The Mensa Foundation in 2022-23: Turning Ideas Into Reality

  • Aug 22, 2023
  • Charlie Steinhice, Foundation President

IT IS MY HONOR TO SERVE as President of the Mensa Foundation. I’ve said that before, but my sense of gratitude deepens with each passing year. I truly believe in our mission — unleashing intelligence for the benefit of humanity. And I’m very fortunate to have the support of skilled, dedicated staff; fellow Trustees and hardworking volunteers committed to the cause; and generous donors who make these efforts possible.

This report covers the first full year since the Foundation established its high-level Strategic Plan to carry us into the future. This year, we’ve started the ball rolling on new programs and new directions while also sharpening the focus and deepening the impact of the Foundation’s existing programs. Both those paths are critical to advancing our mission.

I believe that someday we will look back and see our July 2022 Colloquium, “Giftedness Across the Lifespan: A More Complete Picture,” as a major milestone in the growth of the Mensa Foundation. Colloquium 2022 was the first big step toward fostering intelligence across the entire lifespan. Experts from around the world revealed how little support exists for highly intelligent people outside of the educational realm, especially at key ages and stages of life. Here’s what we are doing now to meet those needs.

Thanks to Mensa Foundation donors, we’re launching an original research project led by Dr. Tracy Cross of William & Mary University. Objectives include identifying the unmet needs of gifted individuals across their lifespan and exploring various facets of giftedness beyond traditional measures of intelligence. The findings will help us develop targeted resources to help the gifted, the highly intelligent, and the intellectually curious navigate challenges and opportunities in the workplace, in continuing education, and at key transition points such as retirement or relationship changes.

One gap identified through the 2022 Colloquium is the absence of a way to bring scholars, researchers, practical experts, and interested individuals together around the topic of intelligence roughout the lifespan. The Mensa Foundation is drafting plans to establish a dedicated online community to provide a forum and foster collaboration for those wanting to deepen their understanding to use their intelligence for good.

We’re developing a Speaker Series of virtual programs around four topics related to intelligence: The Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted, the Theory of Positive Disintegration, Beyond IQ, and intelligence for Good. We will be launching the Speaker Series in January 2024, featuring our inaugural speaker, Dr. Linda Silverman, Founder and Director of the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center. Special thanks go to our Education and Gifted Youth Committee chair, Joi Lin, who is spearheading this project.

To reach the broader audience these programs are intended for — and to reach additional donors whose support will enable us to put all these big ideas into action — we identified a pressing need for a full redesign of the Mensa Foundation website. This redesign is also an essential precondition for another strategic priority: refining the Mensa Foundation’s identity and preparing for a branding and marketing campaign aimed at other interested audiences beyond just Mensans. By the time you read this, we’ll have selected our vendor and started the process.

We’re excited about these new directions. But just to be clear: None of these efforts are intended to diminish our existing programs.

Our flagship Scholarship Program continues to grow. The 2022-23 Scholarship Program awarded 193 scholarships totaling $213,050, plus five international scholarships totaling $6,000. Our goal is to increase our awards to amounts more meaningful in today’s educational environment. As a first step, the Board raised the minimum amount for any newly established awards to $1,000. If you’re a financial supporter with a strong interest in the Scholarship Program, we encourage you to make an increased donation toward raising the minimum for existing scholarships.

The Mensa Research Journal has expanded its scope. Along with selected reprints of scholarly articles, the MRJ has added original content such as book reviews and interviews with leading scholars. It also expanded its reach by making it easier for non-Mensans to subscribe.

We’ve also taken some actions in things that matter behind the scenes, such as an update of our Conflict of Interest Policy and a full revision of the Administrative Cost Sharing Agreement with American  Mensa that governs shared building, systems, and  staffing. And in December 2022 we welcomed two new Trustees, Billie Lee and Dr. Jeff Papa.

I’ll finish this where I started: Gratitude. I want to salute two longtime Trustees and officers retiring from the Board this summer — Vice President Deb Stone and Treasurer Vicki Herd. It brings some comfort knowing that they’ll remain involved in important Foundation committee work. Huge thanks also go to Foundation Director Jill Beckham, “Director of Development & Organizational Impact John Thompson, Executive Director Trevor Mitchell, other AML National Office staff, my fellow Trustees, and the many donors and volunteers who made all this possible.