The Importance of Local Stamp ClubsMore than 600 local stamp clubs are chapters of the American Philatelic Society. Unfortunately, there are some clubs that are not APS chapters even though it is really quite easy to become one. A club must have at least three APS members to qualify for chapter status. If your club would like to do this, merely file an application and send in dues for a single membership. If you have at least twelve APS members in your club and one-third of the total membership are APS members, your club could even qualify for free membership.
There are lots of benefits to being an APS chapter. Your club may have circuits sent to it where your members can browse through stamps and buy the ones the want. It is kind of like having a silent dealer at every meeting, and this is a real incentive to encourage attendance at your meetings.
Chapters may also borrow books and catalogs from the American Philatelic Research Library. This makes a great program. Arrange to have some reference works that might benefit projects club members are working on, and then spend the meeting discussing these tools.
The APS has a vast assortment of slide programs on a multitude of subjects, as well as videos and CDs that can be used to augment your stamp club's regular programs.
Our Chapter Activities Committee, under the chairmanship of Tom Fortunato, issues a newsletter that is sent to your club's designated APS representative. This is chock full of helpful information, program ideas, show tips, and suggestions on effective club leadership. Our Chapter Activities Committee website has back issues of the CAC Newsletter archived. You can read them all, from 1990 to the present, by visiting the website at www.stamps.org/CAC/Index.htm.
So why all this attention on our APS Chapters? That is an easy question to answer! Local clubs promote and serve stamp collecting and its participants in their local communities. The APS can't be there on the spot, so our Chapters represent us. Whether it is a small rural club or a club in a large metropolitan area, philately is being served at the grassroots level. Frankly, that is where most new collectors start. Local clubs frequently meet new collectors before they become aware of the APS. Clubs do a great job of nurturing beginners and giving personalized one-on-one attention to entry-level collectors. It is an important job.
Underscoring the importance of APS Chapters is a key role they play in APS elections. As you read this, candidates for office in the American Philatelic Society are participating in a joint mailing that goes out to every APS Chapter. The mailing includes short biographies of each of the candidates and asks the chapter to consider the candidates carefully for a second of their nominations. You see, each candidate must receive at least ten seconds in order to be a valid candidate. That process is presently underway.
Many of our Chapters are reporting declining membership. This seems to be a systemic problem in all kinds of membership organizations. Church groups, veterans organizations, Rotary clubs, Toastmasters, and others are reporting declining membership in what has come to be recognized as the "Bowling Alone" syndrome, named for the book by Robert Putnam. The book is subtitled "The Collapse and Revival of American Community" and documents - rather frighteningly - a society that is disconnecting from one another and becoming less social. Perhaps our lives are too hectic, our homes are too comfortable, or our interests have changed. Our collective lack of participation is causing the demise of many fine clubs and service organizations.
I hope stamp clubs are not one of them. Sure, you can enjoy your hobby alone in the comfort of your own home, but sharing your knowledge and joy of collecting with others and having them share with you enhances the collecting experience. Bowling alone isn't as much fun, and neither is stamp collecting.
If there is a stamp club where you live and you are not yet a member, you are missing a lot: sharing of knowledge, an opportunity to add to your collection, and friendship and fellowship. You can find a list of stamp clubs on the APS website at www.stamps.org/directories/dir_localclubs.htm.
Support your local stamp club!