American Philatelic Society

You Can Help APS Stay Strong and Grow

APS Benefits and Staff Can Help Recruit Members and Clubs

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     According to legend, Groucho Marx once resigned from a club stating, “I just can’t belong to a club that would have me as a member.” True or not, this line, in many forms has been repeated over the years. While this is always a challenge to make sure organizations do not take members for granted, the American Philatelic Society has enjoyed a membership retention rate of 90 percent for the past 20 years — a strong benchmark when looking at an average of 78 percent for all member organizations.
     From 1990 to December 2015, we have gained or readmitted roughly 92,000 members — at an average of 3,680 members per year. The problem is we have lost more than 117,500 members over the same time — an average of 4,700 members a year. By far, the single biggest reason is that members simply stopped paying their dues — approximately 83,000 over that period.
     So what gives? Part of it is a generational challenge. Stamp collecting and the APS will appeal more to collectors over the age of 40 who have more time and disposable income to dedicate to the hobby. Looking at the post-World War II generation, known as the Baby Boomers, they would have started joining in the mid-1980s at greater rates than today. The next generation, known as Generation X, is half the size, so the rate of replacement of members leaving and members joining will take us downward.
     That does not mean we should wait for the next generation to come along before we recruit. There are plenty of opportunities to add members today.
     Before we discuss that, it is important to highlight the need to know our market. There are an estimated 5 million stamp collectors in the United States and as many as 60 million around the globe. Technology changes the way we enjoy the hobby today versus the way it was done 10, 20, or 50 years ago. A good way to identify who we are trying to recruit would be a survey of current, past, and potential members. The last time the APS did such a study was in 2007 ( and while the information is instructive, much has changed in the world over the past nine years. We have budgeted funds for a potential study in 2016 and hope to be able to get one underway in the months ahead.
     Recently, the APS and APRL boards adopted a strategic plan that I have been discussing in this column since the November 2015 issue of The American Philatelist, to touch on the four pillars of the plan: Sustainability, Education, Accessibility, and Membership. So moving forward, these are the ways we will work toward growing our membership.
     Chapters and Affiliates: Renew the grassroots nature of the APS/APRL by increasing support and strengthening recruitment through local chapters and affiliates.
     Since our founding, local chapters and affiliates have been an important part of growing the national membership. Chapters pay to be part of the APS unless a third or more of their membership belong to the APS. In 2015, 63 percent of the chapters qualified for free membership. At the same time, only 48 percent of the reported chapter membership of 16,608 belongs to the APS — leaving 10,000 local chapter members who do not belong. Chapters and affiliates represent the greatest opportunity for recruiting members to the APS, and the APS staff should make efforts to strengthen the organization’s relationships and promotion to chapters’ and affiliates’ leaders and members.
     Partnerships: Increase our reach and the membership value of the APS and APRL through partnerships. Today, the APS/APRL enjoy good relations with the American Stamp Dealers Association, National Stamp Dealers Association, Amos Media Co. (Linn’s Stamp News and Scott catalogs), the U.S. Postal Service, the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, the Philatelic Foundation, and other national, philatelic-related organizations.
     Each represents a different constituency aimed at the same purpose, which is promoting the hobby and preserving stamp collecting for the next generation. As each group addresses the challenge of a decline in active participation, there are opportunities to leverage the services each provides for the benefit of their different constituencies or for the good of philately.
     All of these relationships allow the APS to unite resources to promote the hobby and reach an audience outside of the APS. In addition, other national organizations establish corporate partners to provide direct services to their memberships.
     We recently completed a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union, which would allow any APS member to join the credit union, which would provide financial services information for our members at no costs, and financial support for our educational programs. At the same time, the U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union will promote the benefits of APS membership to its 22,000 members nationwide through various platforms.
     Greater contact with APS members. Today, members have options to get information from the APS through The American Philatelist, a monthly electronic newsletter, calls to headquarters, written and electronic communication, general membership meetings at both national stamp shows, visits to World Series of Philately shows, and the APS website. While that communication meets the needs of some members, APS will work to build access to information about the hobby and the society through varying means of feedback. The APS will work to increase feedback opportunities for current, former, and potential members of the society.

     What Can You Do?
     Recruit a New Member: Did you know the APS gives you $5 every time you bring in a new member? On the February cover of The American Philatelist is an easily removable membership application form. Today, you can take that application to a friend, a family member, or your next stamp club meeting and recruit a new member. If you recruit one new member every five weeks, you would put a real dent in your annual membership fee.
     Chapter Dues: At your next club or society meeting, find out if your local chapter is enjoying a free annual membership with the APS. If not, you may find out one or two members is all the difference. Discuss recruitment and benefits with non-members so your club can use that money locally to promote the hobby.
     Become an APS Ambassador: In the coming year, we will be building a coalition of local ambassadors, who will be key recruiters and contacts in your local area. We will be including them in various functions throughout the year and having regular calls to update the whole team on what is happening in your area. With active local leaders, we will continue to grow, not only the APS, but the whole hobby.
     We would like to hear from you what is exciting about your club and how you are bringing in new collectors. If there are ways we can support you or new ideas about helping the clubs and growing our membership, please share them with me at
      Thanks to each of you for making the APS a great organization and for all you do for the hobby!
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