RPSC facing a catch-22 as membership dwindles

By Jesse Robitaille

This is the final story in a two-part series covering the recent annual general meeting of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.

With paid memberships in an ongoing decline but honorary and life memberships holding strong, The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) is in peculiar financial straits.

With about 300 honorary and life members throughout the past three years and another 1,200 paid members – a number that’s “slowly sinking,” according to RPSC Treasurer Stuart Keeley – the society isn’t bringing in any money from 20 per cent of its membership. This is at a time when The RPSC is reporting a $3,968 loss, although nearly $3,000 of that is from a recent inventory write-down.

“Our membership is slowly declining, and those are the people who are paying,” said Keeley, who recently retired as a director of the society.

“For life members and honorary members, we still have to send them The Canadian Philatelist and everything else, so it puts a strain on the financial.”

There was an influx of members joining The RPSC in the early 1970s, Keeley said, adding they will all become life members once they reach 50 continuous years of membership.

“There are a ton in the pipeline for 2020-24, so that’s complicating what the organization is trying to figure out financially. I’m gonna say it: do we consider a reduced-price membership as opposed to a free membership for life members in order to pay for TCP at its normal cost?”

“I’ve been involved in a number of philatelic societies,” said RPSC President Ed Kroft, who’s also the immediate past president of the Society of Israel Philatelists.

“I’ve seen this progress where life members who have been getting paper copies are being asked to give up their paper copies for electronic copies. As a result, if people want paper copies, they’re being asked to pay for the paper copy and its mailing.”

As philatelists are all too aware, the medium of exchange for most media has changed, Kroft added.

“Now, things are delivered electronically rather than delivered in paper. I’ve had to go through this process with other societies,” he said, adding the board is “always looking at ways to try to raise money and to try to save money.”

It’s a “complicated issue,” however, as a major shift in print to electronic subscriptions could skew distribution numbers and fall short of the required capacity for grants, Keeley said.

“As the hobby continues to develop, and as methods of exchange of communication continue to develop, we will be looking at ways to communicate with people as much electronically as we can,” said Kroft. “To the extent that Philaprint doesn’t give out grants anymore, we have to look for alternative sources of funding for the purposes of publishing TCP.”

MEDALS WRITTEN DOWN

There was also “a bit of a loss” last year, Keeley said, because The RPSC stopped awarding different types of medals and began awarding a single medal starting with this year’s Royal Convention.

The board plans to “use the medal inventory for purposes other than awards for exhibition at national exhibitions over a period of time,” it reported in the society’s 2018 financial statements.

The board wrote down the old medals to their “net realizable value” of $2,875.

“It makes life easier for everybody,” said Keeley.

50-YEAR MEMBERS

This year, eight members of The RPSC were inducted into the 50-Year Club, which was created in 2003 “by the suggestion of Charles Verge and Ray Ireson to honour those who have been members for 50 continuous years,” said Kroft.

This year’s inductees include:

  • Roger Fisk, of Port Alberni, B.C.;
  • Edith Heppenstall, of Victoria, B.C.;
  • Trelle Morrow, of Prince George, B.C.;
  • Don Shorting, of Victoria, B.C.;
  • Joshua Hodgson, of Scarborough, Ont.;
  • Krikor Malezian, of Richmond Hill, Ont.;
  • David Oberholtzer, of Waterloo, Ont.; and
  • Peter Wideman, of Toronto.

The medallions were sponsored by former RPSC President and Senior Fellow Michael Madesker, who attended this year’s AGM in Mississauga. They are presented to recipients on a royal blue lanyard. The recipient’s name is engraved on the back of the medal alongside their years of membership.

The RPSC 50-year members are the only people to receive the specially designed medallions and honorary life memberships, with their annual dues waived.

For more information about The RPSC, visit rpsc.org.

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