I’ve recently updated the Resources pages. Part of this exercise was to revisit links to philatelic societies and investigate others that I wasn’t so familiar with.
In reviewing so many sites in a relatively short space of time, you quickly get a feel for what seems to separate the well-organised societies from those that ‘could do better’.
Don’t get me wrong. Running a philatelic society for the benefit of its members – most often staffed by unpaid volunteers – is a noble pursuit and not one that I am in a position to criticize.
But that’s not say improvements can’t be made.
The importance of the webmaster
The roles of treasurers, secretaries and presidents are predominant in most of these organisations but the role that often gets overlooked in importance and relevance today is that of the webmaster.
This is the individual that effectively presents the image of the society to the world. Creating the right impression is the difference between a basic ‘we exist’ presence versus that of a forward-looking organisation, keen to recruit new members.
It’s surprising how many websites don’t fully convey the features and benefits that could draw in new blood and help to swell the ever diminishing coffers. A good webmaster, with the right copy and eye to design can make a big difference as to how a society is perceived by the outside world and hence its ability to recruit new, fee-paying members.
A journal index can make all the difference
One of the primary member benefits that is most often overlooked is the journal index.
Many societies have published journals for decades. Within this literature lies much of the wisdom of past members who will have written in depth on subject matter as relevant today as it was when originally published.
The first step is in making these back issues easily accessible.
Many societies have achieved this by making past issues available online, perhaps holding back recent editions for ‘members only’ to encourage new sign-ups. But it’s the creation of a searchable index of these historic volumes that enables the collector to pinpoint articles quickly and easily: this is where the real benefit lies.
Some societies have embraced this approach and made a huge difference to the value of the data that is buried within these journals.
No doubt this is a Herculean task for some but for others, much of the work may have already been done by referring back to previous paper-based indices and simply providing a digital version.
The internet can also be used to leverage society auctions; a significant member benefit if they can be done postally and attract collectors from other countries into becoming members.
This enables collectors to dispose of pieces to an appreciative audience, particularly the esoteric and unusual which may get overlooked or unidentified in a more general auction environment.
Overall though, it is heartening to see that most countries are still supporting at least one philatelic society (multiple societies in some cases), continuing to publish useful literature and offering relevant and ‘value-added’ services to their members. With online translation tools, language is far less of a barrier than before and should be leveraged to encourage wider participation.
Whichever country you collect, consider supporting the relevant society.
You need each other.