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Viewpoint: Should leaders serve multiple clubs?

By Mitch Ernst


While I was at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia, I took in their “What it takes to serve on the ANA Board” talk. I applaud the ANA for the topics discussed, the taboos touched upon, and the realities they told their audience they must face if they wanted to run for the ANA board. The booklet the ANA produced for the event is absolutely wonderful.

They had the bravery to mention the importance of fund-raising in a non-profit organization. Imagine that?! You could almost see people in the audience tighten up at the mere mention of it. What many members of numismatic organizations don’t realize are the real economics of the day in which we live. The interconnectivity of so many aspects of organization, operation, convention planning, and management escape most members. Sorry, folks, but the days of Ozzie and Harriet sitting on numismatic boards are gone, and they aren’t coming back.

As president of Central States Numismatic Society, I have tried to adjust the culture of our organization to face those harsh realities as well. But changing a multi-generational, deeply ingrained culture is no small task.

Let me give you an example of something that I have noticed and have wondered if we are not hindering ourselves in our missions of numismatic education by encouraging and rewarding our members for their service on many numismatic boards at the same time.

In the corporate, non-profit world, there are three basic duties that are expected of people serving on non-profit boards. They are: The Duty of Care, the Duty of Obedience, and the Duty of Loyalty. All to one degree or another require those serving on a board to devote all of their energies to that board. In the numismatic world, it appears we want people to work for and serve on the boards of as many organizations as possible. Oh, I know, we are one big happy family. Our ultimate goal is to serve the hobby; I get it. I’ve been there and done it. I’ve been recognized and rewarded because of it. But I now wonder, when does that service to the greater hurt our service to the particular?

Whether people like it or not, the trend toward fund-raising for numismatic organizations is moving forward. More and more organizations realize that dues and show revenue do not, nor can they ever, cover operational expenses. So, when does the service on one board and our duty of loyalty to one board become a conflict of interest or an ethical question when we find ourselves having to raise money for two similar organizations? Which takes priority? Which master do we serve?

I don’t have the answer to that. Our predisposition to reward and recognize individuals for their service to the hobby through service to many clubs simultaneously encourages that possible conflict and encourages that quandary.

When I became president of Central States, I personally didn’t want to be seen as using my higher position to benefit or hand out favors to members of another club of which I was associated. I resigned my local and state positions so that there was no question in my own mind where my loyalties laid.

I believe the same quandary applies to our dealer board members as well. Their friends, business associates, or trade associations should all take a back seat to the loyalty they should have to the organization of which they serve by being on their board.

Is that the solution for everyone? I couldn’t, nor would I want to, answer that. But I will say it is a question that the entire numismatic community needs to start thinking about. Having spent many years in the ministry, it is hard for me not to draw upon that experience and the teachings of the scriptures. When addressing divided loyalties, Jesus himself even said, “You cannot serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)

Is it a quandary? Yes. Is it irreconcilable? Hardly. But it will take time. It will take creative solutions and hard decisions. It will take being open to new ideas and a culture change. Informational sessions like the one the ANA held in Philadelphia will help pave the way for that culture change. But it will also take all of us realizing that our service to the hobby by serving on the boards of numerous numismatic organizations simultaneously requires self-examination and a self-awareness that is often missing in the hobby. You see, hobby service isn’t about you. Our service should be about the organization we serve and what we can do for it, not what it can do for us.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Mitch Ernst, who is president of the Central States Numismatic Society. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 5225 Joerns Drive, Suite 2, Stevens Point WI, 54481. Send email to

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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