By Eric Jayne
The first ever foray into billboards for the Minnesota Atheists turned out to be a success that exceeded expectations in many respects except one: generating donations for other Minnesota Atheists campaigns. But before I get into that, let’s celebrate some of the successes that came from our billboards.
The goal was to promote and reach out to local freethinkers and make them aware of our organization. We wanted to do this with a clever design and a positive, pithy message that the majority of atheists could get behind. After factoring in feedback from over a hundred comments on Facebook, American Atheists President David Silverman, and Minnesota Atheists board members, we submitted our final design to CBS Outdoor for what we hoped to be a good investment. Thanks to a significant financial contribution from American Atheists and almost $2000 in member donations, the Minnesota Atheists spent only $300 out of the financial coffers for what ended being an incredible amount of publicity!
We received most of our media attention on the Friday after the billboards went up (27 January). The Pioneer Press featured a front page article about our billboards that day which not only generated dozens of comments on the Pioneer Press website, but many of their readers sent letters to the editor that were published in subsequent Pioneer Press editions. I responded to one of those letters in a letter to the editor of my own. Unfortunately, the article and letters to the editors have been archived on the Pionner Press's website but we have copies of the article available for reading at our business meetings.
That same day, Minnesota Atheists President August Berkshire and I were interviewed on KFAI radio and Minnesota Atheists Chair George Kane was interviewed on KSTP (Ch. 5 – ABC). His interview was broadcast on KSTP and their sister station KSTC (Ch. 45) at 10:00pm and 9:00pm, respectively, during a two-minute news package at the top of the news. Everyone should check George’s excellent performance! It was also picked up and posted on YouTube.
Other popular media outlets that covered our billboards were the Acts of Faith blog on the Star Tribune, City Pages, and Christianpost.com. We were also featured on several atheist-friendly blogs, where, unlike all other media sources, aesthetic designs were critiqued instead of the message.
For the overall cost of $300 (thanks again to generous donations), the all-volunteer Minnesota Atheists organization received a lot of bang for the buck and sparked some important public and private discussions. Our Meetup page saw one of its biggest member increases in its five year history and our Facebook page along with our Facebook group page witnessed a huge spike in activity as well. Likewise, the traffic on our website doubled.
We added two new features to the website in anticipation of the increased activity. One was a special note from the President and Associate President-elect explaining the history, mission, and events of the Minnesota Atheists. We also added a special web-only article explaining the messages of the billboards, particularly what it means to be a “born-again atheist.”
On 17 February, five days before the billboards were slated to come down, a group of atheists gathered at the Public House, a restaurant and bar across the street from the billboard in the Minneapolis warehouse district, to celebrate and bid our billboards farewell. Thank you to Richard W. Trombley for taking a picture of some of the attendees under the Minneapolis billboard (the nighttime picture depicted above).
Now on to the one aforementioned disappointment: No significant increases in donations to other Minnesota Atheists projects that are in desperate need of funding. I’m speaking specifically about the Building Fund and Radio Fund.
We’re a couple hundred thousand dollars shy of having enough for our own building and the radio show costs nearly $10,000 per year so there is a need for financial contribution to both of these funds. Since the radio show has to be paid annually to KTNF, we could very well be forced to cancel the show unless we get more funds to pay our contractual debt.
Every week our all-volunteer production staff donates their time in preparation of the show. They research the content of the upcoming show, coordinate with the guests to appear on the show, and perform the demanding task of conducting a live, on-air interview. These popular shows have featured nationally famous atheists, experts in science and philosophy, and interesting discussions with former church leaders from a variety of denominations.
If you value our weekly radio program (available on radio broadcast, live web feed, and podcast) please donate with a financial contribution so we can keep it operating. We are an all-volunteer, 501 c (3) non-profit (and non-prophet) organization. The only way we can keep the radio program up and running is through financial donations from our members and radio listeners. Please visit our Radio Fund donation page on our website to make a one-time donation or recurring monthly donation that will be automatically withdrawn from your bank account. Thank you!