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Our New Membership Policy and Membership Drive: Raising Our Game to a New Level
A Message from Peter Gray, President of ASDE

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) was incorporated a little more than three years ago, and we have already accomplished a lot. For some of what we have done, to make Self-Directed Education (SDE) more known and more available, see the list at the end of this article.

Now, after three years, it is time to up our game. To do that, no surprise, WE NEED MORE MONEY. The members of our Board of Directors are all unpaid volunteers, but to carry out and coordinate our many activities we need to hire people with the expertise and time to do so. For example, we need someone who can work regularly to advise and help coordinate the activities of local SDE groups, someone who can create press releases and work regularly through social media and other means to make SDE more well known to the general public, and someone to keep our website updated, fresh, and stocked with useful resources for SDE.

With the exception of a $10,000 grant we received from the Woodshouse Foundation to help support our Library Initiative, all of our funding so far has come from the relatively small number of our members who have donated financially. Thus far, in our formative stage as an organization, we have made it easy to join without donating. The result is that we have nearly 4,000 members, but only about a quarter of them have made any financial donation and only five percent have signed on as sustaining members (monthly donors). Those five percent have provided over half of the revenue we have taken in so far. THANK YOU to them, and to all the donors, but we now need donations from many more.

If every one of our members would sign on as a sustaining member, through our easy monthly donation program, we would be in great financial shape. Even if the average donation were just $5/month — the cost of one or two cups of coffee depending on where you buy it — our annual intake would be five times what it is now. We would be able to do five times as much toward our mission of making Self-Directed Education available to every family that desires it.

If you recognize the harm currently inflicted on children through the standard, coercive educational system, and if you know that children learn best when they learn in their own natural, self-directed ways, then WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to help promote what you recognize and know.

Here, briefly, is OUR NEW MEMBERSHIP POLICY. We now ask all members to donate at least something financially to the organization. We recognize that many families are struggling financially, so the donation can be very small if that is your situation. If you register on our website as a new member, you will be led to a page that allows you to choose an amount of monthly donation or, if you prefer, allows you to choose an amount for a single donation that can be as large or small as you choose.

If you are already a member but not a monthly donor, right now would be a great time to renew your membership. If you are already a sustaining member, you will remain a member, without need for renewal, as long as your credit card remains active. If you made a single donation, you will be asked to renew your membership each year.

If you are not already a member, please JOIN NOW, and if you are a member but haven’t donated, or haven’t donated within the last year, please RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP NOW. We need your support, and your membership donation actively furthers your cause. Please also use whatever networks you have to tell others about ASDE and ask them to consider joining. Our strength is in numbers, and that is especially true when those large numbers contribute financially, even modestly, to the cause. Your donation is an investment in the happiness of children and the future of the nation and the world.

Our new membership policy does not prevent non-members from accessing our many resources, such as the forums, newsletter, Tipping Points articles, local SDE group support meetings, Resource Directory, and more (see below for more details about these offerings). These and more will still be accessible to anyone who wishes to use them. However, we hope that everyone using these resources will see the value of joining and donating what they reasonably can, as donations are what make the resources possible.

We now have some membership benefits and thank-you gifts. All members who wish will be invited to take part in biannual online members-only meetings with the ASDE Board to hear about ongoing and planned projects and to share ideas about possible new projects. Members who contribute $20 or more a month, or make a single contribution of $250 or more, can receive, along with their thank-you letter, a signed copy of Kerry McDonald’s new book Unschooled, or the recently reprinted edition of John Holt’s classic How Children Learn (signed by Patrick Farenga, who made this reprint possible), or a signed copy of my book, Free to Learn, whichever they choose. Those who donate $40 or more a month, or $500 or more as a single donation, can receive all three.

And, now, finally, here are some of ASDE’s accomplishments so far:

  • We have catalyzed the formation of Local SDE Groups, which enable those involved with SDE to meet with others in their local community and support one another. We have monthly, well-attended, support calls for group organizers all over the world, and a coordinator who is able to provide one-on-one support, answer questions, and create materials for groups.
  • We publish regularly a professional quality online magazine, Tipping Points, which provides articles about SDE. Tipping Points publishes at least one article a week about various topics in SDE, and is expanding into podcasts, audio, and other media as well.
  • We maintain a website that includes a Primer of SDE, which provides basic information about this approach to children’s education; a Forum, where people can raise and address one another’s questions, concerns, and ideas concerning SDE; and a searchable Resource Directory, which provides information about schools, learning centers, books, articles, and other resources for pursuing SDE. The website is updated frequently to reflect the needs, questions, and best supporting resources for anyone who is interested in SDE.
  • We have helped to spread the word about Self-Directed Education through social media; through books, articles, and blog posts created by the core ASDE team; through presentations at conferences; and by serving as a contact organization for journalists writing stories relevant to SDE.
  • We sponsor a regular online seminar for people conducting academic research pertaining to SDE, and in that way we have increased the amount of such research and the awareness of SDE within the academic community.
  • We have moved forward on our Library Initiative, which is a project aimed at helping libraries become general community centers where all sorts of activities relevant to self-directed education are possible. At present, supported partly by a grant from the Woodshouse Foundation, we are conducting a survey of public libraries throughout the United States to see what they are already doing and what they believe they could be doing in this direction.
  • We act as a central hub for everyone interested in SDE. We maintain a regular system of support for anyone who contacts us with questions about SDE, such as how to begin unschooling and deschooling, how to find resources, how to start a learning center, or how to find others involved in SDE who are looking for virtual or local connection, so that people do not have to do this alone.

 
We chose to call ourselves the Alliance, because we see that our mission of creating a future in which all children can learn in their own natural, self-directed ways, without coercion, depends on the combined, communal efforts of all who understand and support that mission.