By Jesse Robitaille
This is the first story in a two-part series covering the recent annual general meeting of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.
It was standing-room only this June for the annual general meeting (AGM) of “Canada’s national stamp club,” whose membership came out in droves to witness firsthand the recent changes to their group’s strategic plan.
Tying into the plan’s underlying theme – “It’s Your Royal,” which was also one of the themes for this year’s convention – members of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) were invited to ask questions, raise concerns and voice their opinions at the June 22 meeting.
“My mandate, amongst others, has been to advocate for an inclusive society,” said RPSC President Ed Kroft, who came to the helm of the organization in 2017.
“I want as many members of the society to participate as much as possible. It’s not a closed club, and it’s not a club that only has a few members who make all the decisions for the society,” said Kroft, who reiterated his main goal – “and it’s a goal that’s shared by the current board” – is promoting inclusivity.
The philatelic philosophy borrows from both “strength in diversity” and “strength in numbers,” aiming to position The RPSC as Canada’s “premier, go-to philatelic organization,” Kroft told CSN last year, when the revised plan was first unveiled. He hopes with a broader focus that entices more collectors – and ideally, more RPSC members – the initiative will be a boon for Canadian philately.
“The AGM was exciting because we had so many people there, and they were interested in what the society is doing and what its plans are,” said Kroft, a day after the meeting.
“People asked a lot of questions, and there was a lot of dialogue about what might be done in the future.”
Kroft began his AGM president’s report by thanking the RPSC members and dealers who patronized the recent Royal Convention in Mississauga.
He also thanked its organizing committee for planning the three-day event and the society’s board of directors for their ongoing work.
There are 14 RPSC directors, including:
- President Kroft, of Vancouver;
- Past President Jim Taylor, of Calgary;
- Vice-President Sam Chiu, of Toronto;
- Secretary Arlene Sullivan, of Vancouver;
- Robert Carswell, of Montréal;
- Michèle Cartier, of Coteau-du-lac, Qué.;
- Stéphane Cloutier, of Ottawa;
- Hugo Deshaye, of Québec city;
- John Hall, of Dartmouth, N.S.;
- David Lank, of Montréal;
- David McLaughlin, of Pickering, Ont.;
- Robert Pinet, of Toronto;
- CSN editor Mike Walsh, of Wainfleet, Ont.; and
- Joel Weiner, of Edmonton, Alta.
Stuart Keeley, who recently retired as a director, also serves as treasurer while Robert Timberg serves as executive manager.
All of the RPSC’s director positions are now filled, something Kroft is happy to see.
“We’re happy to have as many people joining us in the pursuit of our strategic goals as possible, and we have both male and female representation on the board,” he said, adding The RPSC “is not a ‘boy’s club,’ to use an expression that was put to me at one point in time.”
“We’re always happy to have new people join us in some capacity or another.”
A key part of the plan involves The RPSC partnering with other philatelic organizations in Canada and abroad.
“We see a very collaborative environment among the philatelic community in Canada. All these organizations, we feel, should come together because – as you probably have noticed every day – we’re not getting any younger,” said Kroft.
“We don’t necessarily see people banging on our doors to buy our collections; you know, the local paper boy or girl isn’t saying, ‘Boy, I love that stamp collecting.’ They’re not around, so we’re looking for people to help us continue to encourage the hobby wherever we can, and working together is something that’s very important.”
While it works closely with the Toronto-based Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation, The RPSC also recently launched a partnership with the American Philatelic Society.
The plan is – among other things – to eventually co-host an international show.
But with more services, which is one of the aims of the new strategic plan, comes more work, and The RPSC’s board already holds about five two-hour teleconferences each year.
“The unfortunate thing, as with most societies in this country, the U.S. and around the world, is we need money and volunteers in order to function. We, as directors, don’t get paid to do what we do. Even though our bylaws contemplate that there can be reasonable expenses paid to those people who serve the society, we don’t take money for that service or any form of reimbursement.”
FUNDING THROUGH CHARITY
Still, funding remains a constant challenge.
“As a result, what we’re really trying to do is think of ways in which to fundraise,” said Kroft, who added directors have been “discussing, in some way, shape or form,” a plan to obtain charitable status for The RPSC or maintain that status among its other affiliated and unaffiliated entities.
One such entity is the Toronto Association of Philatelic Exhibitors (TAPE), a charitable subsidiary of The RPSC responsible for organizing exhibitions, “particularly international ones, including Capex 51, 78, 87, 96 and Canada 82,” said RPSC past president and historian Charles Verge, who added Canada 92 was organized by another temporary RPSC subsidiary called the Société pour la Promotion des Expositions Philatéliques (SOPEP) because of different laws in Québec, where the show was held.
“TAPE will be responsible for ‘Capex 2022,’ if we get it off the ground,” he said, adding it “looks good at the moment.”
In regards to TAPE’s charitable status, RPSC directors are seeking help with filling grants “because there is a lot of public money – or even private money – that’s out there,” Kroft said.
“Unfortunately, the members of our society haven’t had the time, the inclination or the ability to do some of this charitable donation, voluntary fundraising activity.”
The RPSC also benefits from a government grant to publish its bi-monthly journal, The Canadian Philatelist, and “without that grant, this society would be in trouble,” Kroft said.
“We would need cash in order to continue, and our membership dues, which we’ve tried to keep relatively flat, would not cover even the modest expenses of this society.”
As he has throughout his presidency, Kroft appealed to the RPSC membership to volunteer.
“We want to give you more, and we all want to move together in one way as a philatelic community to make sure we give philatelists and stamp collectors as much as possible so they can pursue their hobby as well as possible.”
The final part of this story will highlight the financial statements reported at the recent annual general meeting of The RPSC.