By Michael Baadke
Three themes dominated discussions at the American Philatelic Society’s general membership meeting Aug. 22: construction that is underway to finish the American Philatelic Research Library at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pa.; efforts to stem membership losses and build the society’s member rolls; and plans to review the long-standing operating agreement between the APS and the APRL.
The 2015 APS general membership meeting was called to order at 9 a.m. by society president Stephen Reinhard, who introduced the board of directors to the members in attendance at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The meeting was held during the 2015 APS Stampshow, Aug. 20-23.
Roger Brody, president of the American Philatelic Research Library, followed by introducing members of the APRL board.
Reinhard then introduced the society’s new APS executive director, Scott English, who in turn acknowledged members of the APS staff present at the show, and expressed appreciation for the staff and volunteers who could not attend, but whose efforts have helped to strengthen the society.
English’s appreciations were echoed by Reinhard.
“Without all of the volunteers, we really could not function anywhere near the level where we’re functioning now, so thank you volunteers — and we continue to need your help.”
Young Philatelic Leaders
APS vice president Alex Haimann, accompanied by members of the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship, presented the three newest fellows joining the YPLF group: Evan Schlosser of Pennington, N.J., Truth Muller of Rock Hill, N.Y., and Austin Foo of Norcross, Ga. Each new fellow spoke briefly about his collecting interests and the track he will follow in the coming year.
The YPLF program supports young collectors from the ages of 13 to 25 as they pursue a deeper understanding and appreciation of the stamp hobby by following one of three tracks: dealer, exhibitor or author. The fellows receive mentoring assistance and participate in research, travel, presentations and more.
APS members can support this program in a number of different ways. Additional information is available online.
Membership and volunteer awards
Reinhard returned to the podium to read the names of members who have recently reached 25 years or 50 years of APS membership. Several of those members were attending the meeting and received membership certificates (25 years) and medallions (50 years) from Reinhard and English.
The Nicholas Carter Volunteer Awards were also acknowledged by Reinhard, accompanied by Betsy Carter, the widow of former APS president Nicholas Carter, for whom the awards are named. The awards are presented in recognition of volunteer service at local and national levels.
Reinhard began his president’s report to the membership by acknowledging several changes in the staff of the APS at Bellefonte, Pa., “not the least of which is the hiring of a new executive director, Scott English.”
He also noted the hiring of Jay Bigalke as editor of the society’s monthly magazine, the American Philatelist, and Megan Orient as show manager.
Reinhard then addressed another personnel move of interest to members.
“I’d like to thank Ken Martin for his many years of service to APS, and to the hobby. Ken will be moving into the newly created position of chief operating officer. My best wishes, Ken, going forward, as you continue to attack the challenges we all face. Thank you very much for everything you’ve done.”
His comments were followed by lengthy applause from the members, recognizing Martin’s efforts as the longtime executive director of the society.
Turning to the question of declining APS membership, Reinhard said, “Times are tough for philatelic organizations. We continue to lose members. But by the hard work of our staff, boards and volunteers, we have significantly cut our rate of membership loss. Our loss rate is better than that of most of the philatelic organizations. But we will not rest on our laurels, but will continue to make membership our number one priority.”
In response to a member’s question near the end of the meeting, Martin reported, “We have a little over 31,000 members currently — about 29,500 in the U.S., about 1,500 outside the U.S. Over the past 12 months, paying membership is down about 440; if you take all members including the life members, it’s down about 560.”
Stamps Teach program
Reinhard spoke about the APS Stamps Teach program, which provides stamps and lesson plans to teachers around the country to use as educational tools with schoolchildren
Describing these efforts as very successful, Reinhard noted that the APS has received a $25,000 matching grant for the program from the Turning Point Foundation. Because the donation comes in the form of a matching grant, the society will receive all of the money only if it receives another $25,000 in matching gifts from members and friends.
“So why not write a check to APS before you leave today?” Reinhard asked. Anyone who would like to donate can send a check to the society with a notation on the check designating it for “Stamps Teach.”
Reinhard not a candidate
Reinhard announced that he will not run for reelection when his current term expires next year.
Reinhard ran unopposed for the APS presidency in 2013, succeeding the previous APS president, Wade Saadi. Reinhard had previously served the APS as a member of the board of vice presidents.
“It is time for you to seriously think about who would take the APS into the future,” Reinhard said. “This is very important for all of us that we get the right people in office.
“Thank you all for all of your support in the past, and for your continued support in the coming year.”
Board of vice presidents report
Haimann, chairman of the board of vice presidents, gave the report on the board’s recent activities. The board convenes approximately every two months to hear disputes between members, and between members and the society.
Haimann reported 14 complaints have come before the board of vice presidents, half of which were resolved before they were presented in a hearing. One complaint is now in appeal, two resulted in the expulsion of a member, and several are still “in the beginning stages,” Haimann concluded. No details of the complaints were given.
APS secretary Ken Grant kept his comments brief by stating only, “Meetings attended, minutes taken.”
APS treasurer Ken Nilsestuen began his report by noting, “The American Philatelic Society and the library are both in good financial condition — that’s always a good report. The reason is largely due to our members and our dues, but in addition to that, contributions that you provide to us. Those are so important to the health of our society.”
Nilsestuen recalled that Walter Weber, who died in 2014, left $1.3 million to the society, and that the money would be used to complete construction on the American Philatelic Research Library.
That amount is about two-thirds of the total needed, said Nilsestuen, adding that donations are always welcome. He reiterated that the society is looking for donations to the Stamps Teach program, but additional checks after the $25,000 matching goal is reached will gladly be accepted.
Matt Liebson, the new chairman of the APS Membership Committee, addressed the society’s membership decline and efforts to reverse it.
There are two ways to gain new members, Liebson said: create new collectors and make them members, and take existing collectors who are not members and ask them to join the society. Lisbon asked the members to consider recruiting new members from existing collectors, and noted that the American Philatelist will have a series of membership oriented articles in upcoming issues.
“We will turn this around,” Liebson said, reiterating that members can be most effective in recruiting new members and helping the society grow.
Society attorney Kathleen Yurchak reported working with the board to develop a new contract for the employment of Scott English, and the contract for the development of the library property.
She also reported a legal case involving the society.
“You have been sued by a member … about a dispute on his donation,” said Yurchak. “So I will be working with that and defending you on that.” Yurchak did not provide additional details about the litigation.
APRL president’s report
Brody returned to the podium and reported, “We are about to finish the American Philatelic Complex and complete the library.” Materials are being moved into the new space, Brody said, referring to it as “state-of-the-art library facilities.”
World Stamp Show-NY 2016
Saadi, the APS immediate past president, is also president of World Stamp Show-NY 2016, which is taking place next year from May 28 to June 4 at the Javits Center in New York City. Saadi recently traveled overseas and noted that collectors in other countries are excited about coming to the show.
Hotel information is posted on the show website, Saadi said, and rooms being held for this event are filling up, with roughly half already reserved.
Executive director’s report
English reported that the APS was looking forward to having a strong presence at the 2016 World Stamp Show.
He noted that the society would like to retire the library debt quickly and aggressively, and encouraged donations to the APRL.
“Optimistically, we think we’ll be done with construction by April,” English said. Once construction is complete, the moving-in process will be fully underway.
English reported that there are plans to look at the relationship between the APS and the APRL. The two entities are separate, although they share the American Philatelic Center facility in Bellefonte, Pa.
“At the request of the members of the board, we’re also going to review the agreement between the APS and the APRL with the lease base and the operations that go on there,” English said. “We have a target deadline of no later than the Ameristamp show in Atlanta [Jan. 29-31, 2016] to have a presentation of the strategic plan for the APS board. The APRL board will not be meeting at Atlanta so … we’ll probably do a telephone call with that board. I know that Roger [Brody] is going to be intimately involved in that and I do appreciate all of the board members who are willing to give of their time because it’s going to be quite a bit.”
English thanked Liebson for taking on the leadership of the membership committee, and noted that he and Liebson have been discussing ways to bring new members into the society. He also addressed filling the director of education position that has been vacant since Gretchen Moody left the staff in mid-April.
“I am in the process of working on hiring a director of education,” said English. “We all know that Gretchen Moody is no longer with us, and the focus of this is to bring in someone who’s got an ability to do distance learning, who’s got a virtual education understanding and the reason for that is because what we’re hoping to do over the years to come is to make philately available on demand for our members, information about philately and how you do certain things, and also to … continue to recruit and build a fire for the young collectors out there.”
Board members spoke with APS members following the official end of the membership meeting, while most of the attendees departed as the doors to the stamp show were opening.
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