​​​Jon Gruebele Regional Vice Chair Local Group Newsletter Articles from 2017

December 2017

My next several articles will discuss how American Mensa works and what our finances look like. Today’s topic is governance. We have probably all questioned why things in Mensa are done the way they are. In order, this is the hierarchy of the rules we follow:

  • U.S. federal laws
  • New York state laws (where American Mensa is incorporated)
  • Mensa’s international constitution
  • American Mensa’s bylaws
  • Actions Still in Effect (ASIEs)
  • Local Group bylaws

If we want to do something differently, often we can just go ahead and change – if it doesn’t conflict with something within this hierarchy. If it does, then things get a bit more complicated. Changing our bylaws, for example, requires a vote of the membership. One way to get on the ballot is for someone to submit a proposed amendment with 250 member signatures. It will go into effect if approved by a 2/3 majority.

American Mensa’s Board of Directors (AMC) generally operates at the ASIE level. A board member can make a motion to adopt a change, and this will be approved if seconded and approved by a majority of voting AMC members. These include the Chair, 1st Vice Chair, 2nd Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and 10 Regional Vice Chairs. We have national elections for these positions every two years. All American Mensa’s existing bylaws and ASIEs are available on-line.

If you have ideas about how we can improve by doing things differently, please let us know. It may not be quick or easy to change, but change is indeed possible.

One of the AMC’s responsibilities is to hire the National Office’s Executive Director who manages our professional staff in Arlington, TX. Our long time Director Pam Donahoo elected to resign effective mid-November to pursue a new opportunity. I would hope you could join us in thanking Pam for her 20 plus years of service to American Mensa and wishing her well in her future endeavors. As I’m writing this, the AMC is starting the process to select an interim leader and determining what we will do for the longer term.

November 2017
I was recently asked: “What attributes does a successful Local Group have?” Here are my initial thoughts:

  • A diverse, growing membership
  • Leaders who do what’s needed to engage the members
  • A vibrant, varied set of activities for members of all ages: gifted youth, young adults, and the boomers. These activities accommodate not only members who live in the group’s major metropolitan centers but also those who live in outlying areas. Community activities can be a part of these.
  • A willingness to take risks and sometimes fail. This includes encouragement and support for members who host new activities. One example I’ve heard about is a “no fail squad”, a team of members who show up at all new events to ensure a host isn’t the only one there the first time.
  • Rather than having just a handful of volunteers who do everything, the group has many willing volunteers who fill all needed roles including ExCom, editor, gifted youth, scholarship, ombudsman, etc.
  • Leaders who embrace encouraging and teaching others to become leaders
  • Acceptance of Mensa members’ interesting personalities while not tolerating those who don’t play well with others. Rather than let problems fester, they are addressed quickly and appropriately.
  • A bank balance that’s neither too small (preventing the group from providing members with a meaningful Mensa experience) nor too large (meaning resources aren’t being used for their members’ benefit).
  • A cool newsletter and a robust on-line presence, including a web site and social media
  • If the group is large enough, Regional Gatherings (RGs)
  • A willingness to partner with neighboring Local Groups. This can be as simple as cross-listing events that might be of interest to other groups. Particularly for smaller groups, this can be a way to provide members with interesting events more frequently.
  • Enough patience to provide American Mensa with the needed paperwork (e.g. annual financial reporting)

We have examples of all these attributes in Region 4. Heart of Illinois and Sangamon Valley Mensa are great at sharing events. Several groups host terrific RGs. The list goes on. Of course, all our groups could improve in some way. If you have ideas on how to make yours better, step up and make it happen. Talk to your leadership and suggest ideas. If you do, consider volunteering your time, expertise, and passion to make your ideas a reality.

On another topic, the American Mensa Board of Directors (AMC) met for two days in September to refine our strategy and hold a board meeting. At the meeting, we heard several reports, passed a motion to allow filing charges against a former member, made several appointments, and cleaned up some motions from previous meetings. As always, the agenda and mini-minutes are available on the web site.

October 2017

Two months ago, my column discussed surveys of current Mensa members. I was asked: “Do we also survey lapsed members about why they don’t renew?” Indeed we do, and the results can help guide our efforts to deliver a better member experience.

The 2016 lapsed member survey got about a 10% response rate. Done in mid-May, it asked 15 questions and took about 6 minutes. The respondents’ answers were quite similar to the 2015 survey. Here are some of the findings:

  • 12% of lapsed members said they planned to renew; 40% had not yet decided. A sizeable minority (43%) of the undecided members had only been members 1-3 years. Outreach to lapsed members might encourage renewals.
  • About half of lapsed members reported they had lapsed before, so many may rejoin later.
  • Lapsed members are less involved with Mensa across the board. Only 54% read the Bulletin versus 95% of current members. Only half participated in any activities at all.
  • About half reported something about Mensa did not meet their expectations. Reasons cited included dues too high for the value received (64%), unappealing local group activities (51%), lack of local group activities (48%), local group activities too far away (39%), and negative experiences with other Mensans (19% in person and 13% on-line). Newer members also mentioned not having anyone their own age, local events limited to dinners out, not being contacted by the local group, and not being welcomed by other members. Others reported challenges such as changes in their financial situation.
  • When asked “What is one thing Mensa could do that might encourage you to renew in the future?”, respondents suggested holding a wider variety of activities including those that help cultivate our minds. They also recommended getting better at welcoming new members, lower dues / better value, and somehow addressing negative member interactions.

At every level, we should continue to improve our member experience. As a board (AMC) member, I will champion fiscal discipline to keep dues from increasing as long as possible. At the local group level, we can all get better at welcoming new members. If you go to a meeting and find someone sitting alone, chat with them for a few minutes. Anyone can host an activity, from a trip to a museum, a dinner theater, a minor league baseball game, or a walk in the woods. Let’s get creative!

Please join us at one of these upcoming regional events:

September 2017

If you haven’t already, please consider searching for the American Mensa Region 4 Facebook group and join us there for news and conversation about our region and our Local Groups.

On that national front, we held the first American Mensa Board of Directors (AMC) meeting of the 2017-2019 term at the Annual Gathering in Hollywood, FL. In short, we: 

  • Concurred with the recommendations of the Hearings Committee to expel a member for acts inimical to Mensa including filing suit against us before exhausting internal avenues of redress.
  • Changed the way a vacant Regional Vice Chair (RVC) position would be handled. Rather than splitting the duties amongst the remaining RVCs, a non-voting Regional Coordinator would be appointed to manage those responsibilities until the next election.
  • Clarified roles of regional appointees and how they will be selected.
  • Granted one Local Group a temporary exception to our Minimum Standard Bylaws while they adjust their bylaws. This allows them to participate remotely at their leadership meetings.
  • Filled a wide variety of appointed and committee positions.

We also held our members’ Annual Business Meeting in Hollywood. We heard reports about the past year’s results and indefinitely tabled a proposed bylaws amendment.

If anyone would like more details, Mini-Minutes and an audio recording of the AMC meeting are available on the American Mensa website under Lead -> Board of Directors (AMC) -> Meeting Reports. Under “Select Meeting”, choose “2017-07-06 – Hollywood, FL”. The Audited Financial Statements are available under Lead -> Financials by selecting the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

 I would also like to thank the wonderful people who have volunteered to be appointed to these Region 4 roles:

  • Assistant Regional Vice Chair Jeudi Juetten, Chicago Area Mensa
  • Regional Ombudsman Mark Pennow, Mensa of Wisconsin
  • Regional Scholarship Chair Jane Gmur, Minnesota Mensa
  • Regional Webmaster George Haynes, St. Louis Area Mensa

Finally, I hope to see you at one of these upcoming regional events:

August 2017

Hello everyone! If you’ve been a member for a while, you’ve probably received a Mensa survey. The latest member survey was conducted earlier this year by Membership Officer Stephanie Thornton. It had just 17 questions; 1,592 members responded. If you’ve wondered about the results, here’s a summary.

80% of members report being proud to be Mensa members, down 4% from 2015. Only 5% disagree with this statement.

We also asked: “What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of Mensa?” “Smart” and “intelligence” were of course the top two. While words such as “eccentric” and “argumentative” got a few mentions, the much more common answers included “friends”, “fun”, “interesting”, “games”, “gatherings”, and “conversation”.

Many members are at least partially in the closet about Mensa. While 89% of members have told their family, only 59% have told friends and 34% have told coworkers. 51% said they’d list Mensa on their résumé. There’s plenty of debate over this issue. I’ve seen several articles that suggest it might be counterproductive. I generally recommend people include it if their volunteer work for the organization (e.g. as LocSec) might be relevant to the job, but otherwise suggest they think twice.

Over half of our members report having volunteered for Mensa in some way. That included submitting content for publications, serving as a local group officer, organizing local events, or volunteering at an RG or AG.

One key metric we follow is a “net promoter score” (NPS). We ask the question: “How likely is it that you would recommend Mensa to a friend who you suspected would qualify?” The scale ranges from 0 (definitely not) to 10 (absolutely yes). If you answer 9 or 10, you are considered a promoter. 7 or 8 is considered neutral; 0 to 6 are considered detractors. The NPS is calculated by % promoters minus % detractors. A positive score is considered healthy.

Our latest NPS score is +23%, up from +19% in 2016 and +16% in 2015. Interestingly, the score is higher for older members than younger members. While 22 to 45-year-old members had an overall +4% NPS, those that age who were single without kids had the lowest NPS at -4%. We should consider ways to better serve these members.

Overall these are positive results, although there’s always plenty of room to improve. Additional details are available on-line in the Sharehouse, http://community.us.mensa.org/media/. Sign in and search for “2017 membership survey”.

Finally, I hope to see you at one of these upcoming regional events:

July 2017

Hello everyone! I'm Jon Gruebele, the newly elected Regional Vice Chair (RVC4) for the North Central United States. This position is one of 15 voting members on American Mensa’s Board of Directors, the AMC. I represent the members in your Local Group and eight others across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and parts of Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky.

I'd like to start by thanking all those who voted in the recent election. I really appreciate your interest in the issues and taking the time to cast your ballot. I would also like to thank our most recent RVC4 volunteers George Haynes, Ellen Voie, and Ken Silver, along with those who preceded them. They all did their best to help us move forward as an organization, contributing countless hours in the process.

National Mensa governance isn’t always that interesting to everyone, but it's important to the future of our organization. In upcoming newsletter articles, I will help communicate what we are doing and how it affects us locally.

I will also communicate about important issues and events across our Region. I’ll start with a shameless plug for Chicago’s HalloweeM Regional Gathering (RG), October 26 – 29. Registration rates go up the longer you wait, so please consider booking soon. See http://chicago.us.mensa.org/weem/index.php for details. If that isn’t exciting enough, our July 2018 national Annual Gathering (AG) will be in Indianapolis – within reasonable driving distance for most members in our Region.

Many Mensa members rarely if ever participate in events. Surveys show those who do are much happier with Mensa. RGs and AGs are terrific ways to start. They both offer similar experiences, just on different scales. HalloweeM usually has 500+ attendees; AG attendance can exceed 2,000. You’ll experience multiple speaker tracks, meals, games, tournaments, tours, and much more. Try it; you’ll like it! And yes, you can also sign up your guests to attend.

Feedback? Please contact me at rvc4@us.mensa.org, via phone or text at +1 309 693 1359. Region 4’s Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/americanmensaregion4.​

​Copyright © 2017 Jon W. Gruebele. All Rights Reserved.