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RVC Columns

THE TENTH STORY for September

I'd like to take a moment to recognize the hard work of our Local Groups during the Lapsed Member renewal program this year. As an incentive, the top group in each class size won a free CultureQuest entry for 2020, and two Region 10 groups took top honors: Northwest Florida Mensa and Tallahassee Area Mensa, each with a 28.5% renewal rate. This was compared to a national renewal rate of 13%. Congratulations to both groups!

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As a member organization run by its volunteers, American Mensa is dependent on you to be its best. This is true at both the local and national level. At the local level, the most visible volunteers are your Executive Committees, primarily via your Local Secretaries/Presidents and your Local Group Newsletter Editors, but there are many other volunteers who move things along, from the Proctors who provide testing opportunities for new members to join, to those who run social events on your local calendars, to those who provide content on your local group social media groups, and those who volunteer to read essays to provide scholarships for worthy students, and more. Some groups have had trouble recruiting new volunteers, however, because the leaders haven't met you yet and don't know that you might be interested.

The same is true of National Committees. Committee Chairs often reach out to the people we already know, because we know they are interested, but so many others we don't know could have a lot to offer and we just don't know it.

To help with this, American Mensa has launched the Volunteer Marketplace. From here you can see what roles are available, and complete a profile letting us know what your skill sets and interests are, what level of participation you would be willing to commit to, and other key information. Because the program has just started the choices are limited as of this writing, mostly for national committees, but local groups may also take advantage of the program to seek out Proctors, RG Committee volunteers, ExComm candidates, and others. Please check this out and see whether it is something you would be interested in.

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The next scheduled American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting will be on September 7, 2019 in Arlington, TX. At this time I do not have the agenda, but you will be able to find it at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/. Select the dropdown for the 2019-09-07 meeting and the agenda should be available by the time this column finds its way to your newsletter. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns that you would like me to bring before the AMC.

On a personal note, I will be retiring from my current full-time job at the end of August. This will offer me a chance to get to some of your local group events that are held during weeknights, something I simply haven't been able to manage over the past couple of years. I hope that I'll be able to meet more of you in the next few months.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for August

During the AG (Annual Gathering) in Phoenix in July, many members of Region 10 were recognized with National Awards for their service and achievements in Mensa. American Mensa Chair LaRae Bakerink presented Chairman's Service Awards to 16 members, including Belinda Nemeth of Tampa Bay Mensa for her hard work and diligence in modernizing Tampa Bay Mensa, Brian Reeves of Palm Beach Area Mensa for his hard work (together with Allison Reeves of Chicago Mensa) in providing the Phoenix AG, and Elissa Rudolph of Palm Beach Area Mensa for her service as Advocate over the last term. National Certificates of Appreciation went to Nora Foust of Central Florida Mensa for her service on the Election Committee, and to Jason Knight of Broward Mensa for his service on the 2017, 2018 & 2019 AG Committees, and the Gifted Youth Coordinator of the Year went to Micki Hawn of Broward Mensa.

Local Groups were also recognized via the Jewel Awards, which recognize a combination of accomplishments and participation in Mensa activities within five different class sizes. The awards are, in ascending order, Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby, plus Diamond for the highest achievement within each class. Ruby awards went to Tallahassee Area Mensa in Class V (fewer than 100 members) and Northwest Florida Mensa in Class IV (100 to 199 members), while Emerald Awards went to Manasota Mensa, Mensa of Jacksonville, and North Florida Mensa in Class III (200 to 399 members), and to Broward Mensa and Tampa Bay Mensa in Class II (400 to 899 members).

CultureQuest winners were also announced, with The Browsers of Broward Mensa taking 19th place, Jackson-Villains of Mensa of Jacksonville placing 11th, and Tragic Kingdom of Central Florida Mensa continuing as the reigning champions for an amazing sixth year in a row!

The Mensa Foundation also announced its list of scholarship winners prior to the AG. Scholarships are awarded at the Local, Regional, and National levels. Scholarship winners in Region 10 included 14 Local scholarships, 2 Regional scholarships, and 2 National scholarships, plus one Mensa Member scholarship, totaling $14,400 overall. I would like to extend my thanks to our Regional Scholarship Chair Albia Dugger for her service, as well as to all the local scholarship chairs and judges who made this such a success.

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At the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting held at the AG, most of the actions taken were housekeeping items such as appointments of committee chairs and event policies for the AG and Mind Games. We also approved four Appointed AMC officers for one-year term in 2019-2020. Alexander Huth will be continuing as Marketing Officer, Stephanie Thornton will be returning as Membership Officer after a break of a couple of years, Lora Mitchell will be taking on the position of Communication Officer, and Keri Guilbault will be joining us as Director of Science and Education. We also approved Baltimore, Maryland as the site of the Annual Gathering for 2023.

The next scheduled AMC meeting will be on September 7, 2019 in Arlington, TX.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for July

The American Mensa election has ended, and I am grateful to be elected another term as your RVC. I want to acknowledge David Fleming of Central Florida Mensa for his candidacy, and look forward to his continued volunteer service in the future.

The level of turnover in the American Mensa Committee (AMC) is smaller than in the last two cycles, with 10 of the 15 members from last term returning, albeit some in new roles, and one appointed officer from last year moving into a voting RVC role. The four new members bring a wealth of experience at both the local and national level, so I am confident the next two years will allow us to continue much of the progress we've achieved in the past term.

At the time I submitted this column the agenda for the AMC meeting had not yet been completed, but by the time you read this you will be able to find the agenda and final officer reports from the 2017-2019 term at http://www.us.mensa.org/meetingreports - select 2019-07-04 - Phoenix, AZ.

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A few months ago members from Palm Beach Area Mensa mentioned some interest in holding an event to honor our long-term members, who have shown the commitment and dedication to remain with Mensa for the long haul. I looked at the demographics for Region 10 and discovered that over a quarter of our members have been members for over 20 years, with fewer than a third of those registered as Life Members. At first glance this looked like excellent news - having two thirds of our long term members renewing on a regular basis seems to demonstrate a high level of satisfaction.

However, the downside of that equation is that so many of our members lapse after a short period of time. 70 percent of our members lapsed after less than 5 years in the organization.

So one question that must be addressed is: What do the members who remain get from Mensa that those who lapse do not?

A second observation is that a majority of the leadership in Region 10 Local belong to the long-term member set. Could their longevity be linked to their active engagement in Mensa?

For all the suggestions made on how to get newer members involved, one thing is becoming clear - those who have dedicated their time to keeping Local Groups going need help from the rest of the membership. Quite frankly, many of them are getting tired, to the point that at least three local groups have recently been unable to conduct business at their required Executive Committee (ExComm) meetings because they could not convene a quorum. On one hand, it is commendable that one local group has members who have served on their ExComm for over 30 years. On the other hand, that is also frightening, since it's not clear what would happen to that group if those leaders were to finally retire.

One tool we'll be rolling out next month is the Volunteer Marketplace, where members can indicate skill sets and interests that they have or would like to develop in order to serve the local groups, so the leaders have a better idea who to approach when opportunities arise, rather than continuing to reach out to the members they already know. There will be a demonstration of the Volunteer Marketplace at the Annual Gathering, and I will have more to tell you after that.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for May

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) held a teleconference on April 2, 2019 with a very short agenda: to appoint Tracey Guice as the new Regional Coordinator for Region 8 to complete the 2017-2019 term following the recommendation of the Region 8 Local Secretaries, and to approve the minutes of the March 2 meeting. Approval of the minutes is required before they can be provided to the membership, and they are now posted in full at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ under the dropdown 2019-03-02 - Woodbridge, NJ. The minutes contain details regarding Treasurer Deb Stone's quarterly report and budget presentation, as well as the Hearings Committee report. Also included are details for specific responsibilities for RVCs, as updated in the bi-annual review of AMC job descriptions. The RVC Responsibilities had previously been included only in the RVC Handbook and were not part of the governing ASIES (Actions Still In Effect, otherwise known as Policies). These responsibilities include reviewing local group publications and social media, promoting effective administration of local groups, and ensuring that AML policies are followed by the local groups, among others.

For those interested in greater detail, audio recordings for both meetings are also available in the meetings reports section.

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As I mentioned last month, details of the Executive Session review of the Hearings Committee report are confidential, which unfortunately had the side effect of some external sources disseminating false and biased information. Some of those details are clarified in the minutes, but there are some points which should be noted. The Hearings Committee considered three separate charges, and dismissed the first. For the other two, the ASIEs define the actions by this individual as Acts Inimical (Section 11.A.4.a): “While engaging in activities sponsored or sanctioned by Mensa, engaging in conduct that endangers the well-being of others.” The Hearings Committee made their determination based on a pattern of behavior, and not a single incident.

The Hearings Committee process is exhaustively outlined in the ASIEs, Appendix 5, and is too long to summarize here, but they can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/policydocuments/actions-still-in-affect/ (yes, the url is misspelled, and I have mentioned that to the National Office). Once the Hearings Committee submits its recommendation to the AMC, it is not the responsibility of the AMC to reopen and rehear the decision, but to consider the Hearings Committee report along with remarks from the complainant and respondent or their representatives. In the end, the AMC either concurs, reduces the recommended sanction, or sends it back the Hearings Committee. Given the information provided in that closed session, and only that information, the AMC concurred with the Hearings Committee recommendation.

Two comments I've heard since then were that the respondent had been a long-time member with years of service, and that if there had really been a pattern of this behavior why did it take so long to expel him? To the first point, we've seen many cases lately where admired public personalities have fallen based on inappropriate behavior, despite many awards and accolades over their careers, because past good actions do not excuse continued bad behavior. Which leads to the second comment – when someone is popular, it is difficult to speak out against them without fear of repercussion (which I've witnessed in this case). Changes in culture are leading to changes in tolerance to bad behavior across all of society, not just Mensa.

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There were other more positive topics I wanted to cover, such as the increase in long-term membership and the results of the Local Group Leader survey, but with space limitations those will have to wait until my next column. As always, I am willing to respond to any specific questions you may have at the addresses below.

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Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for April

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met for our final quarterly meeting of the year on March 2, 2019 in Iselin, NJ. Because this was the annual budget approval meeting, there was much to discuss, and the meeting lasted longer than anticipated.

AMC Treasurer Deb Stone provided her report in preparation for the budget motions, first to waive the requirement for equity restoration for the fiscal year 2019-2020, and second to approve the 2019-2020 budget. Both of these motions passed after much discussion. Because the budget also required changes to an existing ASIE, the AMC voted to reduce the charge for review of Prior Evidence from $60.00 to $40.00. It is expected that this reduction will lead to an increase in the number of prospects who will submit prior evidence to join.

Also included in the budget is a new program to allow for electronic admission testing, targeted to launch at the end of the year. One of the most difficult barriers to testing is matching the schedules of the proctors, the prospects, and the testing locations (not to mention finding testing locations), and this will allow prospects to test at times that are more convenient for them. These are not home tests, but will be available at testing centers that are already set up to offer electronic testing, ensuring that the validity and security of the test results will be maintained. With this opening, we hope we have the potential for a fresh influx of new members beginning next year. PLEASE NOTE that these are supplemental testing opportunities and will not replace our own testing program and proctors, who for many of our members are the first contact they have with Mensa. The personal touch is still valuable, and I encourage each of our local groups to continue to have testing sessions for new members.

Along with the other motion from the agenda to update the Annual Gathering Chair responsibilities (which passed), there was a new motion added to update the responsibilities of the members of the AMC (including RVCs). These should be posted to the national website once the minutes of the meeting have been approved.

The AMC then went into Executive Session to undertake the most difficult task we have as a board, which was to review the recommendation of the Hearing Committee to expel a member. Details of discussions in Executive Session are confidential and cannot be disclosed. It is fortunate that this is rarely necessary, as this was only the eighth expulsion since 2000. But sometimes these actions are unavoidable for the safety and reputation of the organization and its members.

I received some sad news very recently. Northwest Florida officer Robert (Bob) Ulrich passed away on March 7. As Membership Officer, he was one of the first members I met outside of my own local group when I attended the Valentime Regional Gathering in Destin, FL in 2006. He has been serving in several officer positions since 2004, including most recently as their Assistant LocSec. He was a great ambassador for Mensa, and a good conversationalist. He will be missed.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for March

Mensa relies on its volunteers to keep the organization going, and we appreciate all of them. There are some who go beyond the nuts and bolts of day-to-day service, and they deserve special recognition. Each year several awards are presented at the Annual Gathering, including National Service Awards (AKA National Achievement Awards), the Distinguished Service Award, and the National Certificate of Appreciation. While these are presented by the American Mensa Awards Committee, all of these winners are nominated by members. Your opportunity to nominate these superstars is now! Nominations are being solicited through April 30. More information about these can be found at www.us.mensa.org/recognize/national-awards/ or by emailing Awards Committee Chair Robin Crawford at nationalawards@us.mensa.org with questions and nominations.

Recent award winners from Region 10 in the past five years have included Mel Dahl, Ruth Danielle, Debbie Freeland, Brian Reeves, Elissa Rudolph, and Maggie Truelove. Who else would you nominate?

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While on the topic of volunteers, I continue to encourage anyone who is interested to volunteer at their Local Group level. There are many opportunities for both long- and short-term contributions, and engaging in helping to build and run the group provides a greater personal stake in its success. Contact your Local Secretary/President or Programs Officer if you are interested, or let me know and I'll offer some suggestions.

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March 31 is the last day to renew your membership if you want to participate in this year's CultureQuest, which will take place on April 28. Although some people see this as a trivia contest, it runs deeper than mere trivia. CultureQuest was established in 1990 based on the book “Cultural Literacy”, which posited that each culture has common information that becomes shorthand for communication. For instance, almost everyone in Western Culture would know what you meant by "Sherlock", whether they had ever read any of Arthur Conan Doyle's works or not. Each contest has approximately 200 questions which run the gamut from literature, geography, science, religion, history, and yes, some trivia. Each team can consist of up to five members with two alternates, and each chapter may have more than one team. But all persons on the team must have renewed before the registration date on March 31!

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You must also have renewed by the end of March in order to participate in the American Mensa elections, which include five nationally-elected positions as well as the Region 10 Vice Chair (RVC) and the Mensa International Election. There are also four bylaws referenda on the ballot this year. The election period will run from April 15 through May 15. More information will be coming over the next couple of months, but if you'd like to get a preview there is information available at www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/elections/2019-board-election/. So make sure your membership is current in order to participate!

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The next meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) will be on March 2, 2019 in Woodbridge, NJ. The main items on the agenda are the approval of the 2019-2020 AML Budget, and proposed changes to the bylaws for the Mensa Foundation. The agenda has been posted at www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/, in the dropdown under "2019-03-02 - Woodbridge, NJ".

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Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

See our new proposed by-laws (PDF format).
See our current local by-laws (PDF format), and the national minimum standards for bylaws (PDF format).

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