The Advertising Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) is an industry body dedicated to education in the industry. Just like any other body it faces challenges, with some people speculating about its financial sustainability and the quality of its leadership.
But board members Karen Bailey, Rob Smuts and Virginia Hollis and current committee chair Wayne Bischoff have assured the industry that the organisation is going strong and will continue to fulfil its mandates.
When it began some 40 years ago, AMASA’s modus operandi was to promote the media industry in Southern Africa. Over the years it has shifted its core focus to educating and uplifting media skills in South Africa, of both new entrants to the industry and more seasoned media professionals. It does this by running several portfolios, including the AMASA Learnership Programme, the AAA Media Management module hosted by AAA, at least one annual weekend Media Workshop, monthly forums that cover hot industry topics, and the annual AMASA Awards.
A constant review of policy
To ensure that it remains on track with its mandate, the organisation constantly reviews its vision, strategy and tactics, with both the committee and the board involved in this process.
“AMASA’s focus on media education remains and must remain at the core of AMASA,” Bailey explains. “However, the tactics, projects and portfolios are reviewed every year to ensure we are meeting that objective optimally every year. We evaluate what worked in the previous year and what needs to be changed or improved. This is done by the board on a strategic and finance level and by the committee on an operational level. We also focus at that time on looking into what’s new and what the media trends and changes are both locally and internationally.”
An example of this review process includes a look at e-learning initiatives. Another positive contribution is that each past chairman has tended to put additional personal effort into a project that they feel really deserves attention.
Clarifying the outdated MOI concerns
A concern some people have is that AMASA’s Memorandum of Incorporation is outdated. Bailey was quick to clear up the confusion. “No, this is inaccurate. AMASA has been in existence for some 40 years and a constitution followed by a Memorandum and Articles of Association has always existed. In 1998 the Registrar of Companies and Close Corporations did revalidate AMASA’s updated Registration. This was done again in 2004.
“In 2008 the Companies Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) came into effect and this then replaced the MOA. We also changed from an Association Incorporated under Section 21 to a non profit to keep in line with the Companies Act. So, no, the MOI is not outdated, in fact it is very much up to date.”
Hollis adds, “A MOI does not change unless the mandate of the organisation changes, and AMASA’s mandate has been the same since I joined the Committee in the very early 90’s – education.”
Is AMASA financially sustainable?
When asked if the organisation was financially sustainable, Bailey said it had operated successfully for more than 40 years “through strict financial controls and prudently managed cash reserves to ensure that we can continually meet our commitments to our partner institutions, our students and to the industry at large”.
To fund its programmes and projects the body hosts and manages a variety of fund raising activities. “We are reliant on strong relationships with the media and key media agencies who continue to support our fund-raising efforts,” Smuts elaborates. “It is therefore important that we continue to provide the industry with useful feedback on the good AMASA is doing and that tangible progress is being made on the education front. When we combined this with an efficient and effective committee and guidance from the board, AMASA should sustain itself well into the future.”
Bailey says AMASA’s financials are independently reviewed and audited annually by CTF Financial Services and that the organisation has received a clean bill of health every single year. She adds that any AMASA member that has financial or governance concerns is fully entitled to approach CTF for independent clarification on any of them, but the costs incurred for this process must be paid by them.
Strict controls for service providers
One of the strict financial controls that Bailey is referring to is the choosing of service providers. “On all spending matters and wherever materially possible, the AMASA board requests that the committee get three quotes and motivate for their selection of a preferred supplier before a supplier is appointed. There are some instances where this is not realistically possible due to practical reasons but regardless, no committee or board member has the mandate to make any material decision independently. Everything has to be approved either by other Committee members or if it is a board matter, by the board.”
Once these suppliers have been appointed there are also strict ways of doing things. “Where more formal, long term or annual commitments are made, written agreements are required (this would include significant undertakings like book publishers, PR agency appointments etc) but more ad hoc suppliers like golf day venues, monthly forum venues etc. operate with standard documentation. As all committee members and board directors give of their time pro bono, AMASA has no full time employees or full time resources available to it. It would therefore be counterproductive and very expensive and time consuming to submit every day to day undertaking to formal or legal processes. The established financial approval process provides enough checks and balances to ensure transparency and fair business practice,” says Bailey.
AMASA has nine ways in which it generates money, which are broken down into three groups: Three are self funding portfolios, three are fundraising portfolios, and three are education/skills development projects. These are the ways contained in the three groups:
Self Funding Portfolios
- AMASA AAA Media Management Course
- AMASA Annual Workshop
- AMASA Awards
- AMASA yearend Event / Party
- AMASA Golf Day
- AMASA Membership
- AMASA Forums
- AMASA Book (Nuts and Bolts), a new book / e-learning programme
- AMASA ALP Programme
Sponsorship of these portfolios also generates funds. Media owners primarily get behind the fundraising portfolios while media agencies contribute by way of membership and paying for tickets for the party, golf day and AMASA Awards. There are no primary funders but rather a broad spectrum of the media industry that have been supportive over many years. To illustrate the success of the fundraising, last year the body had 189 paid up corporate members, 82 people attend the workshop, there were 163 AMASA Awards submissions and 826 people attend the party.
The funds generated are used to facilitate the education mandate and upskill the media industry. Also, each year, a portion of the funds is set aside to build reserves that are earmarked for large scale projects e.g. the rewriting and updating of the AMASA book, and the possible expansion into digital platforms for e-learning.
The relationship between the board and the committee
A concern has been raised by some that the AMASA board is hindering the positive work of the committee, hence halting advancement.
“New Committee members are introduced to the board members,”Bischoff responds. “The board has fiduciary duties for the fund raising, has oversight over revenue income and spending, and gives strategic oversight to the aims of the AMASA Committee making sure that we stick to the core raison d’être of our existence. Board members have acted liked ‘grey beard’ mentors based on years of duty to AMASA and based on previous roles as chairs of the committee. The AMASA chairman keeps the board updated on key activities and welcomes input from the board, which is always openly and transparently debated. The board is certainly not seen as any barrier to advancement as the committee makes day to day decisions independently without needing to consult the board.”
Hollis explains, “The role of the board, like any board, is to provide strategic direction, continuity and most importantly, good corporate governance. The board members have a fiduciary duty, to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company at all times and as directors they also carry personal liability for the entity’s actions.”
Planning for the future
In the next three to five years, AMASA will continue with its focus on media education. “The many new committee members from across marketers, agencies (including strategy) and media owners speaks to the new energy being exhibited. There are many new innovative ideas for raising funds. In terms of funding resources we are in a healthy place to keep the AMASA Learnership Programme alive and grow it significantly in 2017. Watch this space,” says Bischoff.
Bailey concludes, “AMASA will continue to drive media education in whichever way, shape, or form is most relevant to serve the media industry. Well established checks and balances continue to remain in place, and the industry continues to support and grow AMASA, there is no reason why it shouldn’t have the resources to continue to deliver on its mandate.”
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