One of our great responsibilities as stamp collectors is to act as caretakers and stewards of tangible philatelic and postal history items.
Many of us are custodians of history – you will see many such examples in this very issue, from philatelists who have taken on the responsibility of preserving Holocaust-era postal history. By acting as caretakers of this material, we agree to pass it on to new generations, and that brings up a paramount goal for our Society: recruiting new members to carry on our missions. In the February issue of The American Philatelist, you read about the 2020 Challenge; this year, our nearly 28,000 members are challenged to recruit two thousand and twenty new members to the American Philatelic Society.
The main problem that the American Philatelic Society faces in maintaining or increasing our numbers does not stem from dissatisfaction among the members with what we do. Rather, our major difficulties in keeping the Society strong are death and disability in our membership. Our only recourse is to pass on what we know and what we own to a younger generation that has learned what stamp collecting is all about, because we recruited them and taught them. You might ask yourself, “How do I recruit?” A relevant question, with much to gain if you become successful in this task. In fact, the Society is offering rewards in the form of a limited number of free life memberships. Only those who excel in recruiting can win.
The key to any successful membership drive is the prize. In 1926, APS offered a free trip to the APS Convention in New York City, and $50 to cover expenses, to the lucky person who recruited the most members.
In my experience, the most effective recruiting is by word of mouth.
Michael Schweitzer, the president of our local Indiana Stamp Club, and our treasurer, Bob Strantz, often take the opportunity during Indiana Stamp Club meetings to announce the availability of APS membership applications and to encourage all attendees to join APS. As a result, the percentage of individuals joining not just our local club, but our national Society, is very high. Local club membership and APS membership are effectively symbiotic, as each rein- forces the other. Local membership provides a steady communication channel with other local club members, and often provides information about local shows and events. APS membership provides information on a national scale along with multiple resources to aid the collector.
In addition to promoting membership at your local clubs, you can take matters into your own hands by approaching non-members and encouraging them to join APS. We recognize that the pool of potential members consists almost entirely of those who are already collecting but have not actually joined the Society. We estimate that there are between one and two million “closet” collectors who are interested in stamps and are collecting them, but have not yet joined organized philately.
|The American Philatelist, May 1926, offers a new take on some familiar philatelic vocabulary.
If a person to whom you suggest APS membership is not familiar with The American Philatelist, lend him or her some of your back issues. If you know a potential member’s subject area, find an AP article relating to that subject. The AP is searchable online, and if you can’t find an article yourself, the talented staff of the American Philatelic Research Library is able to assist you.
The Library can provide potential members with an enormous amount of information regarding their collecting interests.
If a prospective member has doubtful items that need authentication, point out that the APS can help them there as well. If they are interested in a collecting area, topic, or theme, APS has the connections to put them in touch with other collectors with similar interests.The choice to recruit is up to you. But recruiting will not only help the APS; it will help you later on when it comes time to dispose of your collection and you find that there is still an active group of younger collectors. You will have done your part to preserve the wonderful world and hobby of stamp collecting, so that in Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words, these important artifacts “shall not perish from the Earth.”
Editor's Note: The column was published in the April 2020 issue of The American Philatelist, available exclusively to members of the American Philatelic Society. Click here to view the full issue.