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RVC Columns

THE TENTH STORY for April

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the March meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was changed to a teleconference. Because I am writing this before the meeting, I do not have the results of the motions yet, but there were seven motions before the AMC. These include:

A. To remove ASIE 7, Item N (equity restoration) in its entirety. The original purpose of this ASIE was to pay back the equity that was spent on a lawsuit over a decade ago, but since this has had to be modified every year, it has not had the intended effect. Rather than continue to adjust the ASIE every year, it is being removed and any net asset increases will be moved to equity.

B. To appoint an Auditor. This is an annual motion that takes place during the March meeting together with the adoption of the annual budget.

C. To adopt the 2020-2021 budget. This is also an annual action.

D. To adopt the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. This is an action taken every five years. The new plan focuses on Outreach (for membership growth), Value (for member retention), and Diversification of Revenue Streams (to hold down dues).

E. Clarification of Official Local Group Meetings. Members have asked for more control of attendance at the meetings they host. While official meetings must be open to all members, the definition of an "official" meeting has been debated. This motion excludes Social events from the category of official meetings, even if included on the local group calendar or paid for, in part or in whole, by the Local Group.

F. Continuous Membership Lapse Repayments. This is the motion I wrote about in my column last month, and as expected, members have been vocal on both sides about this motion, along with disagreements about features within the motion (such as the charge for repayment of lapsed periods or the period of time allowed to be reclaimed).

G. Unabridged newsletters. This motion is to clarify what a local group is required to provide to the national office for their retention policies. In most cases it is not an issue, but some local groups have provided the national office with the minimum requirements while providing the members with significant differences between their print and electronic newsletters. This clarifies that the national office needs to be able to track what a local group communicates to its members for posterity and for future officers (such as my successor, whoever that may be).

The mini-minutes will be posted to https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ within a few days after the meeting. Please let me know if you have any questions.

____________________________________

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all of our lives, including our social lives and the events we provide for our membership.

Several local groups have canceled their March events and expect to cancel April's events as well. Several Regional Gatherings (RGs) around the country have also been canceled or postponed. While decisions for events further out such as the Tampa Bay RG over Memorial Day weekend or the Annual Gathering in Kansas City in July have not been reached, the organizers are keeping informed with the health and safety of our members as a key focus. If there is an event you are interested in attending, it is advisable to contact the host to ensure that it is still happening to avoid disappointment on both sides.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

THE TENTH STORY for March

The next meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) will be held on Saturday, March 21 in Las Vegas at Alexis Park. As exciting as that might sound at first, it's not a casino hotel, and we'll be spending most of our time gazing at conference room walls and presentation screens as we discuss the 2020-2021 budget, the 2021-2025 Strategy, and various motions. While the agenda is not confirmed at the time I am writing this, you will be able to see the agenda at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ and selecting 2020-03-21 - Las Vegas from the dropdown.

One topic under discussion is related to changes regarding continuous membership. The national office regularly receives requests from members who have lapsed or who are renewing after a lapse asking to bridge the gap in their membership for a period of time. Often there are extenuating circumstances for the lapse, such as family emergencies which should of course take precedence over membership dues, and allowing those members to pay dues for the missing period seems to be a reasonable request. Unfortunately, nothing is ever as simple as it seems at first glance, and because there was no official process in place to make these sorts of exceptions, they were almost always declined.

On one hand, it seems that the value of this to the member is that of showing their pride in membership, and the value to the organization is catching up on the dues the member would have paid if they had maintained their membership, providing additional income to delay future dues increases. On the other hand, there is also value in continuous membership beyond the services the national organization provides. For instance, the recent Longtimer events held by Central Florida Mensa at their January RG and the Palm Beach Area and Broward Mensas in mid-February were specifically in celebration and thanks to those members who have supported Mensa for an extended period of time, and groups might have second thoughts about hosting such events for members who had not actually been participating for the full period. And in national elections the candidates are asked when they joined Mensa, and whether they've been a member the full time. Such a question might be obscured by allowing members to claim continuous membership by paying for the privilege.

These are just some of the concerns raised, but you may have some of your own, so I would be interested in your opinions if you wish to let me know.

____________________________________

April 19-25 is Mensa Volunteer Week, when local groups are encouraged to participate in projects as part of Mensa Cares!, our internal program for showing our Community Service support. The first of the three purposes outlined in the Constitution of Mensa is "to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity". We regularly receive feedback in our membership surveys that our members are looking for opportunities for service to the community, and I hope your group has something in the pipeline (and if they don't, perhaps you have a project of your own in mind). Examples of projects by other local groups can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/volunteer/community-service/. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

THE TENTH STORY for February

Happy New Year! In January, Mensa Connect expanded its reach to all members via Local Group Communities. Previously, Local Groups had to specifically request their own Communities on Mensa Connect (https://www.us.mensa.org/connect/mensa-connect/), and half of our local groups had done so, with three of those in active use. Now all groups have access, and all members are automatically part of the Local Group Communities. The default setting for all members is Daily Digest, so you would only receive one email per day. If you wish, you can change your setting by going to the link above and selecting your community, and clicking the Settings box next to the Community title. There you will be able to change the email frequency to Real Time (so you'll get all messages as they come in), or No Email (which would still allow you to see any messages by logging in to your Community directly). You can also designate a different email to receive messages, if you wish.

The Communities are a useful tool, with the ability to set up Events and Libraries for local group documents such as Local Group bylaws or meeting minutes. Access to these are limited to active Mensa members assigned to your groups, with the option of adding other members at the discretion of the Community Administrator, which is by default the Local Secretary/President. Non-members are not permitted access to the Communities, so make sure you renew on time!

Tools such as these are only valuable if they are used, so I encourage everyone to make use of this resource. Let me know if you have any questions.

____________________________________

While local groups put their upcoming events on their calendars, some require more advance notice. For instance, CultureQuest XXXI is coming! Registration opens on February 3, with the event itself taking place on May 3. Local Groups can have as many teams as they like, though teams are limited to five participants each (with two alternates). CultureQuest is often inaccurately referred to as a trivia contest, but it relies more on common knowledge than most trivia. It was inspired by the book "Cultural Literacy" by E.D. Hirsch, which posits that most cultures have general knowledge used in communication, regardless of whether the people have specific knowledge about the topic. (For example, almost everyone in Western Culture will understand when you call someone Sherlock or Einstein, even if they've never read A.C. Doyle or picked up a physics book.)

Some local groups are VERY serious about this (Central Florida's "Tragic Kingdom" team has taken the first-place prize for the last six years running!). Others have more fun with it, coming up with the funniest responses they can think of if they don't know the answers - some of which are read out during the Awards ceremony at the Annual Gathering. And some groups have AfterQuest parties where the whole local group is invited to participate in answering the questions after the official event is over, to see if they would have gotten questions the teams had missed. However your group approaches it, I hope we can get at least one team from each group this year.

____________________________________

Also looking ahead, I encourage you to participate in National Volunteer Week in April, the Tampa Bay Mensa RG in May, and the Annual Gathering in July. I've run out of room to provide more detail, so that will come in future columns.

____________________________________

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
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

THE TENTH STORY for January

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met on Saturday, December 7. As I mentioned last month, the motion to put forth a bylaws referendum to change the AMC Terms of Office from two years to three years starting in 2021 was a hot topic. There were several good points made both pro and con about the change itself, which made it clear that the decision belongs to the members, and our responsibility was to give the members the choice rather than preemptively block the referendum. The vote was not unanimous, but it did pass, and the referendum will be on the ballot in Spring 2021.

Three other motions passed quickly, including a motion to include election date notification in the Mensa Bulletin, the appointment of Dan Burg as Bylaws Committee Chair following the resignation of Rick Magnus, and a motion to place reasonable controls on volunteer expense reimbursements. Beyond that, the rest of the meeting was comprised of presentations from the Executive Director, Risk Management Committee, Treasurer/Finance Committee, and Strategic Planning. These presentations, along with quarterly officer reports and the mini-minutes for the meeting, can be found on the American Mensa website at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/. Select the dropdown for the 2019-12-07 meeting.

The Strategic Planning presentation and discussion was particularly interesting, as it was a follow-up from the planning sessions held in September. The current Five-Year Plan runs through 2020, and the AMC is working to establish a new strategic plan for 2021-2025. The current plan focuses on five core values: Membership, Governance, Leadership Development, Public Awareness, and Finance. The proposed core values include Intelligence benefiting humanity, Valuing ideas and individualism, Intellectual integrity, and Connection. The proposed goals paired to these values are Membership growth, Membership value, and Diversification of revenue streams. This is still a work-in-progress, and there were several questions and challenges to this proposed strategy. There was no disagreement, however, about the need for a strategy, so this work will continue. Details about the current plan and the metrics being followed to track our progress can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/planning/

____________________________________

On the horizon, Palm Beach Area Mensa and Broward Mensa will be honoring long-time members at a special event in February. For the purposes of this event, Long-Time members are defined as continuous for 25 years or longer. This is an example of local-group initiatives for recognizing members, and I’m proud of both the local groups for putting this together, and of the dedication of the members themselves. I look forward to the celebration.

____________________________________

Looking further ahead, National Volunteer Week is April 19-25, 2020, and American Mensa's Community Service Committee is looking for groups to participate through the Mensa Cares! program. Although this program runs throughout the year and many groups have projects during various seasons, we focus on getting our name out in the community during April in order to publicly emphasize our involvement as outlined in the first purpose in the Mensa Constitution: to use our intelligence "...for the benefit of humanity". I look forward to hearing what sort of projects you have in store!

____________________________________

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 December

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019 in Elk Grove, IL at the Sheraton Suites Chicago. Most of the agenda is boilerplate (acceptance of quarterly reports, approval of minutes, reports from the Treasurer and Executive Director, etc.). There is one motion on the agenda at this time which I suspect will generate substantial discussion, both among the AMC and the membership in general, and that is to put forth a bylaws referendum to change the AMC Terms of Office from two years to three years starting in 2021. The primary reason for this is to align our elections with those of Mensa International, which already changed the Constitution in the most recent election to hold their elections on a three-year cycle. There are several advantages to this proposal, not least of which is to reduce the expense of elections by keeping them synchronized. If the membership approves this referendum, there will be two elections every six years, but if it is not approved, there would be four election years (American Mensa in 2023, 2035 and 2027, and Mensa International in 2024 and 2027). The projected average annual savings would be $5,000.

Of course, if this motion passes, it wouldn't change the terms of office automatically, but would put it up for a vote by the membership of American Mensa during the next election in 2021. Expect to see more details about this referendum in upcoming months.

You will be able to find the agenda at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/. Select the dropdown for the 2019-12-07 meeting. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns that you would like me to bring before the AMC.

____________________________________

The 2019-2020 Mensa Scholarship program is underway, and essays are rolling in. The Mensa Foundation awards more than $140,000 annually in scholarships, and volunteering to be a scholarship judge is one way members can contribute to the first of Mensa's purposes ("to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity"). Starting in December, Local Group Scholarship Chairs will begin to gather information on the submissions, though applicants will have until January 15 to submit their essays. They will need judges to assist in reading and scoring the essays, so let the Scholarship Chair for your local group know if you would be willing to help.

____________________________________

I would like to thank Lisa Blair for spearheading Tampa Bay Mensa's participation in the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading in at USF Saint Petersburg in November. The local group was recognized as a Community Exhibitor, presenting information about Mensa For Kids' and their Excellence in Reading program, which in cooperation with the Library of Congress provides reading lists for youth, along with opportunities to earn certificates and t-shirts for their accomplishments. The program is open to all youth under 18 years of age, whether or not they are a member of Mensa.

____________________________________

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 November

The International Board of Directors (IBD) met on October 11-13 in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia. This is an annual meeting which is held in various locations around the world so each full national Mensa has an opportunity to host. The last time they met in the US was in 2006 at the World Gathering in Orlando, and American Mensa will next host the meeting at the World Gathering in Houston in 2021.

Although American Mensa is the largest of the national Mensas, we still only comprise about a third of the total worldwide membership, which is spread across 100 countries, including 35 full national Mensas. However, our size does give us greater representation at the IBD meetings, giving us four National Representatives on the Board. Those members are our Chair (LaRae Bakerink), First Vice Chair (Lori Norris), Treasurer (Taz Criss), and Second Vice Chair (Billie Lee). A fifth National Rep (Secretary (Jason Seiler)) serves if our membership exceeds 50,000. This year due to surgery Lori was unable to attend, and Jason attended in her place.

Generally the members of American Mensa do not pay much attention to Mensa International, as evidenced by the low voter turnout during the International Election. However, since we are part of the International community, and must follow the Mensa International Constitution, some members may be more interested in the activities of the IBD than they think.

The agendas and minutes of the annual meetings, as well as other documents and reports, are available at the Mensa International website at https://www.mensa.org/members/international-governance. You will need to register to log in if you don't already have a profile, since the American Mensa login does not work on the international site, but getting a logon is simple to do by providing your membership number and identifying information.

____________________________________

I would like to thank Albia Dugger for once again volunteering to serve as Region 10 Scholarship Chair for the 2020 Mensa Foundation Scholarship program. The Local Group Scholarship Chairs will be looking for volunteers to serve as judges, with the submission process already underway. Essays will be available after December 1, and judging will begin shortly after that.

____________________________________

On October 10th, Wynn Rostek of Space Coast Area Mensa (SCAM) passed away after a long illness. Wynn had been a member continuously since 1978, and served as a leader in SCAM for many of those years, including terms as their newsletter editor and Local Secretary (LocSec), as well as the Region 10 Scholarship Chair. Most recently he was serving as the Assistant LocSec for the group. As a dedicated leader, he agreed to step in even within the past couple of months when volunteers were needed to run for the SCAM Executive Committee. He was one of the first Mensa leaders that I met outside of my own local group during the SCAM Regional Gathering, and always had support, encouragement and advice to offer me as I took on my own leadership roles in Tampa Bay Mensa. I will miss him greatly.

____________________________________

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 October

October is Mensa Testing Month. By now you should have all received your MVP (Mensa Voucher Program) Code, which better than last year can be used by multiple prospects, so invite all your friends and relatives to get their free voucher! It's been demonstrated that friends and family members are the most likely to join after qualifying, so you are our best ambassadors. (Just remember that they need to request the voucher before showing up for the test.)

____________________________________

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met on September 6-7 at the National Headquarters in Arlington, Texas. Saturday was our regular quarterly meeting, where we conducted business including reports from our Treasurer Taz Criss (with an investment presentation from Frost Investments) and our Executive Director Trevor Mitchell (with reports from each of the national office department heads). Along with approving new national appointments, we approved three motions (clarifying the AG policy on Speaker Compensation, updating the AML Investment Fund Policy, and disbanding the Local Group Logistics team).

____________________________________

I'd like to congratulate Brian Reeves of Palm Beach Area Mensa for his appointment as National Advocate, taking over the role from Elissa Rudolph (coincidentally also from Palm Beach Area Mensa). That means there's now an opening for Region 10 Ombudsman, so I'm looking for candidates. If you are interested in the position, please let me know. September is also when we hold our annual planning session. Starting from our current financial and marketing status and member demographics along with known strengths and challenges, we brainstormed ideas for setting the 2020-2025 strategy, and the results will be compiled for our next meeting.

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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