One reason people join Mensa is the social opportunities. If you move to a new area, Mensa allows you to easily meet a number of people who are potential friends and even potential life partners. Mensans will laugh at your jokes without the need for you to explain them, and understand that doing something idiotic doesn't mean that you're stupid. If they disagree with one aspect of your world-view, they may argue about it, but most will also find some other area where you will agree. And, of course, and as bright people, we share some common experiences; being "gifted" isn't always a "gift."
Mensa benefits are varied, with the monthly Events Calendar only listing a few of the options. Other benefits include national and local publications, special interest groups, gatherings, and special discount and saving programs.
In addition, Mensa offers members several ways to be of service to others, including SIGHT coordinators' voluntary help for traveling Mensans, and the MERF scholarship programs.
Every member of American Mensa receives a subscription to the Bulletin, which features humor and science columns, word-play, book reviews, puzzles, feature articles on Mensans and local group activities, and the International Journal. The bulk of each issue is members' letters. Twice each year, the Bulletin also prints a directory listing all local groups, international groups, members of the American Mensa Committee, and all active Special Interest Groups.
A second publication, Interloc is provided to all current officers and to any other requesting member (for free), and discusses group dynamics and other issues of particular interest to the people who make things work.
Every member of American Mensa also receives a Local Group Newsletter. Like most local newsletters, New Hampshire's newsletter, "Momentum", contains columns by local authors, as well as the monthly Executive Committee (ExComm) minutes and -- perhaps most importantly -- the complete calendar listings for all chapter events each month. A generally less specific version of these listings is found in our public on-line Events Calendar.
Special Interest Groups
As each individual Mensan has far-ranging interests, it is natural that many groups of people who share a hobby or fascination or other commonality have banded together to form "Special Interest Groups, " called SIGs for short. American Mensa maintains a list of SIGs at the national or international level. There are over 120 different American SIGs. Many of these don't meet on a regular basis because their membership is too far-flung.
Some Mensans don't belong to any SIGs, others belong to multiple SIGs. Many SIGs have their own newsletters, and members in these SIGs get together at Regional Gatherings or at Annual Gatherings, to meet face to face.
Mensa is a "do-it-yourself" organization. Any member can start a SIG or host an event, and in most cases any SIG Member can arrange to sponsor a SIG or other event on the local level. In some SIGs, events must be pre-approved by their group leaders. As with events on the local calendar, members who don't see what they want are encouraged to create it. Check out Events101 for the basics.
Gatherings offer a chance for Mensans to meet together in large groups -- socializing or attending diverse activities. For many people, the highlight of the year is the local Regional Gathering. Regional Gatherings usually have between 50 and 500 attendees (depending on how big the local group is, and how many out-of-towners come to visit) and last for two to four days. NH Mensa's Granite Gathering is held in February.
Once each year, a single local group (chosen through a competitive bidding process) hosts American Mensa's Annual Gathering. Not every group volunteers -- hosting an AG is a lot of work! (Indeed, NH Mensa joined with Boston Mensa, Conn/WMass Mensa, and Mensa Canada to host the 1994 AG in Cambridge, MA.) They usually run about five days, and typical attendance may be 1500 people. And, of course, there are International Gatherings as well.
Both RGs and AGs feature food, drink, and many special events as diverse as the people who planned them. Some of these are just for fun, others are highly educational. Past events have included a mass renewal of vows by Mensan couples, lectures on who the real Zodiac Killer was, a debate on the costs and benefits of nuclear power, and a musical extravaganza where the ode to "South Pacific's" Bali Hai was transformed into a song about chocolate pie.
Discount and Savings Programs
Members of American Mensa receive preferred rates and special membership benefits at a number of businesses. These include the Consumer Financial Network, Sam's Club, Hertz Rental Car Company, and many other special deals. For more information, contact the AML Membership Director, or members can visit AML Member Benefits. If you're not a member of American Mensa yet, why not contact our Proctor Coordinator to reserve a seat at an admissions testing session?
One national activity which is run on the local level is SIGHT. "SIGHT" stands for "Service of International Guidance and Hospitality to Travelers." Local Area SIGHT coordinators help visiting Mensans, suggesting local restaurants, hotels, and sights, and generally helping a traveler to feel welcome in a strange area. Mensans who travel in the course of their work find SIGHT coordinators a mine of local information, able to give them tips on how to break up the tedium of a business-oriented conference. And, of course, it is only natural that SIGHT volunteers can discuss schools, real estate values, and other matters with Mensans thinking of moving to a different community. In addition, some communities have SIGHT hosts; although there is no obligation for any SIGHT volunteer to take in a guest, and most travelers these days are leery of staying in a strangers home.
If you're a Mensa member who is planning to visit New Hampshire, or you're a local member who wishes to help, please contact our SIGHT Coordinator.
While Mensa itself is a not-for-profit corporation under US law, it supports the non-profit Mensa Education and Research Foundation. MERF is a philanthropic, non-profit tax-exempt organization funded by gifts from members of American Mensa Ltd. and other donors. The foundation works to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity and to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence. MERF gives grants and awards to various scientists to support and to recognize their work.
MERF accepts applications for its annual scholarship contest. Scholarship winners will receive awards of $200 to $1,000 based on an essay of 550 words or less describing their academic or career goals. Applicants may also choose to be considered for specific award categories. Requirements and descriptions for these awards are listed on the scholarship application.
General MERF scholarships are awarded with no restrictions regarding age, gender, academic grade point average or financial need. Applicants do not need to be members of Mensa. Eligibility requirements for a general MERF scholarship are:
United State citizenship or legal residence
Enrollment at any level (undergraduate, graduate, doctorate, etc.) at an accredited U. S. institution of post-secondary education for Fall 2002
Applicants must live or go to school in the geographic area covered by a local group participating in the scholarship program.
Applicants may also choose to be considered for specific award categories. Requirements and descriptions for these awards are listed on the scholarship application.
Read about the NH MERF Scholarship contest, or contact our Scholarship Officer.
In addition to the activities of MERF, local groups are also involved with their communities. Some of our involvement is on a national scale. For example, "Project Inkslinger" donates books to libraries in need (it began after midwestern flooding several years ago), and is coordinated on a national level using donations from individual members and local groups.
Other activities are purely local. For example, New Hampshire Mensa has taken part in our local PBS station by working as volunteers to take pledges.
Originally adapted from The Mensa Genius Quiz-A-Day Book
by Judy Hogan
Local Secretary, Minnesota Mensa