OPINION: Why it’s good to give to the industry’s welfare provider

NABS provides help for those in advertising that need it. But the cost of this aid is very high and the organisation needs support to survive, Hamish Pringle says

NABS provides help for those in advertising that need it. But the cost

of this aid is very high and the organisation needs support to survive,

Hamish Pringle says

If someone came up to you and asked what life assurance company you were

with, you’d probably struggle to give a sensible answer. It’s the kind

of fact you never know until you need to.

That was the analogy that stuck in my head when I started working for

NABS a few years back and, sadly, it’s one that still seems pertinent


As with any ‘rainy day’ organisation, people are often reluctant to

acknowledge what it does until they need its help. Others are all too

quick to sneer because, as they love asking, ‘When was the last time you

saw a destitute adman?’

Well, NABS has actually seen quite a few in its time. Last year, the

helpline took more than 1,000 calls, with relief given through cash

grants, legal advice, counselling and the job workshop.

It’s a task made harder by the number of companies that have been forced

to cut back on their personnel departments during the recession, leaving

NABS to fulfil the role in many situations.

It’s this kind of heavy demand that has left a hole in the charity’s

pocket, to be dealt with by its new management team - myself, Helen

Tridgell, the director, and Harry Tune, the president.

During the recession, NABS saw record numbers of clients in the wake of

massive redundancies - 5,000 in total from agencies alone.

Understandably, there was also less money available from donors to help

fund this work.

As a result, the organisation ran at a loss for five years and had to

dig into its reserves for a hefty pounds 1.6 million to keep going,

eating up two thirds of its total ‘last resort’ funds.

Thankfully, under Bruce Haines’ stewardship as chairman, Ron Miller’s

indefatigable fund-raising and Denise Larkin’s directorship, NABS went

into the black last year with a surplus of pounds 175,070 - boosted by

the continuing generosity of many in the industry.

But this does not mean it is fully out of the woods yet. If anything, it

needs to work harder than ever if it is to both rebuild its reserves and

still cover everyday running costs.

We estimate that the charity needs to make an additional pounds 200,000

a year over the next four years to do this. That’s why we’ve launched

the Millennium Challenge to generate pounds 2 million of income by the

year 2000.

To help achieve this, NABS needs to find ever more innovative and

relevant ways to help people give. Part of the reason it is showing a

profit at all is due to the success of last year’s corporate covenant

drive where agencies were asked to pledge pounds 50 a year for each


Now we need to extend this throughout the communications industry and

keep up the pressure through other initiatives, such as the payroll-

giving scheme and a few major fund-raising events that people actually

want to go to.

That’s why it’s so disheartening when people in the industry either

ignore NABS or, worse still, deride it.

Although the latest recession may have blown itself out, it would be

foolish to imagine that such a cyclical industry will not be hit by bad

times again.

At that point, people will suddenly remember who we are and turn to us

for help in regrettably large numbers. We need to be sure that we can

cope if that does happen. As things stand at the moment, we can’t.

For this reason, it’s time for us to market ourselves to the whole

industry, especially to younger people coming in.

We may be moving into better times, but we must not be lulled into a

false sense of security. Like insurance, we know that few people are

going to buy us willingly, so it’s vital to keep selling ourselves

energetically instead.

Hamish Pringle, chairman and chief executive of K Advertising, is

chairman of NABS

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