Quick Start Guide

Welcome to the Center for Inquiry! 

Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of our community. We’re glad you want to join us. This guide was created to help you get started. 

CFI has three different levels of affiliation that are available to groups. Your first step is to decide which type of group is best for your organization. We’ve provided some more information about each level to help you decide. 

Step 1: Get to know the group levels to help you decide which suits your needs best

The three group levels are: 

  • AffiliateAn organization that is a good fit for the affiliate level is a smaller group or a student group. Affiliates appear on our website on the affiliate map. We host their contact information, and they receive our “updates” mailings and are made aware of events, training, and opportunities for involvement through CFI. Their finances are completely separate from the national entity. They are able to request tabling items and to have their events promoted on CFI social media. They are ineligible for the Freethought In Action grant and feature in Freethought in Action publications. There are no membership requirements for this level, and an organization can become an affiliate by filling out a simple online form. If an organization wishes to disaffiliate, an email to the outreach department with the subject line “End affiliation” is all it takes. 
  • PartnerAn organization that is a good fit for the partner level can be many things: It could be a large and well-established student organization; a community organization looking for more exposure and interest; or something brand new and on the move. A partner-level organization must meet event and membership requirements, which will be examined every two years. These organizations may include the following statement in their materials: “in partnership with CFI”. These organizations are financially independent but may qualify for up to $100.00 out of the Freethought In Action Grant funds. If the organization meets a 10%  CFI membership threshold and has participated in CFI events and monthly group chats/calls, they may be featured in Freethought in Action publication and Freethought in Focus social media accounts. A partnership must be set up through a phone or video chat with the Outreach department. 
  • BranchAn organization that is a good fit for the branch level is one that is ready to fully join the CFI family. In order to become a branch, an organization must first be a partner in good standing for at least one year, they must have a board of directors, who are all CFI members. They must participate in all CFI Holidays, appear regularly on monthly group calls, and maintain a 10% membership threshold. They will also need to submit quarterly reports, budgets and regular write-ups for Freethought in Action. They will get a CFI bank account, webpage, social media pages, and participate in the current 100%/80% funding model. They are able to fundraise at designated times during the year with support from the Development department. Branches in good standing are able to apply for the Freethought in Action Grant. Branches must be set up through a meeting with the outreach department. 

Group levels, at a glance 

Self-Set up
May use CFI branding
Has a CFI bank account
May use CFI promotional items
Must re-charter every 2 years
Must re-charter every 5 years
Best for student groups; groups with fewer than 25 members
Best for larger/ more established groups
May call their organization “CFI” (Example: CFI Michigan) 
Must meet CFI Membership requirements
Must meet CFI events requirements
Eligible for the Freethought in Action Grant?Partial
Submits quarterly reports and annual budgets

Step 2: Examine the qualifications for each group type in good standing


  • Submission of a completed application
  • Notifies Outreach of any updates in a timely manner  


  • Maintains a 10% member threshold 
  • Appears on 75% of the monthly group conversations 
  • Hosts mandatory events and reports the results 
  • Submits an annual activity report 


  • Maintains a 10% member threshold, 100% membership among board members
  • Appears on 80% of the monthly group conversations 
  • Hosts mandatory events and reports the results 
  • Submits spending receipts and donation deposits to Headquarters within 10 working days
  • Submits annual budgets on time
  • Submits quarterly activity reports on time 
  • Submits regular content for inclusion in Freethought in Action. 
  • Complies with CFI company policies not specifically mentioned here

Step 3: Choose your path

At this point, you may have decided that the Affiliate level is right for you. If that is the case, all you need to do is fill out this brief online form, hit submit and you’re off to the races. Make sure to subscribe to our email updates at the end of the form. You may also request to have events listed on CFI social media, and request tabling supplies as needed. Please notify Outreach if you decide to end your affiliation. 

If you are interested in becoming a Partner organization, you’re nearly there. Start by filling out this online form. Once submitted, you will be contacted by the Outreach department to set up your application meeting. During this meeting, you will have a chance to tell us about your organization in detail, discuss your goals, and gain insight into our organization as well. Once we verify your membership threshold and have answered all your questions, you will become an organization in partnership with CFI. 

If your ultimate goal is to become a Branch, a little more commitment is required. Since branches become essentially a part of CFI, with a bank account and formidable web presence, we want to get to know each other a little better. New branches must spend their first year of involvement at the partner level. Partners in good standing can fill out this form on or after their one-year anniversary date. Once you submit, you will be contacted by the Outreach department for a phone or video meeting. Special consideration will be given to partners who operate under branch good standing guidelines. 


A: In order to ensure that adding new organizations under the CFI banner helps grow both the new group and the national entity, we require branch and partner level organizations to have a percentage of their group membership be official, dues-paying members of Center for Inquiry. For Partner level organizations, this is 10% of their membership. If an organization has fewer than 10 members, then the contact person should be a member.

For Branches, we require that each member of the Board of Directors is a member, as well as 10% of non-board members. The commitment is greater for this level to match the greater benefit to your organization when you become a Branch.

A: When it is time to re-charter your organization, you will submit a packet that will verify your good standing, and have a meeting with the Outreach department. Your packet will include membership threshold verification, holiday requirements, and review of your group call attendance and deadline observance. If your organization falls out of good standing and you wish to remain affiliated, you will have 6 months to regain good standing. During this probationary period, your organization will not be eligible for the Freethought in Action Grant.

A: The two holidays that we require organizations to acknowledge are:

September 20: International Blasphemy Rights Day

February 12: Darwin Day

Outside of the two required celebrations, we ask that each organization host a minimum of 3 additional activities or events a year. Here are some additional secular holidays and celebrations you may wish to consider celebrating:

January 29: Thomas Paine Day

March 14: Pi Day

March 16: Freedom of Information Day

April 12: Cosmonaut’s Day

April 22: Earth Day

First Thursday in May: National Day of Reason

June 20: Summer Solstice

Month of June: LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

August 11: Ingersoll day

Week of September 23: Banned Book Week

October: Freethought Month

Week of November 24: Church/state separation week

December 10: International Human Rights Day

December 20: Winter Solstice

December 23: Festivus

Remember, these are merely suggestions. Feel free to add your own depending on the needs and desires of your individual group.

A: Some common events that many of our locations have been very successful with include:

Recurring events: 

  • Book clubs
  • Drinking Skeptically (Secular cocktail hour at local bars)
  • Cafe Inquiry (Secular coffee hour at local cafes)
  • Philanthropy days (Build a Habitat for Humanity home, deliver meals on wheels, serve at a homeless shelter, etc)
  • Potlucks
  • Game Nights
  • Secular sobriety meetings
  • Letter writing/Email Campaigns
  • Outings to museums or cultural events

Annual Events: 

  • Women’s March
  • March for Science
  • Local/Regional fairs and festivals 
  • Pride activities 
  • Civics day/Lobby day

Again, these are suggestions. Feel free to innovate based on your own needs and desires.

A: The purpose of the call is to allow you to have one on one contact with a CFI staffer to establish your group as a part of our network. It also allows you to ask questions, to understand policies and procedures, and to learn about where to find various tools and resources and gain access to them. To be prepared, you should have on hand:

  • All of your group’s founding information
  • Any legal documents you have
  • Membership roster
  • Your questions for us
  • Your ideas for going forward

Still have questions? Reach out!

Melissa Myers

Outreach Department