A Business Proposition
By Brian Pitman, September 2008
If you missed the ICGA Annual Convention in July, you really missed out on something. We had phenomenal discussions on glass, with masterful presentations on seven colors by excellent presenters. We also had a huge amount of fantastic food (the breakfasts were awesome, the lunch was really good, and the banquet dinner stuffed everyone with a variety of great food). We had the unveiling of the Big Surprise during our lunch business meeting (which was the awarding to Reg and Linda Dunham the first ever Frank M. Fenton Memorial Award, something planned for a year and kept absolutely quiet by an enormous amount of people). We had a great auction which brought in many people. But we had two other things that wouldn’t normally make it into The Pump, and they were two of the best things at this year’s convention.
The first of those things was the gathering of many of our attendees in the Hospitality Room until after midnight. During our business meeting, Stacy Wills pointed out that the convention is the only real vacation he gets to enjoy each year (something that is true for many people). Frequently at conventions, he notices that many rooms close at 8:00 p.m., and he doesn’t get a chance to roam around, meeting new people (as all carnival glass ambassadors really enjoy), and discussing the glass until late hours of the night. Stacy discussed how that tends to make conventions appear to be unfriendly to those who are new to the carnival convention circuit, and it also increases the appearance of the “clique” issue, in which people at conventions tend to hang out with only the people with whom they are close friends. Many at the lunch agreed, and we made a spontaneous decision to keep the Hospitality Room open until midnight or later at this and future conventions (which, of course, made Ann McMorris, our Hospitality Chair for practically the past decade, freak out a bit).
And so, we all met in the Hospitality Room at around 9:00 p.m. Over 60 of us were in there, laughing, sharing secrets and thoughts about life, carnival and more, smiling, taking pictures, eating some snacks, etc., until after midnight. Those three hours revealed a great deal about different collectors that many had not known before (such as Bob and Shirley Patterson’s great fortune to meet a young Michael Buble’, world famous singer, years before he become incredibly famous). We all bonded with each other, becoming much closer. If you were there, you will never forget it. And furthermore, we did the same thing the next night, only staying up even later. And we decided that, to make carnival conventions even better in the future, we were going to do it again and again. It doesn’t even matter if it is the ICGA convention or your local carnival convention. We are going to change the way conventions work for everyone, and we are going to invite everyone to participate in the great “Operation: Late Night Friendship Building.”
Now many of you who have attended the conventions in the distant past, the “good old days” conventions, are completely familiar with this approach, because it isn’t new, it is just something that hasn’t been done in a long time. I’m not sure when carnival conventions started rolling up the red carpet so early in the evening, but I AM sure that this practice is going to change now. It is easier to communicate with each other via e-mail and such, but nothing competes with a room full of people, all enjoying their carnival vacation, and all feeling like children at summer camp, staying up late without the supervision of adults, and all willing to have fun. LOTS of fun!
Now the second thing at this convention you missed was an open, honest discussion about finances. This was the type of discussion I have never before seen at a carnival glass convention. During the business meeting, we talked about conventions and the true costs (for instance, each person pays $29 for the banquet dinner, but the actual cost to the club is around $45 per person, so the club subsidizes the cost to the member so that they get an awesome meal for a reasonable price). We also talked about the cost of our wonderful newsletter, The Carnival Pump. Our newsletter is simply the best in carnival, I believe. The articles are educational and fantastic, and the color inserts are iconic in the carnival world.
Currently, our membership dues bring in around $11,000 annually (a number which, unfortunately, is decreasing much the same as for nearly every other carnival association). Our Pump costs around $15,000 per year to create, print and mail (a number which, naturally, is increasing with the costs of printing and postage increasing more rapidly as the world goes digital). Now let me say here: the absolute last thing I want to do is increase membership dues, nor cut back on the quality of The Pump. Like our subsidizing of the banquet meals for those who attend our conventions, I feel we should offer you, the member who may not attend our conventions, the best possible product at a reasonable cost.
One way to alleviate those costs is to receive The Pump digitally via e-mail. Now this is something we have offered for the past three to four years, especially to our members overseas, and a handful have taken us up on the offer in the past. However, we mentioned it at the convention (and especially the “green” aspect of receiving The Pump digitally in that we will use less ink and paper by printing a smaller number of the newsletter each time), and people responded very positively. In the period of one week, we went from a handful of people receiving it digitally to almost a full sixth of our membership signing up to get it digitally (and this is all even before we have offered it to our full membership right here and now in this September issue to all of you).
Beyond the savings to the club, there are SEVERAL benefits to receiving The Pump in this format. The first (and most obvious once you have seen it) benefit is that The Pump is entirely in color. Every single picture in The Pump is full color and gorgeous. Carl Booker, our Pump Editor, and I are of a like mind in that we feel color should only be used on pictures of the glass and the people in our newsletter, because that is what we always want to highlight. Once you have seen the beauty of the newsletter in its digital glory, you will immediately wonder why you didn’t have it delivered this way always. The second benefit of a digital delivery of The Pump is that you will receive it about two weeks before the print version arrives in the mailbox of those still wishing to get it the traditional way.
Now let me be clear: you do not have to switch to the digital format. I don’t want you to receive it in a way in which you are not comfortable. If you have e-mail and you want to be a part of this exciting change, then awesome! If not, that is also awesome! We value your membership, no matter how you like to receive your Pump.
If you do want to get it digitally, then you need to send an e-mail to Carl Booker or me. You may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may e-mail Carl at email@example.com. We need to know your name, your e-mail address, and a short note telling us you would like to receive The Pump in this new way, and we will get you set up.
I also want to point you at the ICGA website. It has been undergoing a tremendous change over the past few months, and I think you will appreciate the new features, articles, and information there. There is a way for people to join or renew their membership online (which only takes a moment and is pretty slick.) There are also vintage articles from Don Moore online for you to enjoy. We have hundreds of pictures from our last five conventions if you want to relive or enjoy them. We also have our complete history, a list of all of our souvenirs from the beginning, as well as all of our conventions ever. There is much for you to enjoy and share with those who would make a great member of our friendly association of carnival glass collectors. Our website is at www.internationalcarnivalglass.com.
Let me close my message this time by thanking you. Your membership in ICGA is absolutely appreciated. Whether you attend a convention or not, whether you go to auctions or not, whether you submit articles or not: we appreciate you. Many times, people ask if carnival glass collectors around the world are decreasing. I don’t believe that is true. I think that many of the new collectors have no idea the club system exists, and they are missing out on the best parts of collecting carnival glass: all of you. By keeping your membership and sharing our existence with your friends, children, grandchildren and all, you are truly being an ambassador not only for carnival in general, but for ICGA specifically. That is truly a great, noble, and wonderful thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you!