A poster that hangs in the SSA offices reads:
We Don’t All Share the Same Religion
But we all Share the Same Humanity
This is Our Common Ground
There are thousands upon thousands of brilliant, courageous, and curious students in America who base their morality on a passionate humanistic belief that this world and this life is all that we have, which drives them to service and advocacy in pursuit of positive change This commitment to critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning leads them to oppose irrational prejudice and harmful policies based upon biased science, and to seek the most effective routes to promoting social justice. It’s the mission of the Secular Student Alliance to provide students, their educators and allies with a welcoming community and a safe environment where secular students can question, criticize, and discuss topics and issues important to them and develop their secular identities, free from the ostracism and harassment – especially in high school – that often accompanies such a process.
The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) supports high school and college students who value scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations. The SSA offers these students and their organizations a variety of resources, including leadership training and support, guest speakers, discounted literature and conference tickets, and online articles and opinions. SSA also supports advocacy, action on social justice and civic engagement by its affiliates.
The Secular Student Alliance was founded in May 2000 by eight student leaders from the grassroots secular movement. It was organized under the nonprofit corporation laws of the State of Ohio on November 21, 2001. The corporation's principal office is located in Columbus, Ohio.
SSA has a six person staff and seasonal interns from nearby Ohio State University. The organization supports some 275 student chapters at colleges and universities as well as high schools throughout the U.S. Governed by an 11-person Board of Directors, SSA has had an annual budget which varies from year to year, averaging $900,000 over the past few years. SSA is supported by a core group of angel donors, with a larger group of contributors in the $2-5,000 range. Other income derives from special campaigns, direct mail, sponsorships at the annual July conference (attended by 200-250 registrants), the Combined Federal Campaign and the United Way of Ohio, as well as some fee-for-service income.
By providing the student leaders of its campus groups the tools they need to strengthen their organizations, SSA empowers them as activists and enables them to make lasting change. These groups give community to secular students, allowing them to advocate for secular issues, engage in service projects, and educate their campuses on the positive aspects of secularism. SSA offers travel grants to students to attend the national conference and a small number of scholarships to student activists each year. In addition to educational materials, promotional materials, a Speakers Bureau, and hundreds of pages of Group Running Resources, SSA offers hands on help from staffers who are intimately familiar with how to grow communities and make a positive impact on campus. The organization also provides student leaders with the experiences necessary to be outspoken secular leaders for the rest of their lives.
The new Executive Director (ED) must bring the professional experience, strategic vision, and
Inter-personal skills necessary to take the organization to the next level of achievement following the departure of the SSA’s founding leadership. The SSA has built a strong and respected brand in the secular movement, with many former student members finding positions after graduation in secular organizations, and the new ED should seek to sustain and grow the organization’s profile in allied social justice movements.
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the ED is responsible for:
- Articulating SSA’s vision, acting as the primary voice to the public,
- Establishing fundraising goals and priorities and leading this effort,
- Developing strategic partnerships with mission-aligned organizations,
- Managing and supporting the staff.
Essential to this role will be the development and maintenance of relationships with funders, community partners, organizations serving the same population, stakeholders, alumni, staff, and board members. The ED will lead the organization’s campus organizing team in building strong connections between students groups and the national SSA, ensuring that program objectives are achieved in a financially sound manner and within budgeted parameters.
The Executive Director's key responsibilities include:
- Providing visionary leadership in pursuit of SSA’s success in empowering secular students, including ensuring that its student group programming, organizational culture, community engagement, and external partnerships are highly effective and tightly aligned to the organization's mission and current strategic plan.
- Encouraging and developing innovative ideas for new programs and better ways to serve SSA’s student constituency, including embarking by the end of the first year on a process to develop a 3-5 year strategic plan.
- Participating as an active member of the Board’s working committees and in the Board recruitment and training process.
- Serving as a resource, catalyst and coach to the Board, providing the training resources necessary to enable them to achieve their full potential as a governing body.
- Inspiring students, staff, families, and other partners to be their best selves every day, maintaining the organization's focus on providing high quality programming for its groups while ensuring an unyielding focus at all times on what is best for SSA's students and their futures.
- Developing new sources of diversified funding, and allocating resources in line with a sustainable plan for organizational growth.
- Actively seeking new major donor support within the progressive community and among friends and allies, and re-connecting with the many donors who have supported SSA in the past.
- Partnering with the Board of Directors and funders to secure support necessary to the fiscal health of the organization, maintaining strong personal relationships with major funders.
- Leading the overall fundraising strategy to maximize current opportunities, seek out new sources of earned income, sustain development efforts in a fast changing environment and anticipate emerging issues, developing a strategy to address these opportunities.
- Overseeing and strengthening the organizational infrastructure and building the team necessary to support and sustain SSA’s growth.
- Managing staff, acting not only as a supervisor but also as a coach and consensus builder.
- Remaining deeply committed to the values of developing and bringing out the strengths of all of SSA's people while also holding them accountable for their goals and desired outcomes for SSA’s students.
- Overseeing a budget of nearly $1 million, with the confidence to manage a larger budget as the organization grows with the ED’s development and implementation of a successful fundraising plan.
- Ensuring that liability risk exposures are identified and treated when proposing new programs and services.
- Evaluating and monitoring established programs and services to identify areas which need revision due to changes in operation, legislation, policies and procedures.
- Responding appropriately to unanticipated situations.
Coalition Building, Communications & Community Relations
- Establishing and maintaining good relationships with other leaders in the secular and allied movements.
- Overseeing the development of a professional communications teams? speaking at conferences and events hosted by the SSA, secular allies, or other allied social justice or science-based movements.
- Providing an inspiring description of the organization and knowledgeably fielding questions in a range of media outlets.