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One of the joys of being APS President is receiving letters and e-mails from members who respond to my columns, offer their opinions, and present ideas for consideration. In recent months I have received many good letters that I thought would interest fellow APS members, and perhaps generate additional comment.

William Speakman, Jr. of Pennsylvania writes:
"Your July column in American Philatelist ("How Do We Develop Hobby Leaders?") touched on one facet of the problem, working for a volunteer organization is often a thankless proposition. Most members do not realize everything which is being done by the relatively few members who work and, to the extent they do realize it, don't bother to thank the individuals for doing it or recognize them for doing it. Essentially, it boils down to a lack of awareness, courtesy and consideration, all of which are fueled by the self-centered attitude that seems so prevalent in society today.

"Lackluster performance is also the result of poor organization. A leader should have a plan and goals and create a structure to achieve them.

"I believe a good method of developing a leader is to give the person a simple job which can be accomplished with relative ease and speed. If the individual does well with it, build on it with tasks of successively greater magnitude. Where necessary, provide assistance and correction. The emerging leader should not be left to his or her own devices. Consider giving new members a mentor to educate the new member about the club and assist in his or her integration into the club.

"The problems of which you wrote can be solved and the goals which you want to achieve can be obtained, but only if the club leadership and, to a lesser extent, the club members, want to do so. The keys are organization, determination and follow through."
From Tom Harden of Iowa:
"In your President's Column in the September 2004 American Philatelist about building bridges in the philatelic community "to build a sound and healthy future for philately…" However, we have a bridge that has crumbled and fallen into the water. I am referring to the demise of Junior Philatelists of America. Here is an organization run by and for youth collectors that will soon cease to be. Without organizations such as the JPA there will be fewer youth collectors coming into the hobby and therefore no future. This will adversely affect the APS, the USPS, all the specialty societies, local clubs, dealers, and the philatelic press.

"This does not mean that outreach efforts to other groups such as seniors should be abandoned but that the "key players" need to step up and either help save the JPA or to begin something else to take its place. Without some type of organization like JPA to encourage and help young collectors the future of the hobby looks bleak.

"Too many collectors whine and complain about the dearth of new collectors coming into the hobby. We probably will never see great numbers coming in as there are so many more choices for kids today even compared to when I was my son's age. However, that's no excuse for not doing something. It is now time to either put up or shut up."
[I am pleased to report that at the time of this writing (October 20), the APS is considering a plan for a new stamp collecting society for young collectors. The details of the program are being formulated, and we hope to have something in place by the beginning of the 2005.]
[See the APS announcement and VSC discussion here — Editor]

Ray Cartier, Executive Director of the American Topical Association (ATA) writes:
"I applaud you for your article on "Building Bridges." We need to involve the societies, clubs, the philatelic media and organized dealers if we are going to bring stamp collecting up from the 7% of the populace who collect stamps as quoted in the August issue of Global Stamp News.

"The APS and the ATA could work together to come up with a series of helps for every stamp club in North America to use in order to increase their memberships. We use the results of a survey and their ideas plus their successes and failures to design a brochure for clubs. We also get help from the philatelic media by having them go after getting ideas of every type from their readers. All ideas can be sent to ATA and/or APS leadership for us to revise and answer. The good ideas and those that aren't good enough get separated and we talk about which ones we want to start out with. We don't try to gulp it all down at once, but start with the best three to five ideas and test them. If they work in some instances, they become something to do on a widespread level.

"Meanwhile, we ask dealers to send us packets of stamps from their excess, non-moving inventory to hand out to non-collectors who respond to some of the ideas we try out. Each dealer would be encouraged to print their name and contact info on each packet, or at least place their business card in each one. Now the dealers are getting publicity back. Everyone I involved in some way that does not have to cost a lot of money.

"We need a BIG gun to get an article in AARP Magazine as well as the 52 senior newspapers in the U.S. The USPS along with the Washington 2006 gurus can be the 500-pound gorilla who might be able to make some headway with the AARP as well as the local senior papers, military retirement or association papers.

"Youth activities can be looked at carefully and the best of all the actions being taken now by some groups can be compiled into a manual for all of those who are working so hard to involve youth." From Jason Manchester of Ohio: "Linn's Stamp News September 13 issue ran a report titled "Old American Philatelic Society logo replaces new one." You were absolutely correct in vetoing the change. Heavy Creative's attempt to change the logo has the following problems. The new logo would be a partnership with Heavy Creative for as long as the APS choose to use it. Heavy Creative could use the new logo as a proof of their 'success.' A better suggestion would be a new logo created by a member.

"This is exactly what Bill Welch tried to do in 1995. Bill wrote an editorial in the November 1994 issue of American Philatelist in which he solicited new designs of the seal. These were to be voted on by the membership. The January 1995 issue had several letters to the editor which supported keeping the old seal. The May 1995 issue showed three options for a new seal. The results of the vote by the membership appeared in the September 1995 issue. Of those voting, 4,895 voted to keep the traditional seal while only 2,884 voted for one of the three new alternatives. The members chose the traditional seal by a landslide."
Kenneth David of Massachusetts writes:
"Recently, I read your "Building Bridges" column and, almost simultaneously, the Linn's news report on the demise of APS dues discounting. These pieces are symptomatic of an opinion I have held for most of my years in this hobby, and I believe it is core to the recessional problem it faces. As with most things in life, it all comes down to money.

"The public stereotype of the stamp collector encompasses many, usually negative behavioral attributes. Some are untrue and unfair. But one personality flaw the public is not aware of, but which seems to be true, is the incredible cheapness that seems to be prevalent throughout the hobby. That the APS can count on losing a thousand or more members over a few annual dollars is evidence of that.

"Anyone who drops membership rather than lose a lousy five buck discount is someone you simply do not need. And, incidentally, how many ways will these people simply waste $5 over the course of the week…or during a single day? From my point of view, the $35 APS annual fee is incredibly inexpensive, in fact, far too inexpensive. It would be an interesting exercise in budgetary math to run a model on membership revenue from a smaller member base paying a far higher fee…those who realize it's worth it…versus the current structure. Just what would the membership pain threshold be?

"In your column you call to arms the pillars of philately…the dealers, the societies, the postal services, the hobby media, and other organizations. Quite correctly you touch on a super fund concept to be used for hobby promotion. But I fear this will not come to pass or be of a substantial enough size to do what needs to be done. A campaign that would "turn around" and revitalize the hobby would take years and millions of dollars invested annually in advertising, sales promotion, literature, publicity, public relations, and more.

"And it wouldn't just take money. It would take strategic and tactical brainpower…from a big city ad or PR agency with major league connections with a big-ticket retainer bill to match. The good intentions of a local, friendly suburban Pennsylvania ad boutique simply would not have the guns to pull off what needs to be done.

"The only core group we can hope to initiate in meaningful numbers, as has been suggested a few times by the more insightful, is that of the baby boomer middle- and late-aged. Their family situations have matured, they are burned out by their careers and need peace of mind, they have good money, they have not been sucked into hip electronic amusements, they watch the History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, etc., which is what stamps are very much all about, no?"
From Scott Duffey of Arkansas:
"In the September issue of American Philatelist, you asked for commentary or ideas on how to build a sound and healthy future for our hobby of stamp collecting. Our well-being and survival are not based in any one specific area of collecting. Instead, I believe we will survive and prosper only if we collectively support our differences. Rather than hunt for ways to build bridges between different areas of expertise, I suggest we look for ways to avoid doing harm to each other. In short, don't burn any bridges we may need to go back to and use in the future. Our hobby is such that there is room for all of us. That's where the future lies - in the acceptance and support of diversity."
Thanks to all who have written or e-mailed me this past year. I don't have room in this column to publish all of them, but I do try to share with you the best ideas and a diversity of opinion. My best wishes to each of you during the December holiday season. No matter which holidays you celebrate, may they be happy and safe.

Janet Klug
December 11, 2004

Published by permission. ©2004 Janet Klug

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