Second Vice Chairman

General Question

How do you view the Minimum Standard Bylaws for local groups? Are they appropriate for a social organization? Please explain.

Tony Jackowski
Every organization, whether social or professional, needs to have some structure in order to run efficiently. Without some form of guidelines to follow, satellite branches of the organization (or Local Groups, in the case of Mensa), could begin to feel disconnected from the larger organization. Guidelines give our local groups a sense of formality, cohesion with the whole, and help build a strong local board. Many members believe that the Minimum Standards are carved in stone and must be obeyed at all costs. My personal belief is that the Minimum Standard Bylaws should be used as “Guidelines” for running the business of the local group. Strict adherence to them, especially when applied to local groups of less than 100 members, can be constricting, illogical and, in some cases, impossible to follow. My view should not be seen as endorsing the bending of our rules, but more of an unclenching of the fist to give our local groups a little flexibility. I would like to work toward a balance between a set of simple, core minimum standards, with a separate document containing suggestions and ideas from which local groups could draw to fit their individual needs. Whether Minimum Standard Bylaws or ASIEs, it has always seemed illogical to me to create rules that will not or can not be followed, or will be ignored by the majority of our local groups.

Scott Rainey
This question is about the relationship between American Mensa, Limited, and our local groups. A minimum standard for bylaws is certainly appropriate for a social organization of our size and complexity. That said, the process by which we generate, review and approve them at the national level could definitely stand review.

Getting from: “The way we’ve always done things” to: “A better way to do things,” is neither simple, nor without it’s own challenges. It is just one of the issues I hope to address if our members decide to hire me for this office.

Elissa Rudolph
The minimum standard bylaws for local groups are loose guidelines designed to assist the local officers in managing their members’ funds. Any time there is money involved, there needs to be a set of rules to govern the utilization of that money. Officers in any organization that involves members’ money, not-for-profit (which is what American Mensa is, different from non-profit) or otherwise, are fiducially responsible for those funds. Since the minimum standards are guidelines, local groups can customize them according to some consensus among the officers. Their specific bylaws can stand for many years or be revamped as times and officers change, as long as the minimum standards are still adhered to.

And, yes, they are appropriate to a social organization such as American Mensa because in the final analysis they address the management of the members’ funds, that part of the membership fee that comes back to the local groups. If we were not handling money, perhaps there would be no need for any minimums.

The minimum standards also assist local groups in designing in some organized fashion a hierarchy of responsible members—local secretary (or president, as some group leaders choose to be addressed), treasurer, secretary, and so forth. I see these guidelines as a roadmap, not a dictatorial edict.

Specific Question, Tony Jackowski:
You have served on the AMC for many years in many capacities, sometimes advocating pro-establishment actions and sometimes bucking the powers that be. What precipitates your decisions?

While it might seem that at times I buck the “powers that be” and at other times vote with the establishment, what I am actually doing is voting logically. It’s easy to vote on a motion based on how you, personally, “feel” about the subject at hand. This is itself not wrong. It’s also easy to vote with a clique. What I do is try to look at the whole picture, not just what is written in the motion. (How will it affect American Mensa if I vote for this motion? What will the effect be if I should vote against it?) If I believe it is in the best interests of the organization as a whole to vote against the popular consensus, then I do. I’m not saying that I don’t vote the way I personally feel about a subject, as personal feelings do play a very important role on the AMC, but I weigh my feelings and instincts against reasoned considerations of what’s best for the organization and try to find a good balance. When considering an issue before the AMC, I think you must carefully weigh the pros and cons of the motion, add a little of your history and personal feelings on the subject, factor in a good measure of member input, and always keep the members of American Mensa in mind as a primary determinant. Pleasing one faction or another, in my case, is not part of this process.

Specific Question, Scott Rainey:
You have in the past made strong statements designed to get people thinking about controversial issues, such as offering centralized printing for local group newsletters. As part of the Communications Committee you are currently actively involved in discussions about American Mensa exerting control over websites owned and/or run by local groups, SIGs, and private members, that are not hosted by AML. What are your views on this and why?

I make strong statements because I have strong opinions. I think Mensa should be faster, cheaper, better... and 10 times bigger. My ideas for achieving this are posted on http://www.scottrainey.com.

I have strong opinions about what's best for Mensa, but the centralized printing idea was not one of them. Hmmm. That story may entertain.

Four years ago, I noticed that laserprinter/copiers with folding & stapling attachments were getting faster / cheaper / better. *Cool!* Units to cost-effectively produce our newsletters would soon be affordable. Would there be a market within Mensa? I asked our editors:

"If it were possible to subcontract your printing, binding, labeling, and mailing to the National Office (or another contractor) for the same or less than what you pay now, would you be interested?"

If there were local group interest, we could cost out machines and get bids. If that penciled out, a service could be offered to groups who wanted it. Repeat: "who wanted it."

Medium-size local groups were enthusiastic. However this simple question generated hostility from some old-timers.

Today, super-laserprinters pencil out... for local groups directly.

Another club I'm in uses one to print, fold, staple and address: 1,200 8-sheet, 11x17 full-color monthly newsletters. Their lease and supplies costs less than my 700-member Mensa group's printing.

Three hundred words can't address Local Group / SIG website issues. It's about balancing member privacy and member safety with keeping things open and interesting, while protecting Mensa from random liabilities.

What seems intuitive, takes intense work to create a coherent policy draft. Whatever balance one might strike on one's own computer, must then be sold to a sub-committee, that must then sell a derivative idea to the full committee, that must then sell...

Gentle readers: Please stay tuned. Please stay involved. Your voice does matter.

Specific Question, Elissa Rudolph:
How are you going to balance the jobs of 2nd Vice Chair, possible Nat Rep, 2006 World Gathering Chair, and your real life for the next few years without delegating the primary responsibilities of each job to others?

Great question! I've asked myself this many times and the answer I get is, why not? The 2nd Vice Chair position is the "special projects" position. Any unusual item of business that comes up (think, ProxyQuest) falls into this chair's lap. Routine duities that the chairman cannot fulfill are taken on by the 1st Vice Chair. So the top position is well covered. Call in the 2nd vice chair for special, out-of-the-blue events, such as….drum roll, please….the World Gathering 2006! Having your event coordinator in this position helps that person be on top of everything that is going on that could possibly impact the event. Hey, if I don't win this position I hope Tony Jackowski does because he's my right hand man for the WG06. We need someone near the top.

I won't be doing WG06 alone—there is a cadre of volunteers for WG06 whose experience and dedication are unmatched. Just look at the names on WG06.us.mensa.org. Truly I have the best organization behind me to put on a fantastic event. So, yes, I can handle both sets of responsibilities, as long as my staff continues to be as dedicated as I know they are.

My eye won't be exclusively on WG06—I realize there will be other projects that will grab my attention. That's why it is so necessary to have a dependable crew for this specific event. And I believe I do.

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