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Sustaining the Past, Present, and Future

Campaign for Philately Reignited

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In the United States, Benjamin Franklin’s legacy as a Founding Father still stands strong more than 225 years after his death. He was a writer, printer, an inventor, a diplomat, a statesman, and a postmaster. We all know that Ben Franklin was chosen as the first postmaster general by the Continental Congress, setting forth the postal system that remains today. Of course, as a tribute to his leadership, many collectors have held a stamp bearing his likeness at some point on their journey.
      In all of his accomplishments, one that remains the most lasting and the least discussed was his speech to the Constitutional convention in September 1787. As the document that would give birth to our nation was dissected from different corners of the room on its flaws, Franklin, at the spry age of 81 wrote a speech, delivered by fellow Pennsylvania delegate, James Wilson, acknowledging that the document was not perfect, but, should be passed and supported by each member of the convention. Although he was not persuasive enough to get universal support, he did carry the day on getting adoption of the Constitution that has served us for 226 years.
     
After adoption of the Constitution, it is said that Franklin was asked what form of government we would take. His response was simply, “A republic, if you can keep it.” His words concisely captured the challenge of our new nation, that a vigilant citizenry was necessary to maintain the liberty earned on the battlefield.
     While not on the same scale as founding a country, the challenge we have at the APS requires the same vigilance if we are to preserve philately’s role in promoting education, history, and the investments of collectors everywhere. Next September, the APS will celebrate 130 years as an organization, a reminder of the legacy passed down to us for generations and a hope we can pass it on for generations to come.
      In order to meet that Sustainability Challenge, each member of the APS plays a pivotal role for our collector community.
     
We are the beneficiaries of various charitable contributions from volunteers working hard at stamp shows or in Bellefonte, to stamps for education programs, to literature for the world’s largest philatelic library, monthly contributions to The American Philatelist, and direct donations from the Mighty Buck campaign to finishing the new library. Each contribution is incredibly meaningful and on behalf of the board, the staff, and our fellow APS members, thanks to each of you for what you do for philately.
      In 2003, then-APS President Janet Klug started the Campaign for Philately with a very clear challenge to each of us: Raise $10 million in 10 years for the APS and APRL. Never before in our 130-year history had anyone ever put that sort of challenge to our members. Despite the significant global economic downturn in 2008 and the years that followed, our membership met that goal in 11 years. Not bad if you think about the companies that did not survive the Great Recession.
      Thanks to Janet’s leadership, and the work of many great members, the APS and APRL remain positioned to serve their members, the hobby, and provide educational services for students of all ages.

      So what now? Through vigilance, we survived through a tough global economic period. With vigilance, we can build a stronger organization that will not only sustain future challenges, but can help us grow in our presence and impact. In October, the Campaign for Philately Committee, chaired by Alfredo Frohlich, met for the first time in more than a year to launch another long-term mission for the APS and APRL. That mission is broken into three categories:
      Building for the Past: Already underway is construction of the new library, bringing together the world’s largest collection of philatelic material under one roof. Unfortunately, some new requirements have added about $600,000 to the cost of the library from the financing we have. The Campaign for Philately is working to raise money to close the gap so we can stay on track to complete the library by the spring of 2016. We are planning a grand opening in the autumn of next year and hope to see you there. To donate, please visit stamps.org/Library-Donations.
      Building for the Present: The year 2016 will be a big year for philately. In May, the World Stamp Show-NY 2016 will be held in New York City, inviting collectors from around the world to the United States for a once-a-decade event. In September, the APS will celebrate its 130th birthday as the world’s largest association of stamp collectors. To celebrate these occasions, we will be putting on our very best on the world stage. To donate, please visit stamps.org/donate.
      Building for the Future: Our underlying mission is to be an advocate for collectors of the present and to grow the hobby. We will be undertaking several initiatives — growing education programs for all collectors, increasing access to the organization and philatelic resources, and attracting current and future collectors to join us. We will discuss each of these missions in upcoming columns.
The Big Challenge
      What’s a fundraising campaign without a big challenge? While we are a financially sound organization today, there is one thing we can do to ensure a stable future for the APS and APRL for years to come.
      So here it is: $10 million in 10 years with the goal of being debt free and building for the future.
      Through hard work and deliberation, the APS and APRL set forth 15 years ago to build a lasting home for collectors and our research. That home is the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte. The APC is not only home to the APS and APRL, but is also generating revenue to repay the debt that got us here. Today, we are on the home stretch of paying off the building with just $5 million left to go. The remainder of the funds would allow the APS to grow, educate, and serve its membership.
     

Borrowing from Act III in Shakespeare’s King Henry V, just before leading his troops in the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day, Henry says,
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
      Or close the wall up with our English dead.
      In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
      As modest stillness and humility:
      But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
      Then imitate the action of the tiger;”
      And so, after we finally mastered so grand a campaign in 2014, once more into the breach, dear friends, and we will set the APS and APRL on the most sustainable path in our history. I look forward to celebrating it with you.

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