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RVC Chat - July 2012
by Andrew Heffernan

I enjoy Mensa more than any other organization I am involved with. I think the reason for this is the wide variety of interests and ways to be involved. Trust me, I am involved with some GREAT local organizations. Odyssey of the Mind, American Society of Non-Destructive Testing, AGATE, Public Radio Stations, 5k Running Mentoring, and more. But the focus of these organizations is narrow. And this suits them very well. Mensa does not have small range of focus. We are selective in that only the most intelligent are allowed in, but after that the interests and goals cover the entire spectrum. This is a strength, and one of the greatest reasons I love Mensa.

But, a largely diversified membership brings with it a similar set of expectations and this can be a weakness as well. And Mensa is not immune to this. Because our members come from all occupations, geographic areas, different income brackets, various ages and speak many languages it can be very difficult to know how to be an engaging organization for all. It is quite evident that we struggle at this when we acknowledge that 50% of all first year members will not renew. There is lots of talk at the National level about building the Mensa brand, and exposing the organization to a wider audience. While this is important, and critical at a National level we should not let it overshadow where the real challenge is. Where the real potential to revolutionize Mensa exists. At the Local groups.

Most members will never attend a National event. Most will never attend a Regional event either. Lots will never attend a local event. And many will not renew because they do not get the value out of their membership. So, the question I ask myself is, "How do I share my LOVE for Mensa with others?" And the answer I keep coming back to is personal connection.

The last board meeting I voted to increase local group funding. This is because the local groups are where personal connection with Mensa can most easily occur. The internet is great, but meeting Mensans face-to-face means having the "ah-ha" moment when you realize that there are other intelligent people in this world who understand your ideas, your jokes, your curiosity in all things amazing. If local groups can use funding to host a wider variety of events then it is my expectation that a wider variety of people will find personal connection with Mensa. The missing piece is that the leadership development needed to support increased local group spending is not developed. This was the greatest objection to increased local funding by the Board in March. Many board members insisted that local groups do not know how to effectively spend funding. I disagree. I think that with more funding the local groups could engage more members, improve retention, and finally bring an increase in membership. Something we have not had some several years.

Since joining the Board I have come to appreciate Mensa even more. There are great challenges ahead for Mensa, and it will need to adapt to the world around it. And I am excited to part of that growth. If you know of areas of leadership development that should be addressed in your local group, please share these thoughts with me. Thank you, for your support, and if I can help you in any way, please let me know.

Are you interested in making a difference in Mensa? Begin preparing for the 2013 elections today.

Andrew Heffernan

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