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APS Ambassadors Program  
 

 
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Posted 09/04/2016   09:13 am  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Message
I read with much interest Scott English's poignant September AP column titled "Ambassadors Can Help Us Do So Much". In it he makes a compelling case for the new APS ‘Ambassadors' program which designates assigned points of contact as liaisons to bridge the gap between the chapters and the APS. I logged on to the APS website and downloaded Matt Liebson's APS Ambassadors PDF "Growing the Hobby Together" slide show to glean further information.

Seems like a good program; one that should generate further interest in the APS and its membership value to the 52% of Chapter hobbyists who are not currently APS members. But I was stuck by the omission of the entire online community of hobbyists. It feels like we are the forgotten illegitimate children of the APS.

While I understand that the program's target is the population of non-APS members in the Chapters, I cannot help but feel that there is tremendous value in also having an assigned liaison(s) to bridge the gap between the vast numbers of online hobbyists and the APS.

It seems to me that that there are more places to fish in then the traditional Chapter ponds. In fact, one of the biggest ponds around is the online pond.

Is it possible to add an Ambassador or two to the program for online hobbyists without a local Chapter? If not, is there some other plan or program in the works to reach out to online hobbyists?

Does APS support strictly online Chapters? I think that the old VSC was (is?) such a chapter. Would it be possible to start a online-only Chapter of APS and then have an assigned Ambassador for it?

What can/should be done to solicit more online interaction, and bridge the gap, between APS on the large number of online only hobbyists?
Don
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Posted 09/04/2016   10:05 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jbcev80 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Don

Isn't SCF an APS chapter? I know of one other forum that is a chapter. For online Forums that are chapters maybe the APS contact could also be the Ambassador. It would make sense, at least to me. In fact, it would make sense for any stamp club that is an APS chapter that the chapter's APS contact also be an Ambassador.

Going for the online community that are not in any online chapters, I would worry about people joining even though they are not a stamp collector. I personally think the APS membership should be stamp collectors and not any "old joe", which is possible by reaching out to everyone.

Just my opinion.

Jerry B
APS 124477

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Posted 09/04/2016   9:00 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add paperhistory to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
There a few online chapters, though I think there may have been a board decision in recent years to designate any new online organizations as affiliates rather than chapters [generally, stamp clubs are chapters; specialty societies are affiliates]. The eBay Users stamp club is one.

The Ambassador program, developed by the APS Membership committee, is intended to serve essentially as an upgrade of the existing APS liaison position (every chapter has one, but APS asks little of the position). The idea is to create two-way communication and to provide (and receive) more information and interaction between APS and the chapters. It is explicitly designed with chapters in mind; the committee made a considered decision that chapters are a group we could focus effort on with the best chance of "return" in new members for the least expenditure of resources, and of course there are other benefits to closer communication and interaction between clubs and headquarters.

It does not mean the committee ignores online collectors or that the committee doesn't recognize the potential of the group. The online group ( eBay buyers of stamps, for example) has been difficult to reach and prior efforts in the area have borne little fruit. The committee will be looking at it again in the near future once the Ambassador program is launched.

Matt Liebson [APS Membership Committee chair]
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Posted 09/05/2016   04:01 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Matt,
Thank you for your reply.

If I am reading your reply correctly there are no current plans beyond ‘looking at it' to reach out to online hobbyists. Instead, the APS is prioritizing the traditional methods (i.e doing surveys at stamp shows and utilizing the legacy Chapter hierarchy) of attempting to reverse the loss of membership. It find it telling that the there is mention in this months' AP that the slowing in the decline of membership numbers is a sign of progress. I wonder at what membership levels will the APS finally decide that traditional methods are not sufficient and that online hobbyists are critical to the future of APS.

Frankly I reject attempts to place the issue of the decline in APS membership on the hobbyist. By saying that online hobbyists are difficult to reach, or it is too expensive, APS appears to believe that the issue is external when the need for improvement/change is internal. I do not buy into the suggestion that reaching out to online hobbyists is hard or expensive. Heck it took you only a few minutes and virtual zero cost to write your response in this forum; reaching hundreds of hobbyists. It would take very little time, and very little money, to post an online survey for hobbyists who are not currently APS members. Once published, this survey could sit online for years collecting useful feedback. Same for gathering feedback on those APS members who have left. It would take only an hour or two to develop an online automated mechanism that solicits feedback from members when they decide to leave APS. For whatever reason(s), APS seems to be unable to do much online without it being perceived as some kind of massive, costly project.

I do agree that APS is facing some difficult issues. The world changed around them and pulled the rug from underneath the value of membership. For example, few people are going to view the APS identification service as a reason to join when they can instantly get IDs done for free online. (Whether right or wrong, there are examples in this forum that demonstrate that some hobbyist get upset when they do not receive help within a few hours, never mind days.) How can people perceive membership value for the APS circuit book service, waiting months to see any return, when they can sell their extra material in a day or two online? Why deal with the complex opening page of the APS store, making it very hard for a casual buyer to peruse the offerings, when they can do this easily on many other online selling venues? Why drop money on an APS membership, or wait for days getting something from APRL, to get access to information when they can find it for free, in real-time, online? The unfortunate problem here is that the APS is trying to compete with the internet. It is like the APS is a old time general store in the age of super stores.

I think that until APS addresses these issues (driving solutions that makes their services have more value and stand above those being offer for free online) the membership numbers will continue to decline. APS does have the potential to deliver tremendous value to hobbyists. But it is painfully apparent that APS is not yet there, they are clinging on to doing today the same things they did yesterday. I feel terrible that you and the APS Membership Committee is assigned responsibility for increasing membership yet is not getting the support it needs to get this job done. You cannot succeed until the entire organization understands that it has to change the way it delivers value to ALL hobbyists, not just the traditional ones.
Don
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Posted 09/05/2016   08:11 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add paperhistory to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
We're having this same discussion on the Delphi Stamp Forum, so I'm going to respond to a different aspect of your question here.

In terms of membership values, both the 2007 survey and the recent dropped member survey (as well as the focus groups undertaken in Portland) all suggest that there's a wide spectrum of services that people are interested in, and that members and nonmembers alike frequently do not know about all of the services. People *do* find value in the circuit sales (we could use more, of course). For some collectors, there is no substitute for being able to look at the stamps in hand. For some sellers, they don't have computers or choose not to use eBay or to have to handle shipping of individual items. The tradeoff of up-front preparation work for sales (in circuits or on StampStore) is that you don't have to handle buyer relations or shipping.

The insurance program is a valuable benefit for many collectors (though, unlike 20 years ago, there is at least one other commercial provider of similar insurance). The Code of Ethics can't be substituted online. The library hasn't material that is almost impossible to find anywhere else, and I no more expect the library to digitize all of that and send it to me for free than I would expect any other library to do. [access to interns from Penn State should continue to result in finding aids to archival materials, and volunteer work to identify other online resources might be useful, but that's up to Tara Murray and her staff].
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