There is a trend at the national level that many collectors are unaware of. National organizations are being operated and managed by professional business people and not just ordinary stamp collectors any more. Specifically, Iím talking about Peter C. Mastrangelo, the Executive Director of the American Philatelic Society (APS), and Matt Hansen, the Executive Director of the American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA).
Neither of these gentlemen have much of a background in stamp collecting. Both men have a solid background in managing non-profit organizations which is a lot different than managing a for-profit business.
Why is this important? National organizations like the APS and the ASDA need to be run like a business. It is my opinion that itís easier to take a business person and educate them about stamp collecting than it is to take a stamp collector and instill business sense in them.
The APS and ASDA have large memberships with budgets in the millions of dollars. Thatís a lot of money and a lot of responsibility. To grow these societies, you need someone at the top that understands how a non-profit organization operates. They need to know what it takes to attract new members, solicit donations, sponsor events, and the other activities that a non-profit organization undertakes. A business person understands that role. A stamp collector may not. Itís refreshing to know that we have capable people at the head of these national societies. This is a good thing for the hobby.
Iím not talking about the local stamp club or specialized society. Those organizations can benefit from someone with a business background too. Thatís not always possible though. These clubs are smaller, officer positions are unpaid and the chances of having a strong business person in the ranks are smaller. With smaller memberships and limited budgets, you donít always need a business whiz at that level.
The APS and ASDA pay their executive directors. They have a responsibility to manage the organizations well. They are accountable for their actions and their performance. They work closely with the Board of Directors. Because itís a paid job, these organizations can seek qualified individuals and not have to settle for ďthe person most willing to be railroaded into the jobĒ that often happens with smaller clubs and specialized societies.
Sometimes we get a strong stamp collector who has a strong business background. Two examples that come to mind are the current APS President, Nicholas Carter, and former Linnís editor, Michael Laurence. Thatís terrific when you can combine a both a strong business and stamp collecting background, but itís more of the exception. Many strong stamp collectors have a limited or no business background.
I donít want to completely dismiss past individuals. For example, Jim DeVoss was the Executive Director of the APS and did a wonderful job. Jim was one of those exceptions where you have a person with both a strong stamp and business background. However, I can point to more examples of where a ďstamp collectorĒ that was popular or well known did more damage than good for the society. There are roles in the hobby for stamp collectors. That isnít always at the head of a national organization though.
I hope the philosophy of putting a ďstamp collectorĒ in charge at the national level is dead. If we are going to grow this wonderful hobby, we need to do it with people who know how to operate multi-million dollar non-profit organizations. I welcome this change in the hobby. You should too.