Sunday, December 05, 2010

CFI and organization — Kurtz maybe DID need to go

I didn’t carefully and thoroughly follow every step of the Council for Inquiry’s organizational issues up to the time Paul Kurtz was pushed out as executive director.

Since that time, I started paying more attention, for a number of reasons.

First is related to the reasons Kurtz was allegedly pushed out — the difference between “confrontationalists” (especially among “New Atheists”) and “accommodationalists” as far as how to deal with the nonatheist world in general and especially its more hostile elements. I lean toward the accommodationalist side but, per Ecclesiastes, know there is a time for everything.

Second is related to the organizational issues themselves, specifically, the loss of a $2 million a year donor, because of losing Kurtz. And, there are two subissues here.

No. 1? Orac (sorry, didn’t bookmark a link) is right: You do NOT use the money of one donor in your general fund when that donor’s contributions make up a full one-quarter of your total income. You put that in a trust and use the interest, after a couple of years. OR, as many environmental groups do, you try to set up a matching fund drive between small donors and this guy. You could then use that portion of his $2M a year donation in your general fund but bank the rest.

That one hangs totally on Kurtz’s shoulders. My impression is that he ran CFI too much like a ma-and-pa shop long after it had expanded beyond that point. He obviously needed a full-time director of development who would know this, know how to do this, and tell Kurtz that.

If Kurtz resisted any of this, then he needed to go.

No. 2? The donor dropoff has led to a number of other issues, one related to a CFI job for which I applied, the position of director of communications.

Now, this spring, Nathan Bupp was still listed as vice president of communications. I assume his position was cut in the financial turmoil, and now, the director of communications opening is a partial replacement, at lower salary.

That said, it’s been going on eight weeks now since the application deadline for that job. I have no idea of where Barry Karr of CFI is at in the process. My guess is that, based on the number of resumes he got early on, a CFI disorganizational disorder has overwhelmed him. I’m assuming that he, and any assistant(s) he has in the hiring process, did NOT start a “preliminary cull” of resumes after getting more than 120 in the first 36-48 hours after announcing the opening. Assuming they didn’t, that’s another organizational black mark.

If CFI doesn't have the money to hire more staffers to help organization, then it needs to focus solely on development issues (along with narrower PR issues in the sense of perception) before anything else.

If staff levels are semi-adequate, then Bruce Lindsey needs to do a better job as new CEO, or hire an assistant, with appropriate title, who knows more about management and organizational issues.

Anyway, I have no idea of I will get the CFI position. I know I’m well-qualified for it.

But, in any case, CFI has issues it needs to address.

Beyond the organizational ones, it still needs to address the confrontationalist vs. accommodationalist issue. It also needs to address just what skepticism is and who a skeptic is. It also needs to address legitimate claims for the explanatory power of science vs. “scientism,” as my recent blog on a John Shook post shows.

And, that kind of reflects on why CFI needs a director of communications. Bloggers and online columnists there are kind of scattershot, and the thought quality isn't always that high. If you want to continue to be, and to be seen as, America's top secular humanist organization, well, you have at least some of your work cut out for you.

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