A modern website can leave some clubs in a ‘catch-22’

By Jesse Robitaille

This is the second story in a multi-part series exploring the importance of an online presence to numismatics’ survival.

Owing to the importance of an online presence, the Calgary Numismatic Society (CNS) recently hired a public-relations firm to revamp its website, something the club’s president describes as a “double-edged sword.”

It was “largely to make it look better on mobile platforms,” added CNS President Trevor Phillips. While the site is now “a bit more functional for web users in 2020,” the club has found itself in a “catch-22,” he added.

“One of the reasons we updated our website was to increase our draw among the younger generation, but because we don’t have very many people from the younger generation in the club, we don’t have enough people with the tech savvy to both keep an eye on the site and to generate content and updates for our loyal webmaster to update it with.”

Although the club has “a handful” of members under the age of 40, most of them “have our hands full at the club with existing responsibilities or new kids, like our former treasurer, so it is a bit of a struggle to draw out new content for the site,” added Phillips.

One of those younger members, however, recently found success using Facebook to advertise the club’s regular coin shows.

“For very reasonable pricing – $30-$50 – we can get our show poster in front of 2,000-5,000 local Calgary Facebook users, of which we were seeing dozens of ‘likes,’ which we hope translates into more buyers for the dealers at our shows,” said Phillips.

“I do think that a comprehensive digital strategy will be vital to expanding the younger demographic in the hobby generally, but it is going to require the few younger collectors we do have taking a fairly proactive stance towards owning our digital presence before we see a rebalancing of numismatic demographics back to a more even split between the different age groups.”

The CNS website can be found at calgarynumismaticsociety.org while the club’s Facebook page is facebook.com/calgarynumismaticsociety.

The Manitoba Coin Club uses its website primarily for community outreach and responding to numismatic inquiries from the general public.

MANITOBA CLUB USES VARIED APPROACH

As mentioned in this series’ first story, the Saskatoon Coin Club boasted about 310,000 website visitors in 2019.

While those numbers “sound astronomical,” according to Manitoba Coin Club (MCC) Webmaster Howard Engel, his club’s numbers are “much more modest.”

The MCC website has seen more than 3,800 visitors – 2,198 of them unique – since its inception in the summer of 2016, when it replaced an older site.

“More importantly, the website makes a significant difference to our community outreach activities. Anyone who has a question concerning coins can email us at our generic email address, mbcoin@shaw.ca, and we’ll respond,” said Engel, who’s also the club’s archivist and show chair.

Between December 2017 and November 2018, 21 unique MCC website visitors sent 21 inquiries, of which 15 (71 per cent) focused on appraisals of “usually inherited or otherwise long-forgotten collections of numismatic materials,” added Engel.

This past year, those numbers were up.

From December 2018 to November 2019, 31 unique website visitors sent 33 inquiries, and 17 of them (52 per cent) concerned appraisals. Other queries asked about club membership, shows and dealers, among other topics.

The club issues a “standard response” for appraisals but also attaches a club membership form and a complimentary digital copy of the club’s latest newsletter, Bison Tales, “for the most keen,” Engel said.

“This strategy has seemed to work well enough since the club has gained several new members in 2018 and 2019,” he added, but “only a fraction of the approximately 25 new members over the last two years are due to the website.”

“Several are due to our ongoing meeting and show advertising in Senior Scope newspaper while others arise from our table presence complete with membership forms, show ads and a three-case club history exhibit at Royal Canadian Mint Winnipeg Boutique events … and some arise from local coin dealer customers picking up our membership form.”

While the MCC website stats are admittedly “modest” – Engel said as a volunteer organization, the MCC “could not manage much more traffic than we already receive” – hobby clubs need an online presence to be “treated seriously.”

“It provides a handy way to direct interested parties to view club activities such as the gallery of photos that document our events and the tabs of club publications, including our Constitution – recently revised in 2016 – our library collection and retrospective copies of our club newsletter, Bison Tales.”

The cost (which for the MCC is small at $100 a year for all website maintenance) is secondary, Engel said.

“Indeed, we cannot afford not to have one. Rather, it is a question of the efficacy of the design of the website; the more dynamic – versus static – the better.  At the very least, we work hard to keep it as up to date as possible.”

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