I am a member of several philatelic associations. Some of them (almost all of them in fact) publish a newsletters for their members. In all of these publications, when reading about the life of the association, you can see complains about the decreasing number of members and the decreasing number of active members. I was thinking about that recently and suddenly I felt guilty : after all, what do I do for these associations ? I mean I take advantage from them and from all the information I can get from them. But in return, what do I give back ? Out of the subscription fee, of course ? So I decided that at least I could speak about them in my blog.
The only French association that I belong to is Association Française de Philatélie thématique (French Topical Philatelic Association, http://perso.orange.fr/afpt.themaphilatelie/). Among various services to its member, the association edits several philatelic publications : a bulletin about topical philately in general and several bulletins dedicated to specific topics such as sports, fauna and flora… In the same type, I am also member of the American Topical Association (http://www.americantopicalassn.org/). This is a much bigger association, also dedicated to topical stamp colleting. The publication of the ATA is called Topical Time and gathers very interesting articles about all sort of subjects that are represented on stamps. The main problem with publications of topical associations is that they can not speak about all topics, so, if you have a specialized topic such as mine (frog) you rarely find article about it on those papers.
A part from topical associations I am member of the well known American Philatelic Society (http://www.stamps.org/). A huge international association which edits the American Philatelist, a very impressive and interesting newspaper. Of course it is very often oriented towards American philately, but not only.
The ATA and the APS contains a lot of chapters, affiliates and units which gather philatelists specialized in a specific area. For instance, I am a member of the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors (http://www.iswsc.org/) which promotes worldwide stamp collecting. Yes, some people still collect worldwide stamps, and not only topical collectors (that are, by definition, worldwide collectors). Even more specialized, I’m a member of the China stamp society (http://www.chinastampsociety.org/index.html), since I collect Chinese stamps.
To finish, the last but not the least, I’m member of the Cover Circuit Collectors Club (http://www.geocities.com/coverccc/) an affiliate of the APS which gives you the opportunity to receive nice covers from all over the world. A lot of the covers I show here on my blog come from members of the CCCC.
Generally speaking, what I have learned from all these associations is that their main richness is their members ! Belonging to an association gives you the opportunity to meet very interesting people who can teach you a lot.