After what it describes as a “perfect storm” of a difficult year, the National Advertising Benevolent Society has eliminated the executive director position in an effort to reduce operating costs.
The change, which was approved at the June 23 annual general meeting, means the immediate departure of Jay Bertram as head of the charity, a position he has held since 2017. Nabs also confirmed that Denise Rossetto has stepped down as chair, though she notified the organization of her intention to resign in early March, well before the AGM.
Board members Tom Shipman and Rosetta Heckhausen* have been elected interim co-chairs while the charity conducts a thorough review of its operating model and likely restructuring.
“I am very proud and grateful for my time at nabs, helping to improve the product and service delivery, and strengthening the relationships with the communications community,” Bertram told The Message when asked to comment Wednesday morning. “I always strived to put people first.”
“This was a very difficult change to make,” said Shipman in a release announcing the changes. “During his four-year tenure, Jay has shown a great passion for nabs. The board would like to thank him for his service to nabs and commitment to our community. We wish him continued success.”
The “perfect storm” of challenging times for nabs included high demand for its services—providing assistance to those in the industry struggling with health and wellbeing—while its critical fundraising efforts were severely restricted because of the pandemic.
It was clear from the discussions at the AGM that significant changes had to happen, Heckhausen told The Message. “Although we managed to survive through COVID, there were some realities that we had to face around our business model, and specifically around fundraising,” she said.
The board determined that as nabs reviews its entire fundraising model, it also needed to reconsider the structure of the organization, which led to the decision to eliminate the ED role.
“This was a difficult [decision] to make, this was a major change,” said Heckhausen. “And now our focus really is on stabilizing. We want to learn what post-COVID nabs may look like, and create the environment that best suits that new reality.”
She said the plan is to review the entire organization over the next few months and determine how it should be restructured. Heckhausen said no other positions have been eliminated, although the organization is looking for other ways to cut costs, such as reducing office space.
“We’re not sure what the organization is going to look like,” she said. “We’re going to take this time—six months, eight months, we’re not sure—to look at the organization and the industry, and talk to staff and other stakeholders, and see what we believe will be the best steps.”
*Rosetta Heckhausan has been providing business consulting advice and support to The Message on a voluntary basis.