Exclusive: The Architects Benevolent Society (ABS) is gearing up for an autumn relaunch in a bid to more than double its support from the sector
Rob Ball, chief executive of ABS, told the AJ less than 3 per cent of architect firms give it any support but this will need to rise significantly if it succeeds in helping more people in the profession.
‘We look on paper to be a fairly well off charity but we run a fairly big deficit year on year,’ Ball said.
‘The priority is to tell people we’re here and we can help. On the flipside if demand goes up we’re going to have to pay for it.’
One in six receiving help is under 35
The society gives advice and financial support to working and retired architects, as well as assistants, technologists and landscape architects and their dependants. But many people in the profession are unaware of its work or that they are eligible for help.
ABS is currently giving financial help to 554 people, with many more receiving advice and support. Half of the people it helps are under retirement age and one in six is under 35.
The society was shocked at the low numbers of people who came to them for help after the 2008 recession hit. Over the next two years the society wants to increase support received from architects to around 6 per cent and sustain it, in a short term plan to widen its impact and make more people aware of its services.
‘The classic problem with benevolent funds is that people don’t know you exist,’ Ball said. ‘The idea is that we’re trying to reach all members of the profession, younger and older. We want people to pick up the phone if in doubt.’
The society spent £750,000 on poverty relief in 2011-12 and direct financial assistance was up by 24 per cent, its highest ever level, which is expected to increase again this year.
Despite plans to overhaul its website and its paper publications, ABS is unlikely to change its name even though many people misunderstand what a benevolent fund does.
‘Some have changed their name to something completely different, but some have then changed it back because people have become even more confused about what it does,’ he added.
‘There’s not really anything better to describe what ourselves and the other benevolent funds do, I think we’ll stick with that.’
ABS aims to reach a younger audience by using Facebook and Twitter but also maintain its connection with its existing audience.