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November 2005 RVC Column

(Written and posted 10/8/05)

Northwest Passages

RVC Column for November Newsletters in Region 8
by John Recht, Region 8 RVC

This fall marked the debut of Oregon Mensa's newest fundraiser, and one of the oldest in the book: a garage sale. In one day, more than $620 was raised for their scholarship fund, but this was only part of the story. In addition, a number of members came together and made an all-day party out of it; advance publicity for the sale offered an excellent opportunity to raise public awareness about the scholarship program; and the publicity also attracted at least one prospective new member.

This kind of success begs for replication, so I ask each of the twelve local groups in Region 8 to do the same thing during the next year. My imagination runs wild when I think of all the money we could raise from the general public for our local groups, and clear out our garages and attics at the same time. Even the smallest of our groups can do this, and it beats pouring coffee for donations at a freeway rest stop for a whole weekend, as at least one of our groups has done.

Once National Testing Day is over, it takes a special sort of event to get Mensa noticed by the media. Here's your chance; just make sure that the press release talks about raising money for scholarships, and then go to town. You could work with your Proctor Coordinator, and advertise a test in the same release. Hedge your bets in case you don't make the feature section or the local news, and spend a little money to advertise in the papers where the garage sale professionals look. Also, use all the free advertising you can, like www.craigslist.org and church bulletins. As one garage sale professional told me, make sure the sale runs both Saturday and Sunday, so that you get the after-church crowd. Also, be sure to have Mensa handouts available at the sale, and information about the scholarship program.

The position of Garage Sale Coordinator begs to be filled in each local group, and I offer this challenge to the region: which local group can raise the most money via garage sales by this time next year? Send me your success stories, and I will recap them a year from now.

As a matter of fact, the above idea fits in well with what I offered to do in September at the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting and planning session at the National Office in Arlington, TX. At the planning session, I agreed to follow up on reporting to the membership about what has worked in local groups. I will be asking my fellow Regional Vice Chairs in each of the other nine regions to solicit best practices from the local groups, and then I will work toward getting them published on the National website in a special section, complementing and adding to the ongoing efforts in the Mensa Handbooks, Mensa Bulletin, and Interloc. I will also be asking for the involvement of the Communications Committee and the Leadership Development Committee to help us publicize and build on one another's successes.

In sum, if there is something that you are doing in your local group that you would like to share, this is the ideal time to tell me about it. Earlier this summer, I had an excellent correspondence with Harold Ward, the former editor of Simensays in Southwest Idaho Mensa, who offered to share his information system that allowed him to automate many of his newsletter editing tasks, and I made sure that other editors in the region, our AMC Communications Officer, Robin Crawford, and Howard Prince, the Director of Operations in the National Office, all knew about Harold's system. What other ideas do you have that other Mensans should know about? Please send them to me at rvc8@us.mensa.org, and let's work together to make Mensa better.