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.
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