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American Mensa Region 10

RVC Column

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September 2020

The next meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) will be via GoToMeeting on Saturday, September 12, 2020. At this time the agenda has not been published, so I have nothing to report regarding national actions. But that gives me column space to talk about the new strategic priorities for 2020-2025, and what it means for local groups and members.

There are three planks to the strategic priorities: Outreach, Value, and Diversification of Revenue Streams.

Outreach involves several levels of promoting Mensa as a brand and organization through various channels. This is not a new goal, but we're looking at additional ways to achieve it. At the local group level we depend on programs such as our Mensa Cares! activities, which put our name before the public for various community services, such as working food banks, book drives, or participating in fundraising activities such as the Miles For Moffitt Race for Cancer Research. At a member level, we depend on individual pride in membership, letting friends and family know that you are members and inviting them to join. In the past we've done that through testing vouchers for friends and family, although during the pandemic most testing efforts have been put on hold. But there's also Mensa-branded merchandise that you can get through the Mensa Store (https://www.mensastore.com/), or using the digital badges that members were invited to receive in August via an email from Acclaim, which securely validates your membership on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Value involves providing meaningful value for the dues that our members pay. For some that includes the Mensa Bulletin, the local group newsletters, and their membership card (or so we're told in our member surveys). But there's more, and should be more, and that comes through activities and communities in which our members participate. While the pandemic has decreased the number of in-person events that we can hold, we've seen an increase in online events, such as monthly speaker meetings and happy hours from Palm Beach Area Mensa or the online Book Club and Podcast Club from Tampa Bay Mensa. And the national events calendar (https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/calendar/) has been opened up to include speaker meetings and watch parties, so you could join a meeting with a speaker in San Francisco Area Mensa or watch movies with the Disnerd Ms group. There are even Virtual RGs appearing, such as the LonestaRG V-RG being hosted by Central Texas Mensa over Labor Day weekend. Add to this a list of over 120 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that members can participate in (which can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/connect/sigs/), and we hope that we are providing that value to our members.

Diversification of Revenue Streams looks for additional sources of income that will allow Mensa to keep the dues down. Most of our operating revenue comes from dues, but the more that we can get from testing, licensing, and corporate partnerships, the less pressure there is on dues revenue to keep us moving. Some of these include revenue from the Mensa Store (mentioned above), licensing our name for puzzle books, or corporate partnerships with GEICO. Our development office is constantly looking for new ways to develop revenue streams that can allow us to maintain our member services.


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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

August 2020

The American Mensa Committee (AMC) met via GoToMeeting on July 11, 2020, with a real-time option for observers to view the meeting via YouTube. There was significantly more observance of this meeting than the usual July meetings held at Annual Gatherings, which have to compete with the wide variety of programming happening at the same time.

One section of the meeting is always an announcement of Actions Taken Between Meetings by the ExComm (the five nationally-elected officers plus one RVC selected by the RVCs). The primary items of note were the resolution of the cancelled 2020 Annual Gathering in Kansas City (rescheduled to 2024), a temporary suspension of the print newsletter requirement due to the pandemic (because many groups need to meet in person to assemble and mail their newsletters), and a clarification that the "AMC Statement on George Floyd and Racism" was released to the general membership by the Chair without vote of the AMC.

There were three presentations at the meeting. The Treasurer's report is part of every meeting, and this quarter some of the changes to our financial situation due to the pandemic were noted, including a drop in membership but also some resulting drops in expenses and efforts to find other areas in which expenses could be curbed. There was an update by Jon Grubele (RVC4) on the status of the Strategic Planning Committee, and a short discussion regarding establishing a national Code of Conduct (no motions or actions were put forth from this discussion).

The majority of the meeting was taken up with pros and cons of the motion to remove the official status of the two American Mensa Facebook groups by removing "American Mensa" from their titles and moving their ownership from AML to SIGs (Special Interest Groups). Response was mixed, and the motion to change the Facebook groups' status passed with some dissent (including my own), but not before it was modified to include an implementation clause, which created a Task Force to recommend a plan to be voted on at the September AMC meeting. This Task Force has been titled the "Social Media Transition Task Force" and includes the two movers of the motion (Billie Lee, 2nd Vice Chair and Lori Norris, 1st Vice Chair), the Communications Officer (Lora Mitchell), the Membership Officer (Stephanie Thornton), the National SIGs officer (Nancy Farrar), and three RVCs (Ian Randal Strock (RVC1), John Neemidge (RVC6), and Thomas George Thomas (RVC10)). There will also be a representative from the active membership of each of the two Facebook groups (Firehouse and Hospitality), the selection of whom is still in progress as of this writing.

One side note: Although it is required by our ASIEs (Actions Still In Effect) to provide a forum for member discussion, this requirement is met by the Mensa Connect Communities (https://www.us.mensa.org/connect/mensa-connect/), and does not dictate that Facebook be used for this purpose. The change in status of the Facebook groups does not violate AML's responsibility to its members as some have been claiming.

The mini-minutes for the July meeting, as well as copies of the presentations, may be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/. The next meeting of the AMC will be via GoToMeeting on Saturday, September 12, 2020.


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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

July 2020

Because the 2020 Annual Gathering in July was cancelled, the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting has been rescheduled and will occur via a GoToMeeting teleconference on Saturday, July 11, 2020. The agenda is not available as of this writing, but should be available soon at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/.

 The Annual Business Meeting (ABM) is also held each year at the Annual Gathering, so it has been tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, July 25. The ABM is where the AMC Chair (LaRae Bakerink), Treasurer (Taz Criss), Executive Director (Trevor Mitchell) and Foundation President (Marie Mayer) present their Annual Reports. It also provides a forum for member comments and votes on member-generated referenda for the 2021 election. All members are invited, and in fact we must have 100 member attendees to have a quorum to conduct business, but at this time I do not have the details on how this will be managed. Those should be available soon and will be announced via the Mensa Wired newsletter to members and on the website events calendar at https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/calendar/, among other places. I will also post the details on the Region 10 Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/ as well as the various local group Facebook groups. We intend to have the ABM reports recorded for viewing afterwards, but I encourage anyone with an interest in the functions of the national organization to attend this meeting.

 In other AMC business, there has been a recent change within the AMC ranks. Alexander Huth has resigned as Marketing Officer, and Tabby Vos has been selected to fill the role for the rest of the term. Tabby has an extensive volunteer history in Mensa, including chairing the "Pandemic" RG for Metropolitan Washington Mensa, serving on the national GenX ExComm and chairing the national Elections Committee and 2020 Annual Gathering (which would have been amazing if extenuating circumstances had not forced us to cancel it).


 On Tuesday, June 9, LaRae Bakerink released a statement on behalf of the AMC predicated by recent incidents demonstrating abuses of positions of authority, racism, and institutionalized inequality. These drew into focus not just incidents in the rest of the U.S., but also within American Mensa. Although our policy (ASIE* 1986-068) specifies that "bigotry and prejudice is antithetical to the nature of American Mensa", these are frequently in evidence in online discussion groups and even in-person at events and gatherings. This has often been excused as, "Well, that's just Bob being Bob", but that doesn't dilute the damage it does to the reputation of the organization, particularly with new members who encounter bad behavior in their first encounters and then never come back, and who then spread the word outside the organization that Mensa in an uninviting organization that tolerates bigotry, bullying and racism.

 American Mensa has a long tradition of spirited debate -- in fact, the Debate Rooms at Annual Gatherings are one of the more popular programs. But these debates have historically been civil. Recent events have seen our debates becoming somewhat less than civil -- sometimes toxic -- and the AMC is working to address some of these concerns going forward.

 Some of the feedback we've received bears this out. While most has been supportive, some has been hostile -- even threatening in a couple of cases. Nevertheless, the most important thing for those of us in the AMC to do before taking actions is to listen. If you have feedback, I look forward to hearing it.


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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

June 2020

The March teleconference meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was brief, and all motions except the newsletter clarification motion passed. There were a couple of additional motions not included in my previous column. The AMC voted to approve the appointment Charlie Steinhice as the new Director of Science and Education (non-voting member of the AMC), who replaces Keri Guilbault in the position for the remainder of the 2019-2021 term. We also voted to accept the application of Dr. Renee Lexow as the new Supervisory Psychologist for American Mensa, following the retirement of Dr. G. Frank Lawlis. The role of the Supervisory Psychologist includes providing the license under which our Proctors may administer the Mensa Admission Test sessions.

The mini-minutes have been posted to https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/. Please let me know if you have any questions.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our Mensa activities. Florida has only recently begun to relax some of the restrictions placed earlier, and most local groups have not yet reestablished their regular events. The Tampa Bay Mensa RG for Memorial Day weekend has been cancelled, and they plan to hold it in the same location in Ybor City in 2021. The Annual Gathering in Kansas City MO has also been cancelled, but because contracts are already in place for the next few years (Houston in 2021, Reno in 2022 and Baltimore in 2023), the Kansas City AG has been rescheduled for 2024.

Local Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) are finding ways to compensate for the inability to meet in person. I've attended Local Group ExComm meetings over Zoom with Tampa Bay Mensa and Palm Beach Area Mensa, with a meeting scheduled on May 16 with Northwest Florida Mensa following a trial run during a Zoom happy hour in early May. Central Florida Mensa held a Netflix Watch Party of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and other groups have also held Zoom happy hours. I expect that we will be seeing more virtual events like these, even after physical distancing relaxes further.

Mensa is at its heart a social organization, and for many members this exclusively means meeting in person. But situations evolve, and members have been adapting to our changing circumstances. For some it has been challenging due to the "digital divide" and difficulty in picking up the necessary tools for remote participation, but for others it has been a revelation, as they are able to participate in events that they could not access in the past. Virtual meetings will never fully replace face-to-face interactions nor should they, in my opinion, but having the option to expand and have both will give Mensa the ability to serve more members over the long term.

What sort of ideas do you have for new and innovative events as we move forward? Are there things you would like to see Mensa doing that virtual gathering will accommodate? I'd love to hear your feedback.


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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

April 2020

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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

March 2020

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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

February 2020

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/
Twitter: @FardleBear

January 2020

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 benefitting 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
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/
Twitter: @FardleBear

Past columns: 2019

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