PRSA posts modest financial gain in 2009

May 3, 2010

By William M. Murray, CAE
President and COO, PRSA

The recently concluded audit of PRSA’s 2009 financial statements by certified public accounting firm PKF shows a reasonably gainful year for the Society against the backdrop of a very challenging economy.

Among the many 2009 financial highlights is the fact that PRSA dues remained at the 2002 level, despite a more than 21 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index over the same time period. Our success in this regard stems from tightly controlling costs and reducing administrative expenses to make the most of every member dollar, and from diversifying PRSA’s income sources.

2009 was also a year of substantial capital reinvestments, chief among them the redesign of the PRSA website.  A new site architecture makes it easier to find news, information, learning resources and even other PRSA members.

In addition, updated navigation categories and submenus are now more logical; searches are now powered by a customized Google Search Appliance, which returns the most relevant search results from across the entire site; and an exciting new feature called “MyPRSA,” which we’ll be enhancing in the months ahead, allows members to create and manage their own user profiles, receive personalized content, set up contact lists and stay up to date on their event registrations and membership status.

Last year, the Society also made an investment in our Chapters, the backbone of PRSA.  We engaged Ketchum to conduct the first in-depth  survey of members about their Chapter experience, with the goal of creating a standard performance assessment that could be used to learn how the National office may better support our local leadership. We also invested in new governance last year, leading to approval of a new set of PRSA bylaws in November.

With the approval of PRSA’s Board of Directors, these “priority” initiatives were funded entirely through existing cash “reserves”  that were set aside in 2007.  That is, 2009 operational funds were not used, and thus we were not only able to fund these initiatives, but made a modest contribution at year-end to our reserves.

PRSA also continued to offer free professional development opportunities; a comprehensive insurance program for members; and a hardship program for newly unemployed members.  We also launched a new industry advocacy campaign, The Business Case for Public Relations, and upgraded the functionality of our JobCenter.

After taking all of the above into consideration, PRSA ended the fiscal year with a modest $83,000 surplus from our operations, which has been returned to our cash reserves.

It should be noted that PKF has again issued an “unqualified opinion” on PRSA’s financial statements, which is the most favorable report an external auditor can issue.  This means that our financial condition, position and operations were presented fairly, without  “material misstatements” and in keeping with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Notes to our 2009 financial statements explain that PRSA recognizes its member dues in accordance with GAAP and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Audit and Accounting Guide for Not-For-Profit Organizations.  The notes also make clear that PRSA records its investments at fair market values, with related gains and losses reflected as increases or decreases in unrestricted net assets in the statements of activities.  This accounting treatment follows the provisions of ASC Topic 820-10 “Fair  Value Investments.”

Last year was a challenge for many of us, but PRSA was able to meet that challenge as a result of the foresight and hard work of the many dedicated leaders who have served PRSA over the years in a wide variety of roles — as treasurer, and as members of the Finance, Audit and Investment Committees — and for that we owe them a collective thank you.

I encourage all PRSA members to review our full audited 2009 financial statements and report — which are available in the MyPRSA section of the PRSA website — and to contact me with any questions or concerns that you may have.


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