Jon Gruebele Regional Vice Chair Local Group Newsletter Articles from 2024

May 2024 – Board of Directors (AMC) Meeting Update

On March 9, your AMC met in Dallas, TX. The proposed annual dues increase from $79 to $107 (35%) passed on an 8-5 vote. While some increase was needed, I felt this proposal went too far and voted against it. 3-year, 5-year, and additional family memberships are tied to annual dues and therefore also increased on April 1st. Lifetime dues are calculated differently based on cost and annuity factors. These may be adjusted as often as annually and were last increased in January.

While I fervently hope these additional revenues won’t be offset by a significant membership decline, that’s certainly possible. The new dues are only $8.92/month, but we bill annually. Crossing that psychological 3-digit barrier is worrisome.

The budget for fiscal year 2024-2025 starting April 1st was also approved. It assumed some but not much additional revenue resulting from the new dues rates. Most membership renewals are expected to happen at the old rates. We’ll get some added revenue from people who renew late or from new members. Offsetting that increase are the multi-year or life memberships that were purchased in the past, meaning we’re still recognizing those revenues at the old rates.

The budget included an increase to the Local Group funding from $0.85 to $0.96/member/month (13%). I would hope that could again be increased in future years as the full effect of any additional revenues is felt. The Regional Vice Chair (RVC) allotment was increased from $2,000 to $3,000. This should help RVCs stay in touch with their Local Groups, particularly in Regions where RVCs have to fly to get to them. Sadly, our already meager advertising budget was reduced to just $78,000.

Our Executive Director reported our membership numbers through March 8th were 47,661. We gained a few more members through the end of the fiscal year, ending around 48,167. That’s down about 629 or 1.3% from fiscal year-end 2023. This continues a downward trend we’ve seen since our peak in 2010.

On the bright side, net sales from the Mensa Store are expected to exceed $100,000 this year. This is one way we get revenues from sources other than member dues. Please feel free to buy a t-shirt or something.

We had some position changes initiated by the resignation of Angie Christie as 1st Vice Chair. Our 2nd Vice Chair Baker Ring assumed her position. We chose not to backfill the 2nd Vice Chair spot for the couple of months before the upcoming election.

Finally, the AMC election will remain open until mid-May. Please review the candidates’ qualifications and vote for the best. Since many members don’t vote, yours will carry much more weight than usual. You’ll be voting for Secretary, Treasurer, and 2nd Vice Chair – for which I am one of two candidates.

April 2024 – Meet the New Boss, Different from the Old Boss

My term as Regional Vice Chair 4 (RVC4) ends in June, but I’ve been striving to avoid lame duck mode. I’m trying to keep up the energy I’ve shown all along by actively staying in contact with Local Group members and leadership – in person as much as possible.

I’ve also been corresponding with many members concerned about the proposed dues increase. By the time you read this article, it will have passed or not. While some dues increase is needed, I feel the jump to $107 was too much and therefore voted against the motion. Hopefully you renewed your membership before March 31st to take advantage of the current pricing.

I’ve also been campaigning for the nationally elected Second Vice Chair Board of Directors (AMC) seat. That’s kept me busy too, although in truth I’ve been at it for a year now. While reasonably well known in our Region – hopefully favorably – I now need to extend that recognition nationally. Since the beginning of last year, I’ve attended twelve RGs, our AG, and Mind Games®.

Regardless of how the election plays out, we’ll have mostly new faces on the AMC. Eight of the ten RVC positions will be filled by someone new; the remaining two are contested and may or may not be won by an incumbent. For the five nationally elected roles, three will be filled by current AMC members, although only one will retain her current job: Chair Lori Norris. The Treasurer and Second Vice Chair spots are contested by current AMC members and people who would be new to the AMC. If won by incumbents, both would be new to those roles. Out of fifteen total positions, we’ll have somewhere between eight and twelve people new to the AMC.

Here in Region 4, Matt Crawford ran unopposed and was declared elected as RVC4. Starting mid-April, our members may vote in three contested races: Secretary, Treasurer, and Second Vice Chair – the job I’d like to have. Depending on how you have your preferences set, you’ll be notified about how to vote by e-mail or snail mail.

Elections are of course important – even if we often see 90% or more of members not voting. By being among those who do, you’d be honoring the volunteers willing to donate their time and expertise to make Mensa better. Please review the campaign materials and vote for the best candidates!With so many new board members, it’ll be important to have a good transition. We’re already considering ways to on-board the new team. I’ve been compiling a “list of stuff you should probably know if you don’t already” for Matt, and I’ll foist it upon him at an opportune time. It’s already five pages long. Sorry about that, Matt.

March 2024 – Decisions, Decisions

Because reasons, American Mensa’s fiscal year runs April 1st through March 31st. This means many of our memberships will expire at the end of March. If you’re in that situation, you get to decide whether to lapse, renew, or potentially purchase a discounted 3-year, 5-year, or lifetime membership.

The good news is that even if it passes, the dues increase proposal on the agenda for the March board of directors (AMC) meeting won’t go into effect until April 1st. Should dues increase to $107, you can still renew at the current $79 annual rate through March 31st. That equates to just $6.58 a month.

Last fiscal year, 88.2% of members renewed. Lapsed member surveys cite issues including a challenging financial situation; not enough value; and a lack of local, regional, or national activities of interest.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of our events – both in-person and virtual. I attended Mind Games® and thirteen other RGs and AGs last year. I had a ball at every one. Post-pandemic, new virtual events have abounded. Check our national events calendar ( for upcoming on-line sessions. If you can’t find something you like, consider hosting something you do like!

Some people are located far away from events, may have transportation issues, or be experiencing financial challenges. They may find the monthly dinner at the Olive Garden mundane – despite the unlimited breadsticks. Conversely, some find that just reading the Bulletin and local group newsletters is enough. I’m delighted we have these members too, although I wish I could meet them in person someday.

74.0% of our first-year members also renewed. That’s pretty good, but this lower renewal rate implies some new members don’t find as much value as the rest of us. Maybe – like me – they mistakenly thought a Mensa membership would help their job prospects. Maybe they were looking for deep conversations about existentialism, dark matter, or national fiscal policy – and instead found us pontificating about the latest board games. I suspect many simply didn’t attend any events or get involved by volunteering. Surveys show that members who do that are much happier with their membership.

We all have our own reasons for being members. I bought a life membership back when dues were $45. That was one of my better financial decisions, and I’ve had the joy of belonging ever since. Even if I had to pay the equivalent of $6.58 a month, I’d still consider it a bargain.

Finally, please remember that you must renew by March 31st to vote in our upcoming national election. Those of us who are volunteering to serve you on the AMC would appreciate you considering the candidates and casting your vote. There are multiple contested positions, and the winners will lead the organization over the next three years.

February 2024 – The December Board of Directors (AMC) Meeting: Dues and Officer Conduct

Last month I wrote about a proposal to increase annual dues 35% from $79 to $107, with multi-year dues increasing proportionally. This passed at the December 9th AMC meeting but must pass again at the March meeting to go into effect. Timely membership renewals for the upcoming year wouldn’t be affected, but renewals after April 1st would.

Inflation since the last dues increase would have taken dues to $99.20. The additional $7.80 increase was justified by a desire to fund our “business needs”.

Unfortunately, there are no firm commitments regarding where the additional revenue would be spent, only ideas. Since the proposed increase would happen on April 1st, most renewals would be done at the old $79 rate; therefore, 2024-25 fiscal year revenues would only be marginally affected. The full impact would be felt in 2025-26, and the budget for that won’t be approved until Spring, 2025. We’d have to wait until then to finalize how the additional revenue would be used.

Ideas for funding increases have included:

  • Increased Local Group subsidies. This was last changed in 2015 and stands at $0.85 per member per month.
  • Improving service and support to improve the member experience
  • Updating our existing technology
  • Better funding for marketing to attract new members (Note: the entire 2023-2024 advertising budget was a paltry $87,000.)
  • Improving National Office employee salary competitiveness
  • Adding pages to the Bulletin to be more in line with past issues
  • Additional funding for RVCs who sometimes have expenses they pay out of their own pocket when their budget is insufficient.​

And the list goes on.

While I agree that some dues increase is needed, I’m not a fan this proposal’s magnitude. I’m concerned we may see significant membership decreases, particularly since we’re crossing that psychologically important $99 threshold. We obviously won’t know what will happen to membership until any dues increase goes into effect.

I am also concerned we haven’t done our due diligence in reviewing National Office operations to determine where efficiencies could be achieved. Are there tasks that could be outsourced? Our membership has dropped 15% from our peak in 2010. Have we adjusted our staffing and operations accordingly? How could an increased focus on quality reduce rework and pay efficiency dividends?

In the end, I voted against the measure in December. Stay tuned for the results of the March vote.One other action taken at the meeting prohibits AMC members and the National Ombuds from concurrently serving as Local Group LocSec, Treasurer, Editor, RG Chair, local or regional Ombuds, or any other position authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the Local Group. This improves our governance by prohibiting someone from having oversight over their own actions. I voted in favor of this motion.

January 2024 – Updates About Dues, Governance, and Elections

​Happy New Year!

Dues: A motion from the Finance Committee for the December 9th Board of Directors (AMC) meeting would raise annual dues from $79 to $107, or over 35%. That would be effective April 1st, but timely membership renewals wouldn’t cost more until 2025. Our bylaws say an increase cannot go into effect unless passed at two separate AMC meetings. If approved, it will be voted on again – probably in March – so you have time to let us know your thoughts.

The Committee justified their motion by noting that inflation since the last dues increase in 2017 would mean dues should currently be $99.20. They further stated that if we were spending at a “level appropriate with all of [American Mensa’s] business needs, there would be an annual deficit of around $800,000.” They projected that this dues increase would boost revenues between $625,000 and $967,000, even with a possible 10% drop in membership.

I am frankly concerned about this proposal. The motion’s wording is dictated by our bylaws, so there’s no indication where the extra money will be used – and we won’t have specifics until the 2025-26 budget is proposed in Spring, 2025. There are certainly many good ideas including additional Local Group support, technology upgrades, increased marketing, and more competitive salaries for our staff. For now, however, those are only suggestions.

While some dues increase is likely needed, this large jump crosses that psychologically important $99 level into triple digits. Surveys repeatedly express concerns about the value members receive for the dues they pay. I’m afraid this could cause us to continue the gradual membership decline we’ve seen since our peak of 57,947 in 2010.

Governance: The Governance Task Force met in late November to discuss how we run Mensa. Our Actions Still in Effect (ASIEs) and job descriptions clearly need review. We need to grow skilled leaders and have robust onboarding processes at the national level.

Pundits generally set an effective board size at 7 or 9; we have 21 including non-voting members. New York law hamstrings us when selecting Regional Vice Chairs (RVCs), particularly with mid-term replacements. It’s possible a board model with a Chair, 1st Vice Chair, Treasurer, and several at-large members could be more effective. The RVC position could continue, but perhaps not as an AMC member. That could help make the role more manageable for people with day jobs. Stay tuned as we continue pondering alternatives.

Elections: Candidates seeking office have until January 31st to get on the ballot. Please take a moment to electronically sign as many petitions as you’d like by navigating to Nationally elected positions require 250 signatures; RVCs need 100. It’s often a challenge to overcome that threshold, so your participation in the process is most welcome.

Feedback? Please contact me at or via phone/text at +1 309 693 1359. Region 4’s  Facebook group is:​

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