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Our local newsletter, Mentally, is not available online. But here are other items of interest:

THE TENTH STORY for June

First, the housekeeping item: The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met via teleconference on May 2 to approve the minutes of the April 1 AMC meeting. These are available at www.us.mensa.org/read/board-meeting-reports under the dropdown 2017-04-01 - Hollywood, FL.

After several years of continuous growth, Region 10 had a year-over-year loss during the renewal season. We're running an incentive program for local groups to encourage them to contact lapsed members, and we hope some will renew as a result. As further incentive for lapsed members, renewals processed before June 30 will be at the current rate, before the dues increase in July.

Last July Stephanie Thornton, our National Membership Officer, presented us with the results of her Lapsed Member Survey. Several reasons were provided for lapsing. One of the top reasons given was "Negative experience with other Mensans", and this was borne out in a lively discussion on the Region 10 Facebook group last month about various experiences members have had. In the survey, 19% had reported negative in-person encounters, while 13% reported negative online experiences.

We would always hope to head off conflicts that would rise to a level that members would be discouraged from remaining, but sometimes situations get beyond our control. One tool we have to address this that many members are unaware of is a fairly detailed dispute resolution process, which can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/policydocuments/grievance-policies/grievance-documents/dispute-resolution-guidelines/ .

A significant part of this process is the use of Local Group Ombudsmen. While a few of our chapters have Ombudsmen to help resolve issues members have within their local groups, most do not, and some have told me that they don't need one right now; they'll appoint one if something comes up that requires one. Unfortunately, by that time it can be too late. During the AMC meeting in April, our National Ombudsman Garrison ("Bud") Klueck stated that "when interpersonal disputes come up the ombudsmen should be used more. ...[If] interpersonal disputes are resolved quickly, there will be greater member satisfaction and retention may improve. ...[Once] local group leaders start bickering, it won't cure itself and someone needs to step in."

While acknowledging that finding new and uninvolved volunteers is often difficult, this seems to be an important enough issue to focus on. Fortunately, most of the time the Ombudsmen I've spoken to have reported little or no need for their intervention, so it's not a position that requires a lot of time. Only a couple of chapters have reported a need for intervention during my last two terms.

Region 10 does have a very capable Regional Ombudsmen in former AMC member Brian Reeves, and he has reported little if any activity requiring his attention. I will be working during the first part of the next year to ensure that every group has an Ombudsman in place, just in case - and one hopes they won't be needed. But it's better to have a fireman on duty to call on than to try to train one after the fire has already started.

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
Twitter: @FardleBear

THE TENTH STORY for May

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met on April 1 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, FL, taking the opportunity to preview the facilities in advance of the Annual Gathering in July. I would like to thank Region 10 members Dan Tobias and Brian Reeves who attended the meeting. One of the reasons for having the meeting at various sites throughout the country is so members from each Region can have a chance to see the AMC in action for themselves. Regrettably, so few take that chance - even when it is paired with an event like an RG, as it was in New Orleans - that it seems like it's time to reconsider this expense, despite the tradition it represents.

All motions at the meeting passed, most notably an increase in annual dues to $79 and the fees for Admission Testing to $60, both effective July 1, 2017. Prospects can still test at the current rate and members can extend their existing membership at the current discounted multi-year rates until then (though extending membership can only be done by calling the office directly at this time). There were also a couple of licensing deals announced, including a high-profile deal with Hasbro on pairing the Mensa name with their educational board games. The mini-minutes are available at www.us.mensa.org/read/board-meeting-reports under the dropdown 2017-04-01 - Hollywood, FL, and we have a conference call scheduled for May 2 to approve the full minutes, at which point those will be posted at the same link. If you're interested, there is also an audio recording of the meeting available there.

Membership Officer Stephanie Thornton presented the results of the latest Member Satisfaction survey, which was sent to all members with email. Here are some key metrics, with Region 10 metrics following in parentheses where they vary:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is the likelihood that a member will recommend Mensa to a friend they think would qualify: 23 (Region 10: 24). A score > 0 is considered healthy. That ratio is highest among members 46 and older or married members without children, but the score drops significantly for single members under 46 years without children, as that group had an NPS of -6.
  • 93% of our membership feels that the most important mission of Mensa is to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for our members, with 58% thinking we do this very or extremely well, compared to 54% two years ago.
  • The majority of Mensans say their family and friends know they are members, but don't tell co-workers - though they will include it on a resume.
  • 80% report that they are proud to be members of Mensa, with 5% disagreeing.
  • 54% (Region 10: 48%) report that they volunteer for Mensa. However, the NPS for volunteers is lower than the average (though still healthy at 18).
  • Member satisfaction in their local group officers is highest among those who interact with them. Understandably, members are far more likely to interact with their local group officers, while only a few have any interaction with the AMC or National Office staff.

There's much more, but no more room. I'm open to any questions you may have, and will also post to the Mensa Region 10 Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ ) so we can discuss it (and other topics) there.

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
Twitter: @FardleBear

THE TENTH STORY for April

The agenda for the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting for April 1 has been posted at us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ and it is a busy one.

The biggest part of the agenda comes from the Finance Committee, and is divided into several motions. First is a motion to change the single-year dues rate to $79.00. This is based on a number of factors, including but not limited to the long-delayed expense of replacing an antiquated computer system, a desire to provide more support to local groups, general inflation, and debt building up after deferred dues increase requests from prior years. Next is a motion to appoint an auditor for the AML financial statements, which is a routine matter. Third is a motion to waive the current requirement for equity restoration for one year based on the projected budget shortfall for next year. The equity restoration is based on the commitment of prior AMCs to pay back the legal expenses from a lawsuit a few years ago, and this motion is intended to defer that just for one year. The fourth Finance motion is a change in the way dues payments are processed, including pro-rated dues for new and returning lapsed members, which could not be implemented until the recent upgrade of the AMS (Association Management System). The fifth motion is a request to increase the Testing and Prior Evidence Review fees, which were last changed ten years ago. Test supply costs and payments to local groups have increased over the years, and this is a catch-up measure. Finally, the last Finance Committee motion is to approve the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget, which is predicated by the previous motions.

There are also several Local Group related motions. These include revisions in the Minimum Standard Bylaws and Model Bylaws, to bring them in line with ASIEs (Actions Still In Effect) passed over the past few AMC sessions; procedures to standardize the dissolution of Local Groups that are not meeting the minimum requirements of their charter; and a revision of the Information and Privacy Policy to bring it into alignment with actual current practices.

Reports to the AMC will include a presentation of the results of the recent Membership Satisfaction survey, and an update from the Awards Review Task Force.

There is time set aside at the beginning and end of every AMC meeting for comments from the audience, and all members are welcome to attend. Since this is being held in our Region, I hope some of you will attend to offer your perspectives and see the AMC in action. The meeting will be on Saturday, April 1 at the Diplomat Beach Resort (which is also the site of the Annual Gathering in July), beginning at 9:00 am. The Diplomat is located at 3555 South Ocean Drive, Hollywood, Florida.

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There's never enough room to report all the news in these columns, so I hope you'll check in on the Region 10 Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ to get more details, other news, and conversations about our Region and American Mensa topics.

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
Twitter: @FardleBear

THE TENTH STORY for March

The next American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting is scheduled for April 1, 2017 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, FL. AMC meetings are open to all members, which makes this an excellent opportunity for any of our Region 10 members who have expressed interest in national governance to observe the AMC at work. Many of the current AMC are running for National positions in the upcoming election, so you will be able to meet them as well, including incoming Chair LaRae Bakerink, incoming Secretary Lisa Maxwell, and incoming Treasurer Deb Stone, all of whom have been declared elected as they were running unopposed. There won't be a forum available for debate among the candidates who are still standing election, given the likelihood of a long meeting. Every Spring AMC meeting includes a presentation of and vote on the following year's budget, but you may still be able to ask some questions during the breaks. In addition, it will give you a chance to preview the site of this summer's Annual Gathering, which is certain to persuade you to attend if you haven't already registered.

Although the agenda for the AMC meeting has not yet been set as of this writing, it will be posted as usual on the American Mensa website, and I will be announcing it on the various social media fora throughout our Region.

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Several other activities are proceeding in the meantime. Scholarship judging has been underway, and by the time you read this the first round will have been completed. CultureQuest is scheduled for Sunday, April 30, and several local groups are working on putting together teams - I hope yours is among them! Entries are due by March 31, 2017. And of course, March 31 also marks the end of the current membership year, and the deadline for renewals. Thank you to all who have already renewed (and of course to our Life Members for their commitment to Mensa)!

Because of timing of the Annual Gathering, there are no Regional Gatherings in Florida this year other than the wonderful Central Florida Mensa RG already held in January. Debbie Freeland and her team put on one of their best Gatherings yet, and I look forward to next year's event. In the meantime, some groups are working on smaller offerings. Tampa Bay Mensa held a shoreline cruise at the end of January, and will be hosting a Games Weekend in May (though not on Memorial Day weekend). Southwest by South Florida Mensa has been hosting their Bikers vs. Brainers scholarship benefits periodically, and those are always a lot of fun. And there have been a few other cross-(chapter)-border events throughout the region as well, many of which have been publicized via the Region 10 Facebook group. I hope you'll take the opportunity to participate in one of these events, which give you the chance to enjoy the greatest assets of our organization - our members!

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
Twitter: @FardleBear

THE TENTH STORY for February

My last column went out on December 10, just hours before Marc Lederman, Chair of the 2017 Annual Gathering (AG) in Hollywood, FL, passed away at the age of 56. This was Marc's 13th term on an Annual Gathering Committee. Marc was a four-time recipient of the Chairman's Service Award and received the National Service Award in 2013. He was a Life Member who had served in several terms on the American Mensa Committee (AMC) as Regional Vice Chairman, Secretary, Membership Officer and Communications Officer, as well as many national committees.

There is no replacing Marc, though the groundwork he put in place for this upcoming AG is allowing us to continue with planning activities. He will continue to be listed as the official Chair of the AG, with Heather Poirier and LaRae Bakerink (First and Second Vice Chairs respectively of American Mensa) appointed as Co-Vice-Chairs to move us forward. They have both run successful AGs of their own, so we're in good hands. We have a dedicated team of members from our Region, including Kris and Ryan Martin, Kay Klasen, and Jason Knight from Broward Mensa, Bonnie Wilpon and Sylvia Zadorozny from Tampa Bay Mensa, and Debbie Freeland from Central Florida Mensa (among others) all working to put together the best event we can in tribute to Marc. I look forward to you joining us at the AG on July 5-9.

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I've written previously about the new Association Management System (AMS) being implemented at the national office to help us to improve our support of the membership and local groups. This was launched on November 11 with the initial impact being website login issues for a few members with invalid email addresses (which replaced the Membership Number as the login ID). Because only a small percentage of our membership visit the website on a frequent basis, this was manageable, and we generally had good feedback.

But then December rolled around, when the system was asked to do a lot more - and it turned out there were many problems that hadn't been accounted for, starting with the local group officer reports. These used to be supplied to a data coordinator for each group, along with functionally specific reports provided directly to various people such as the Membership Officer, Testing Coordinator, Editor, and of course the Local Secretary. Now they were only being supplied to the functional offices, in formats that they were not used to, and much of the support that had been in place was cut out of the loop.

Unfortunately, this impacted more than just the individual officers involved, as it cascaded downstream to the members who received their newsletters late (or not at all), new members who were not welcomed and prospects who requested test sessions but did not receive responses.

While this has been incredibly frustrating to many of our officers, and by extension the members they serve, we're seeing a great deal of progress in solving the problems, and most of the reports are back in production. We're continuing to review the issues as they are brought to our attention and once these are resolved, the new system will give us a good baseline for many great steps forward in months to come. We just need to get through the growing pains first, and appreciate your patience as we work through them as quickly as possible.

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
Twitter: @FardleBear

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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