First Vice Chairman

General Question

What do you think should be the balance between local groups, the AMC, and employees?

Dan Burg

Local groups, the AMC, and employees each have their place in the world of Mensa. Each has complex interactions both internally and with each other. Other aspects of Mensa, such as International, have their own roles to play. What they all have in common, though, is that each is dependent on and serves the collective group known as individual members.

The relationship between individual members and local groups, the AMC, and employees takes a bit of explanation. As good a place to start as any is with the Constitution of Mensa, the highest governing document in all of Mensa worldwide. The Constitution sets the tone and the standards for Mensa: People who score in the top 2% on certain tests qualify for membership, Mensa has no opinions, etc. The Constitution also provides for national chapters, called "national Mensas." Ours here in the U.S. is American Mensa, Ltd. (AML). The Constitution requires that each national Mensa have a governing body, which in American Mensa is called the "American Mensa Committee" (AMC), and a governing document, which in American Mensa is called the "Bylaws of American Mensa." The Bylaws may not violate the Constitution of Mensa or international requirements.

The AMC meets quarterly to adopt a budget and conduct other business. As American Mensa, Ltd. is a corporation, the AMC is also the corporate board of directors, with all the duties and responsibilities, legal and otherwise, that this status implies. The membership of American Mensa elects most of the AMC. The AMC currently consists of five nationally-elected members (Chairman, First and Second Vice-Chairmen, Secretary, Treasurer), ten regionally-elected members (Regional Vice-Chairmen), two former national Chairmen, and four appointed members (Communications, Development, and Membership Officers and Director of Science and Education). The AMC also hires an employee, the Executive Director, to run a business office to promote the aims of Mensa within the budget adopted by the AMC. The Executive Director, in turn, hires other employees to assist her in furthering these aims. The national office coordinates the testing and admissions program, promotes Mensa to the general public to attract new members, maintains the membership roster, etc. The office staff works with the AMC and with local groups to provide these services.

Analogously to the way national Mensas are formally allowed in the Constitution of Mensa, local groups within American Mensa are formally allowed in the Bylaws of American Mensa. Also analogously to the way bylaws of national Mensas are required to meet certain international requirements, bylaws of local groups within American Mensa are required to meet certain national requirements, known as the "Minimum Standard Bylaws for Local Groups." The Minimum Standards are designed to protect the rights of the individual members of local groups; examples include requiring elections, requiring that financial records be reviewed by someone who wasn't involved with the collection or disbursement of money during the period being reviewed, etc.

Local groups, the AMC, and employees serve individual members in different ways, but all work for the betterment of Mensa.

Jim Werdell

The partnership formed by the AMC, the National Office and Local Groups constitutes the backbone of American Mensa. Without any one of those entities, the organization would falter and become but a shadow of what it is today.

This partnership has evolved over the years, partly as a result of: additional dues revenues to fund expansion of the National Office; increased membership prompting the need for greater organizational management; and, changes in the legal environment necessitating the need for risk management and greater protection of the Mensa name and logo.

It's far easier to describe the partnership by identifying some of the functions of each part.

National Office
Maintenance of non-profit corporation standing
Compliance with applicable laws
Assistance in annual and regional gatherings
Development and maintenance of member
Management of the testing program
National newsletter publication
Development of strategies for finding
  new members and retaining existing members
Day-to-day management of the treasuries
  and investments

Member benefit review
Control of fiscal policies and expenditures
Development of policies for treasuries
  and investments
Support for local group problems
Protection of the Mensa name and logo
Maintenance of consistent local group bylaws
Oversight of the AML bylaws
Mensa International interface

Local Group Responsibilities
Fiscal status reporting
Newsletter and event calendar publication
Local testing management
Development of events and local benefits for

Although the above list is only a representative sample of the multitude of functions, the intertwined responsibilities act as a whole to insure a smoothly functioning, progressive and successful organization, with the following advantages:

Avoids unnecessary duplication of services
Shares expertise and systems
Projects a unified voice to the outside world
Provides an environment that attracts
  new members and retains existing members
Builds and maintains the Mensa image
Provides quantified member benefits
Protects the organization from the effects
  of litigious attacks
Maintains the integrity of the requirement
  for membership

The distribution of the functions I itemized above has evolved over time. I believe that they have been appropriately allocated. Unfortunately, there are few places in AML's official documents that identify where functions belong and fewer documents that show that all parties agree to and understand what those functions are. All agreements and understandings are informal.

The formalization of the agreements and understanding remains, and should be a task before the next AMC. The agreements may require negotiations, but there is no question that education will surely be required.

Specific Specific Question, Burg:
You currently chair the Name and Logo Committee. With the recent sponsoring of events by organizations and entities outside of Mensa, what do you think our policy should be regarding the use of Mensa-owned trademarks, which include the name “Mensa” and/or our distinctive logo?

International Mensa already has a well-developed policy regarding the use of Mensa-owned trademarks. I agree with this policy, and in fact helped develop the most recent (2002) updates to it:

Policy and Standards for Commercial Use of the `Mensa' Name

The `Mensa' name is a valuable asset and it is the duty of the Officers of the Society to preserve and protect that asset.

"Commercial Use" shall be defined as meaning the use of the `Mensa' name or logo on any product, service or activity offered to non-members of Mensa, but not including IQ tests.

All arrangements for commercial use of the name shall be subject to the following rules:

Any commercial use of the `Mensa' name or logo shall be consistent with Mensa's stated aims and objectives and shall not in any way lead the consumer or user to believe that they will in any way increase their IQ.

Permission or license to use the `Mensa' name and mark for commercial purposes shall not be granted for any product, service, or activity which would:

  • reflect upon Mensa in a derogatory or negative way;
  • be likely to diminish the reputation or standing of Mensa in the opinion of members or non-members;
  • be likely to cause injury or harm to the consumer or user.

In addition, the following exclusions shall apply, the `Mensa' name and logo shall not be used on:

  • anything that is illegal;
  • anything that is tied to religion;
  • anything that is connected with politics;
  • any sex or dating services;
  • any financial investments;
  • anything connected with gambling;
  • any alcoholic products;
  • any firearms;
  • any tobacco products;
  • any pharmaceutical products.

Unless there are other identifiable and measurable advantages to Mensa, monetary compensation shall be required when permission or license to use the `Mensa' name and mark is granted for commercial purposes.

Specific Question, Werdell:
You have been elected Director of Administration on the International Board of Directors, while at the same time runing for a position on the American Mensa Committee.  Why would this not pose a conflict of interest on your part, since on the one hand you would be trying to advance the goals of Mensa International while on the other hand you would seek to promote the positions of American Mensa within the IBD?  As an example, consider the question of a vote on an increase in the international component assessed to national Mensas by MIL

The question views the dual positions from a negative perspective. I believe that holding positions on the two boards actually provides an opportunity, and, therefore, represents a positive situation.

Looking at the issue from this positive perspective, the dual roles mean that AML will have an additional vote on the IBD in situations where my international responsibilities are moot. In addition, the international experience and knowledge gained from the international position has and will provide a much better perspective of the Mensa International arena when I participate on the AMC.

It is rather easy to answer this question since I have held dual positions for the past twenty-one months. As both AML Treasurer and MIL Director of Administration during that time, I have not encountered one instance where I have had to abstain because of a conflict of interest. The two votes on the international component, for example, were both unanimous. In fact, I have rarely seen a situation where an action that is beneficial to Mensa International is not beneficial to American Mensa. Even if such a conflict would present itself, I could easily resolve it by abstaining on a vote or recusing myself from participation in an activity.

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