created. That’s OK; it’s fine for people to adapt their ideas in the light of new info (such as the unforeseen explosion in number of people wanting to start new SA groups) so it doesn’t really matter that the original kickstarter wasn’t implemented and that a different one was.
In the subsequent video to promote the revised £500,000 kickstarter (Indiegogo, actually), they kindly included a breakdown of where that huge dollop of money would go. It was only on screen for about 4 seconds though, so I screencapped it for you:
It shows the following figures:
- £240,000 for a “Web Team”
- £50,000 for Tax
- £100,000 for donor rewards
- £90,000 for indiegogo fees (This was later corrected to £4,500)
- £10,000 for web hosting
- £60,000 wages for Jones and Evans
I’ll let you, dear reader, contemplate the wisdom of embarking on a fundraising scheme where such a small proportion of the target amount would go towards the thing you were raising money for. In the end only £33,668 was raised – a large percentage of which was actually donated by Jones himself. Weird huh?
Bearing all this in mind, I wonder why Sunday Assembly are still actively using such an outdated video to garner support – a video claiming they need money to “film sweet, sweet speakers” – when this is no longer the case? Is it because they fear that the truth will make them look bad and that they rely on the assumption that SA is honest, or it is just yet another case of “poor communication”?
The difference between the humble ambition of the first video and the ridiculous ambitions of the second illustrate precisely the extent to which the Sunday Assembly I joined differed from the Sunday Assembly that I left. I was told it would be one thing, but it turned out to be quite another.
Having left the organisation, I am no longer privy to their internal communications and only get to view SA from the outside. From here it looks like they are deliberately being economical with the truth as they know that this will gain much more support. I wonder what proportion of its regular congregants and donors are really aware of the differences between what they think SA is and what it really is.
Although he had apparently already secured £50,000 worth of donations and grants by May 2014, a fundraiser event was held in London on the 12th of June in order to raise even more money. This “Funnyraiser” featured comedians Sara Pascoe, Kathryn Ryan and the Showstoppers. SA Central pushed hard to ecourage their member groups to shift the £20 tickets to their friends and congregants. According to the event’s publicity:
“All the money raised on the night will go to The Sunday Assembly, to help people across the world start their own godless congregations that celebrate life. There are 26 Assemblies across the world already, and, hopefully, 100 by the end of the year but making that happen takes hard work from our full time team.”
Sadly, no breakdown of the costs is provided, so we don’t know what proportion will go to helping start new congregations and how much will be spent on the wages of “the team”. Perhaps they see those two aims as being one and the same; that Jones himself is that help. If they do have other more specific plans for how the money will be used to launch new groups then I can’t find them anywhere.
Jones is pushing hard (pushing his staff hard that is) to launch 100 new Sunday Assembly groups this year, with a view to potentially launching many, many more soon afterwards. I wish he would be honest with those new groups at the outset, instead of getting them on board with vacuous slogans and then shifting the goalposts.
- Sunday Assembly’s Bureaucracy is Expanding to Meet the Needs of its Expanding bureaucracy
- Sunday Assembly has quietly dropped the requirement for groups to rotate the role of host.
- Sunday Assembly decides it isn’t a place to discuss humanism.
[If anyone reading this is interested in starting up a Sunday Assembly type thing, but doesn't want to be signed up to the London-led SA project, please get in touch as I might be able to advise you and help put you in touch with other people who think the same way as you. I love the idea of godless congregations but I believe that Jones’ organisation is just not up to the task - we need an alternative to his alternative. I will continue to scrutinise Sunday Assembly, but I am also actively working on something that will do the same things as SA but without its drawbacks and without such a need for money and hierarchy]