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May 2008 RVC Column

(Written and posted 4/5/08)

Northwest Passages

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

San Francisco was as beautiful as ever when the American Mensa Committee (AMC) arrived for our board meeting at the end of March. Whenever we were not hard at work in the Holiday Inn's windowless meeting rooms, we would gather in the hospitality suite with its glorious views of Nob Hill, downtown San Francisco, and San Francisco Bay.

While we visited with local Mensa members in the suite, we were treated to a delightful array of refreshments provided by our hosts, San Francisco Regional Mensa (SFRM). Many thanks to SFRM Board Member Michael Eager, who served admirably as the AMC Meeting Coordinator; to SFRM Scribe Susan Heimlich and SFRM Board Member Barbara Canup, who helped out throughout the weekend; and to SFRM LocSec Alan Winson for all his efforts. My fellow AMC members and I appreciated how much you all did to help make our stay comfortable, enjoyable, and productive.

As usual, the AMC meeting had a packed agenda. Here are some of the items the AMC discussed during the meeting, and what their impacts are likely to be:

Executive Director Pam Donahoo gave a report presenting the research that has been done on testing so far and the plans involving testing in American Mensa for the coming year. This led to a wide-ranging and thorough discussion by the AMC. The summary of the points raised during the discussion will be reviewed by the National Office and the Planning Committee, and recommendations for actions supporting our testing program in the near term will be forthcoming.

Dave Remine, Chair of the Hearings Process Review Committee, facilitated the next discussion. The recommendations of Dave's committee are intended to simplify and streamline the hearings process for the benefit of all Mensa members, while reducing the burden on the volunteers who serve on the Hearings Committee. Dave presented the alternatives under consideration by the committee, and asked the AMC for feedback. The responses from AMC members will help the committee make some key decisions as they continue with their work.

A third discussion item concerned the short-term goal of bringing American Mensa's business practices into the 21st century. I facilitated the discussion on behalf of the Planning Committee. The AMC generally agreed that new methods and new technologies would be at the heart of our efforts to communicate with members at all levels of American Mensa and Mensa International. We discussed a variety of new communication methods and how to use them: cell phones, forums on the Web, podcasts, YouTube promotions, electronic groups, and social networking sites will all be in the mix. At the same time, we noted that we have to pay attention to our business practices, clarify our relationships and protect what is integral to our culture. This is an area in which American Mensa will see a great deal of change and growth in the near future.

The last discussion item on the agenda brought TeenSIG Coordinator Alexis Wise to the table, and Alexis made a terrific impression on all present as she spoke about issues involving teens in Mensa. The discussion turned on current plans for recruiting and involving teens at the local and national levels, how TeenSIG can help, and what can be done to assure that issues relevant to teen Mensa members and prospective members will be addressed. What the AMC hopes to see as a result is better coordination among the various committees, groups, and individuals concerned with assisting teens, and new resources and opportunities for participation for teens in Mensa at all levels.

Under new business, the AMC considered the question of approval of the budget for the new fiscal year that began April 1. There was one provision in the budget that was closely questioned, and that was to provide $35,000 for a consulting firm to study the issue of governance in Mensa and to make recommendations for changes that would allow us to streamline our operations and to increase our efficiency. This question has been taken up by the AMC in the past and failed every time, yet it has kept coming back because in the judgment of the AMC there are great opportunities for improvement. A majority voted to keep the item in the budget, and Tecker Consultants was selected by the Planning Committee to conduct the study. There will be much more to come on this topic as Tecker begins its work, and I will discuss this effort in detail in upcoming columns.

The last business item that I will specifically mention here was the recommendation of the Finance Committee for a dues increase to $59 per year, effective with the 2009-2010 dues year. This, by the way, has nothing to do with the cost of the consultant, which will be a one-time-only expenditure of about 1% of the total budget for one year, and which, it is hoped, will be repaid by savings from improvements in our operations. The reason for the proposed dues increase was that we had reached the point in our revenue and budgeting cycle when the impact of the previous increase no longer allowed us to operate without dipping into our reserves. The Finance Committee also felt that a larger increase would be more acceptable than several smaller increases. Any proposal for a dues increase must appear on two consecutive agendas, so this item was automatically carried over to the agenda for the July meeting at the AG.

There were quite a few other items on the agenda, but I haven't the space to go into them here. If you have questions or comments about what we covered at the AMC meeting, please email me at rvc8@us.mensa.org. In addition, please watch for new Web pages on the AML Web site that will discuss our strategic planning efforts in more detail, and which will talk about ways in which you could take part in planning Mensa's future. Finally, I hope to see you at the Oregon Mensa's RG during the first weekend in May, and I'll be happy to discuss all this in person. Hope to see you there!