The chairman, Sally Sinclair, welcomed all to the meeting, which was being held virtually due to Covid concerns. Notice of the meeting had been sent to all members via email on 28 March 2021, followed up with a reminder on 6 April 2021, containing a link that would allow them to join the meeting.
Present and Apologies
The following members were present online:
Ian Mackenzie (Competition Judge)
Richard Newell (Vice-Chairman)
Colin Sinclair (Treasurer)
Sally Sinclair (Chairman)
The chairman welcomed those present, who in terms of the Constitution were a quorum.
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 28th February 2021.
The minutes of the AGM held on 28th February had been approved by the committee as a true record of proceedings at the meeting, and a copy had been forwarded to members with the notice of the meeting, and posted on the website.
It was noted that this meeting had been called in response to the suggestion at the AGM that the viability of continuing the SAWC in its present form be assessed. This had been done at a committee meeting held on 18 March 2021.
Proposed termination of the existing structure of the SAWC
Sally Sinclair explained the reasons why the committee had decided to propose the termination of the existing structure in terms of Clause 13 of the SAWC Constitution. These are:
Finding members willing to volunteer as committee members: In recent years it had been difficult to fill vacancies on the committee, possibly because many people are too busy earning a living to volunteer their services. Two recent resignations had been prompted by work and other pressures, which has left the committee without anyone to compile the WriteNow, one of the valued features of membership, or to manage competitions. In addition, Richard Newell, who has been managing the website, had indicated his intention to resign.
In response to a request for volunteers to fill these positions, two members had indicated willingness to help, if someone experienced carried the responsibility, and one volunteered to compile the WriteNow, if someone was available to impart the necessary skills. While these offers are appreciated, as both Nicole Engelbrecht and Robin Jansen had resigned due to work and other pressures, there was no one to instruct them.
Dwindlingmembership: Forty-two 2020 members had not re-enrolled for 2021. The membership was currently 61 ordinary members and 7 honorary members, but at least 75 members were required to continue in the existing manner, and 100 were required if there were regular in-person meetings. At these levels it would not be viable to continue the SAWC for much longer.
Fewer competition entries: This problem was discussed at the AGM, and it was noted that for the February competition there had been seven entries and for March only three. Even the Flash Cash competition, which was open to the general public and offers a larger prize than the regular competitions, had only attracted eleven entries. In spite of huge initial enthusiasm from schools and university English faculties, the Flash Cash initiative had not attracted many new members. The February Flash Cash, with eleven entries, was the first that broke even.
The committee surmised that the drop in competition entries was in large part due to the internet, which now offers competitions from all over the world, and free critiques. Jenny Young noted that she had been put off from entering SAWC competitions because of the long delays in receiving feedback.
Sally Sinclair acknowledged that this had been a problem. She explained that the Competitions Manager had experienced problems in finding suitable people to act as judges, and had a few times had been forced to find a second judge when the first failed to deliver. Administrative delays had on occasions compounded this problem.
The Covidpandemic had made physical meetings of the core Durban membership impossible. Some members noted how much they missed these meetings, and there was discussion about whether they might resume before long. Since the roll out of the Covid vaccination program was likely to be slow, it was agreed that this was unlikely.
Following this explanation, a number of members noted that they were sad to be contemplating the dissolution of the current structure, which had assisted many writers. However, in light of the difficulties, there was unanimous agreement that the current structure of the SAWC should be terminated in terms of Clause 13 of its Constitution.
In response to a query about how long this would take, Sally noted that the committee would aim to finalise its closure by 31 July 2021. After allowing for current liabilities, the SAWC had reserves of about R21 000. Hence current members could be refunded their full 2021 subscriptions, in terms of Clause 13 of the SAWC Constitution. The balance of the assets after paying refunds and meeting all liabilities and closure costs, would then be paid to an established organisation with similar objectives, or to a registered charity.
A suggestion was made that the current assets all be paid to a non-profit organisation that promoted literacy, but Sally pointed out that Clause 13 provided that members would be given the option of a refund of their current year subscriptions. If a member failed to provide their banking details within three months of being requested to do so, these would be included in the amount paid to the established organisation with similar objectives, which could be one that promoted literacy, or to the registered charity decided upon by the committee.
Hence, those members who did not wish to receive a refund of their subscriptions could elect this option.
Establishment of a virtual SAWC
As part of the notice of the meeting, there had been a suggestion that a virtual SAWC organisation be formed, rising as it were as a phoenix from the ashes of the old. While there was general support for this proposal, Frank Gadd asked for details about how the Circle would be maintained virtually.
Sally noted that the SAWC already had an online presence in its website, which it would not continue after 31 July 2021, an active WhatsApp group, and a less active Facebook group. The WhatsApp and Facebook groups would allow members to stay in touch, and advise one another of competition opportunities, book launches etc. The groups could also be used to source beta readers, and writing assistance, as was currently happening.
A number of members noted that they were not members of the WhatsApp group, and it was agreed that details of how to join would be sent out with these minutes. Richard Newell noted that to join the Facebook group, one first had to enrol with Facebook.
In response to a question, it was noted that the administrators of the WhatsApp group are currently Sally Sinclair and Courtney Naicker, and that Richard Newell had volunteered to act as administrator and moderator for the Facebook group in the initial phase. Fran Weerts requested to be removed as a Facebook group administrator. Richard noted that potential joiners would have to answer some screening questions. All existing members will automatically be eligible to join, and the committee will consider future entry criteria.
There was concern expressed about there not being the equivalent of a committee running the organisation.
In response to this, Sally pointed out that a virtual organisation was more democratic and allowed for easy communication between members. Once meetings were again possible, any member could post a notice about a gathering of writers at a specific venue, with or without a guest speaker, and invite others on the group to join them. Instead of being a club with a committee, a constitution and a bank account, the SAWC would become a ‘fraternity of interested persons’, as Raj Isaac put it, and be rebirthed virtually.
A desire that the name ‘South African Writers’ Circle’ be continued in these groups was noted and agreed.
There was some concern about competitions not being available in the future. Julia McInnes noted that she entered free competitions that she had found online from time to time. She mentioned Almond Press as being one, and was encouraged to share the details of others on the WhatsApp group.
Sally noted that the committee had wanted to run the Short Story Competition prior to closure, but having no Competitions Manager had made this impossible.
Fran Weerts, the previous chairman, noted that she had enjoyed her four years of compiling the WriteNow, and was proud to have been a member of the SAWC, through which she had met some amazing people. While she was sad to see its current format come to an end, she was pleased that it would be terminated with dignity.
Sally thanked her, and noted that her words echoed the sentiments of those of other members, who had reacted with dismay to the notice of the meeting.
There being no further business to discuss, Sally thanked everyone for their participation and the meeting ended at 21h05.
& & & & &
NOTICE OF AN EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING
Following the Annual General Meeting held on 18th February 2021, the minutes of which are attached, your committee met virtually on 18th March. At that meeting, our Treasurer advised that only about half the members for 2020 had renewed their subscription, and that we had four new members in 2021. This left us with fifty-nine paying members, and a few honorary members. We have had two further new members join since then.
While the reserves that have been built up over the years could carry the SAWC through 2021, and part of 2022, we now have no one to compile the WriteNow magazine, and lately there have been few entrants in the competitions. Hence it was decided to call an Extraordinary General Meeting and propose to the members that we terminate the organisation in its present form, in terms of Clause 13 of the 2021 Constitution.
We can then continue to connect with one another through the SAWC WhatsApp and Facebook groups. In this way, the objective of connecting people who are interested in writing will continue to be met. Under this scenario, there will be no subscription required to join, or committee to arrange events. However, any member may post a notice for interested members to meet on a particular day, or communicate details of events that might be of interest to other writers.
We invite you to attend the virtual Extraordinary General Meeting on Thursday 8th April 2021 at 20h00, to discuss this proposal. At the meeting, your committee will provide further details of what is proposed.
The link required to join the meeting will follow closer to the time, but please diarise this meeting.
COMMITTEE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN WRITERS’ CIRCLE
& & & & &
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN WRITERS’ CIRCLE
HELD VIRTUALLY ON 18th FEBRUARY 2021 AT 19h30.
The Chairman, Sally Sinclair, welcomed all to the meeting, which was being held virtually due to Covid concerns. Notice of the meeting had been sent to all members via email on 14th February 2021, with a link that enabled them to join the meeting.
Present and Apologies
The following members were present online:
Robin Jansen (Committee Member and Competitions Manager)
Ian Mackenzie (Competition Judge)
Richard Newell (Vice-Chairman)
Colin Sinclair (Treasurer)
Sally Sinclair (Chairman)
Apologies had been received from Nicole Engelbrecht and Courtney Naicker, and were noted.
Approval of the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 15th February 2020.
The minutes of the AGM held on 15th February 2020 were approved as a true record of proceedings at the meeting.
It was noted that the entry fee for competitions had only been increased to R50 in the 2021 year.
There were no other matters arising.
Proposed changes to the Constitution
The Chairman explained that, due to the inadvisability of meeting in person, it had become necessary to review some of the clauses of the Constitution. The Committee had circulated the proposed changes, which are in bold italics:
Item 3.1 – Change the first sentence to ‘The SAWC is a voluntaryassociation of persons for the purpose of exchanging information on writing.’ (Delete stories, poetry, drama (film and TV) and similar tasks)
Item 5 – During the year the Circle will hold at least four open meetings, either in person, or by electronic means. (currently eight open meetings)
Item 6.7 – The Committee shall meet at least three times a year … (currently six times)
Item 8.2 – A quorum at an AGM shall be those members either personally present or present by electronic means. (currently only personally present is provided for)
These changes were unanimously approved.
The addition of a termination clause had also been proposed, and Sally Sinclair explained why this additional clause had been deemed necessary by the Committee.
Ginny Porter and Fran Weerts confirmed that, in light of the reduction in membership numbers and the difficulty in forming a committee, the possibility of termination had previously been discussed.
After discussion, the proposed termination clause was also unanimously approved. It was agreed that the following wording would be added to the Constitution as Clause 13:
“If insufficient members are willing to stand for office, or if the membership of the SAWC falls to a level that the Committee is of the opinion makes it unviable for it to continue, or if any other circumstance dictates that it is no longer viable to continue, the existing Committee may propose to the members the dissolution of the Circle.
If such termination is approved by members at an Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary General Meeting, such part of the subscriptions paid for the year of closure and the previous year, as is possible given the net assets available, will be treated as liabilities. The balance of the assets of the SAWC, after meeting all liabilities and closure costs, will be paid to an established organisation with similar objectives, or to a registered charity. Refunds of subscriptions payable to members who, upon being notified of the requirement to provide banking details, fail to do so within three months of the date of closure, will be forfeited and paid to the established organisation with similar objectives, or to the registered charity decided upon.”
The Chairman undertook to make these changes to the Constitution, and to publish the revised Constitution on the website. (Action: Sally Sinclair)
Subscription Fees from 1 January 2021
The Committee had increased the membership fees for 2021, as follows, and sought ratification for this decision:
Single member – R220 (prev. R205)
Couple – R290 (prev. R270)
Pensioner single – R170 (prev. R160)
Pensioner couple -R225 (prev. R210)
Student -R170 (prev. R160)
These changes were ratified.
The Chairman’s Report had been circulated with the agenda pack and was noted.
The Chairman thanked the Committee members for their input and dedication during the year, and discussed some of the difficulties experienced due to the inability of members to meet in person.
The WhatsApp group was proving popular, and it allowed members to share information.
Although the Committee had offered some virtual meeting opportunities for a talk by Kathy Mann in October 2020, and a workshop by Derek Griffin in February 2021, disappointingly few members had availed themselves of these opportunities.
Potential speakers were busy, and virtual talks did not offer the same opportunity to market their books that in-person meetings had afforded. Ashwin Desai had agreed to address the Circle in April, but no date had been set. Due to her other commitments, Nicole Engelbrecht’s talk had been postponed several times, and now would not take place on 25th February.
Richard Newell suggested instead asking Ian McKenzie to talk on publishing traps on 25th February, which he agreed to do. Sally Sinclair will contact him to make arrangements. (Action -Sally Sinclair)
The total number of competition entries received for 2020 was 120 (2019- 120), but there had been a rush of entries in September, when there had been three separate competitions running.
Robin Jansen was asked to report further. He noted that, while the December/January results were available, the results for the October and November competitions were still awaited. However, he was able to announce Gary Kuyper as the Writer of the Year.
After some suggestions from members, Robin assured them that he had a full panel of judges, but that delays sometimes occurred when they were exceptionally busy.
Due to her workload, Nicole Engelbrecht had resigned from the Committee, and would no longer be compiling the WriteNow magazine. Thanks were extended to Nicole for the excellent job she had done.
Fran Weerts had volunteered to take on this task, but noted that she was planning to travel once this was possible, which might interfere with the regularity of publication. Her offer was accepted, with thanks.
Annual Financial Statements at 31 December 2020
The reviewed Annual Financial Statements, together with a one-page summary and comparison of the 2018-, 2019- and 2020-years’ incomes and expenditures had been circulated with the agenda pack, and were noted.
The Treasurer, Colin Sinclair, noted that net assets were about the same as at December 2019 at R15 544 (2019- R15054). In the 2020 year there had been a small surplus of R490 (2019 – R9263 deficit, mainly due to Web development costs).
The Annual Financial Accounts for the year were noted, and the Treasurer was thanked for providing such a comprehensive report.
Colin Sinclair noted that he had prepared a budget for the 2021 year, based on an expectation of the SAWC returning to normal operations in that year. On this basis, the break even had been roughly 100 paying members. On the basis of the current limited operations, which now seemed more likely during 2021, the breakeven was 75 paying members.
Until 15 February only 43 members had paid their subscriptions for 2021. He further noted that of the 43 members who had paid, only 35 were membership renewals. Unless 32 more members paid by 28 February 2021, the SAWC would not be in a position to meet their fixed costs, which included website hosting, prizes and bank charges, out of the current year’s subscriptions. (Note: Another six members have now paid their subscriptions, bringing the total paid to 49.)
While there were sufficient reserves to cover a deficit in 2021, the reduction in membership numbers suggested that an assessment of the future viability of the Circle was required.
Ian McKenzie suggested that a drive on social media be undertaken, to recruit new members. In response, Richard Newell noted that he had contacted all the local universities to promote the Flash Cash Competition, and details of the competition had been published in free local newspapers. While the competition had been enthusiastically welcomed by many, few entries had been received from non-members. Richard further mentioned that advertising in the media was expensive, and that there were numerous local writers’ groups that did not charge subscriptions.
Sally Sinclair noted that enquiries were often received via the SAWC website, to which responses were sent outlining the SAWC offering, but only about 20% of these actually paid the subscription required to join the Circle. It seemed that there was interest, but the subscription dissuaded people from joining.
Robin Jansen commented that, through Facebook, writers were able to obtain free critiques, which made them less inclined to pay annual subscriptions and pay to enter competitions.
Frances Roberts noted that she was saddened by the drop in membership numbers, and recalled past years where there had been upward of 300 members. In response, Fran Weerts noted that the membership numbers had been steadily declining, and that Covid had amplified this trend.
The Committee were requested to monitor the situation, and keep members informed. (Action – Committee)
Election of the Committee
In December 2020, Richard Newell had notified the Committee that he intended to stand down at the February AGM. However, in light of the subsequent resignation of Nicole Engelbrecht, and the precarious situation going forward, he had retracted his resignation.
The Chairman noted that nominations for Committee membership had been called for in the December WriteNow. None were received. Wendy Greeff had been approached to join the Committee, and had made herself available as Secretary.
The following members were unanimously elected to form the Committee for 2021:
Chairman – Sally Sinclair
Vice-Chairman– Richard Newell
Treasurer – Colin Sinclair
Secretary – Wendy Greeff
Competitions – Robin Jansen
Social Media – Courtney Naicker
Richard Newell suggested that the Committee urgently assess the future viability of the SAWC, in light of the number of paid members at 28 February 2021. If insufficient members enrolled for it to be financially viable going forward, he suggested that the Committee convene an Extraordinary General Meeting in March 2021, after giving notice to all members. This would enable the members to take a decision about whether the SAWC in its current form should continue.
His proposal was unanimously accepted.
There being no further business to discuss, the meeting ended at 20h40.
Copyright 2019 South African Writers' Circle | Designed and hosted by Select Web | All Rights Reserved