Our Local Heroes Foundation: Only 20% of the ticket price goes to the charity… but you wouldn’t know from the tickets or website

  1. Military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation only receives 20% of income from £2.50 “prize draw” tickets that are sold in its name, founder Steve Pearson told me by email 22 May 2014. He said that the charity hadn’t responded to my first message seeking the proportion, sent 14 May 2014, because it’d been automatically assigned to the junk folder. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/our-local-heroes-foundation-how-much-of-the-ticket-price-goes-to-the-charity-2/)
  2. This means that 80% goes to professional fundraiser Prize Promotions Limited, for selling the tickets to the public in the name of Our Local Heroes Foundation.
  3. Previously, Prize Promotions Limited was the official professional fundraiser for another “heroes” military charity – Afghan Heroes. On 17 December 2013, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it’d opened a “statutory inquiry” into Afghan Heroes. Statutory inquiries are the regulator’s most serious type of engagement with charities. On 5 February 2014, the Charity Commission stated publicly that it’d appointed an “interim manager” to Afghan Heroes.
  4. In January 2014, I exposed two schemes Prize Promotions Limited was using last year to raise funds for Afghan Heroes from the public illegally in Greater Manchester: one in shopping centres, the other on the street. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/)
  5. The Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” tickets don’t say how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity: see Figure 1 and 2 in the post https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/our-local-heroes-foundation-how-much-of-the-ticket-price-goes-to-the-charity-2/. The front of the ticket refers ticket-holders to http://www.ourlocalheroes.org.uk for “winners, donations and merchandise”. There is no mention of Prize Promotions Limited on the front of the ticket; and only minimally on the back.
  6. Yet the proportion isn’t disclosed at the Our Local Heroes Foundation website either.
  7. Prize Promotions Limited doesn’t have a website for the public – and hasn’t since I first became aware of the company in February 2013. This has always made me suspicious. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/prize-promotions-limited-whither-afghan-heroes/) But it has always had a website to recruit “sales promotion staff” to sell “skill prize draw tickets in shopping centres across the UK” on behalf of first Afghan Heroes, and now Our Local Heroes Foundation: http://www.blackpoolsalesjobs.co.uk/prizepromotions.php. “Earn great commision” [sic], it proclaims.
  8. The person who sent me the photos of the Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” tickets had no idea how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity. He’d purchased the tickets from an Our Local Heroes Foundation stall at Oxford train station 5 May 2014. The ticket sellers in the charity branded clothing hadn’t disclosed the proportion. Nor was there any written information available – a leaflet, say – to take away. Similarly, when in February 2013 I encountered Prize Promotions Limited selling tickets on behalf of Afghan Heroes in a shopping centre in Stockport, the staff then couldn’t provide any printed information to take away. In the end, they resorted to handing me a ticket. (See para 5 in https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/)
  9. “Andy” is another who bought Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” tickets with no idea how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/prize-promotions-another-customer-experience/) Again, the ticket sellers in the charity branded clothing – this time in the foyer of a supermarket in Liverpool – hadn’t disclosed the proportion. “Andy” had to call Prize Promotions Limited, eventually getting the answer from director Luke Varley. He duly asked for a refund in disgust at only 20% and the company’s underhand manner.
  10. On 20 May 2014, “Joff” encountered an Our Local Heroes Foundation stall at another train station in the South-East, Reading. Read his two comments that day on the post https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/prize-draw-by-prize-promotions-limited-for-our-local-heroes-foundation/. As you can see, he had to ask the “particularly aggressive” ticket sellers how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity. Again, there was no printed information with the proportion to take away. The Terms and Conditions for the “prize draw” were unavailable, too.
  11. Our Local Heroes Foundation authorises professional fundraiser Prize Promotions Limited to sell misleading “prize draw” tickets in the charity’s name. Further, the ticket sellers wear the charity branded clothing. The tickets don’t say how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity. Nor does the Our Local Heroes Foundation website. My experience of Prize Promotions Limited and its methods of working, including interactions with director Tony Chadwick via email, mean that I don’t have confidence in nor trust the company. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/) On 30 March 2014, I presented evidence that Our Local Heroes Foundation might be trying to hide the role of Prize Promotions Limited in its fundraising. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/prize-draw-by-prize-promotions-limited-for-our-local-heroes-foundation/)
  12. I am seriously concerned about Our Local Heroes Foundation due to its use of professional fundraiser Prize Promotions Limited. In my experience and that of others, the staff of Prize Promotions Limited can be dishonest and lack integrity. The fundraising company isn’t always open and transparent about its work. It doesn’t even have a website for the public, only one to recruit ticket sellers (“earn great commision” [sic]). But there’s another reason why I am seriously concerned about the charity: how it works in such a misleading and opaque way with Prize Promotions Limited.
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Our Local Heroes Foundation: How much of the ticket price goes to the charity?

  1. On 4 March 2014, I reported that Prize Promotions Limited, the official professional fundraiser for Afghan Heroes, was raising funds for another “heroes” military charity – Our Local Heroes Foundation. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/prize-promotions-raising-funds-for-another-heroes-military-charity/) I received 8 March 2014 a damning account of a customer experience of Prize Promotions Limited working for Our Local Heroes Foundation. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/prize-promotions-another-customer-experience/) It corroborated my experience of Prize Promotions Limited raising funds for Afghan Heroes. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/)
  2. On 30 March 2014, I presented evidence that Our Local Heroes Foundation might be trying to hide the role of Prize Promotions Limited in its fundraising. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/prize-draw-by-prize-promotions-limited-for-our-local-heroes-foundation/)
  3. As it did for Afghan Heroes, Prize Promotions Limited runs “prize draws” on behalf of Our Local Heroes Foundation. Someone has kindly sent photos of a current ticket, front (Figure 1) and back (Figure 2). I have obscured the ticket number for privacy.
    Figure 1. Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” ticket: front

    Figure 1. Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” ticket: front

    Figure 2. Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” ticket: back

    Figure 2. Our Local Heroes Foundation “prize draw” ticket: back

  4. Please compare this “prize draw” ticket with those Prize Promotions Limited sold for Afghan Heroes: see Figure 1 and 2 in the post, https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/. As you can see, Prize Promotions Limited still labels its tickets “skill prize competition” on the front, despite there being no such legitimate competition design: see para 19-21 in the post, https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/.
  5. But there is an important difference: the current tickets, unlike the earlier ones for Afghan Heroes, don’t say how much of the £2.50 ticket price goes to the charity. Or how little: it was just 20% for Afghan Heroes.
  6. Ticket-holders are referred to http://www.ourlocalheroes.org.uk for “winners, donations and merchandise” (Figure 1). Yet the proportion isn’t disclosed at the Our Local Heroes Foundation website either.
  7. Julie Pearson is the public contact for the charity, according to the Charity Commission website. On 14 May 2014, I emailed her for the proportion (info@ourlocalheroes.org.uk).
  8. Having heard nothing a week later (21 May 2014), I have today emailed her again for the answer.

Accessible Aid For Heroes: Simon Weston photo has disappeared from website

  1. The photo of Simon Weston has disappeared from the charity’s website, it seems (14 May 2014, at 17:00): http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/accessible-aid-for-heroes.html.
  2. But I’ve heard nothing on this from Mr Weston’s agent, Matthew Fisher.
  3. I first wrote to Mr Fisher 27 April 2014: https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/accessible-aid-for-heroes-response-from-simon-weston/ And then again 11 May 2014: https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/accessible-aid-for-heroes-second-response-from-simon-weston/ As you can see from his second response yesterday (13 May 2014), Mr Fisher is due to get back to me.

Accessible Aid For Heroes: Second response from Simon Weston

  1. Answering my 27 April 2014 query about an unexplained photo of Simon Weston on the charity’s website, agent Matthew Fisher invited me to contact him again if there are “any further issues”. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/accessible-aid-for-heroes-response-from-simon-weston/)
  2. I thought that Mr Weston should know about my experience trying to find out how much of the “prize draw” ticket price goes to the charity. It’s bad enough that the “prize draw” Terms and Conditions on its website don’t say. But Accessible Aid For Heroes also refuses to disclose the proportion on request, it seems. My 11 May 2014 email to Mr Fisher included a link to my 10 May 2014 blog post, “Accessible Aid For Heroes: Response that doesn’t answer the question”. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/accessible-aid-for-heroes-response-that-doesnt-answer-the-question/) I asked him to tell me whether Mr Weston is still happy to be associated with the charity.
  3. In a response today (13 May 2014) Mr Fisher wrote: “We do not know all the facts so [it] would be unfair for us to take sides. I will raise the issue with them though.”

Accessible Aid For Heroes: Response that doesn’t answer the question

  1. On 28 April 2014, I emailed chair and founder John Kelly to ask how much of the “prize draw” ticket price goes to the charity. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/accessible-aid-for-heroes-how-much-of-the-ticket-price-goes-to-the-charity/)
  2. Having heard nothing a week later (5 May 2014), I emailed him again for the proportion. I also copied my message to the other three trustees, inviting a response from any of them. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/accessible-aid-for-heroes-a-week-later-i-ask-again/)
  3. On 6 May 2014, I received a response from Mr Kelly: “May I apologise for not getting back to you sooner. I have recently suffered a heart attack and in recover [sic]. We have appointed a fundraising agency BOL, and pay them a small set figure and use volunteers for all our collections. All funds collected or donated is 100% charity fundraising.”
  4. As you can see, Mr Kelly failed to answer the question I asked in my 28 April 2014 email. On 7 May 2014, I replied and asked again: how much of the prize draw ticket price goes to the charity? This message was copied to the other three trustees.
  5. There has been no response (at 10 May 2014).
  6. It’s bad enough that the “prize draw” Terms and Conditions on its website don’t say how much of the ticket price goes to the charity. (http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/prize-draw.html) But Accessible Aid For Heroes also refuses to disclose the proportion on request, it seems.
  7. Without openness and transparency, should we trust Accessible Aid For Heroes?

Why is Martin Lewis endorsing Soldiering On Through Life Trust?

  1. Consumer champion Martin Lewis is founder and editor of the MoneySavingExpert website, slogan: “Cutting your costs. Fighting your corner!” (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com) Millions trust the award-winning broadcaster and journalist for his impartiality and integrity. The Money Saving Expert has long campaigned against celebrity endorsement of what he deems rip-off financial products. For example, in his 15 May 2012 column in The Daily Telegraph, he criticised Michael Parkinson for advertising an expensive and opaque over–50s plan. Carol Vorderman has been another target, for endorsing a loan consolidation company. So it’s surprising that he himself endorses a military charity that in 2012 donated only 8.3% (i.e. £15 000) of its £180 564 income to other military charities. But it’s worse than that. Lewis’ PR agent is a trustee of the charity, Soldiering On Through Life Trust (SOTLT) – and the Money Saving Expert fails to disclose the fact.
  2. On 5 April 2014, Lewis told his nearly 300 000 followers on Twitter (@martinslewis): “Privileged to present the Family award @soldieringontlt tonight. Honouring those who put themselves in danger to make the rest of us safe.” @soldieringontlt is the official SOTLT Twitter account. That night, the charity held its “flagship event”, the annual SOTLT Awards Night.
  3. In his next tweet that day, Lewis provided a link to an article on the Mirror website, dated 8 February 2014, for “the brave story of the lady I will be presenting the award to”. The Sunday Mirror newspaper was a “headline” sponsor of the 2014 Soldiering On Awards.
  4. But the Money Saving Expert failed to tell his followers that his PR agent, Murray Harkin, is a trustee of SOTLT.
  5. Harkin is managing director of the Lyndon Agency, a PR and events company that bills itself as “The Money Saving Expert’s experts”. Lewis appears prominently at the top of its list of clients. (http://www.mhapr.co.uk/our-clients.php) Here SOTLT also is shown as a client, the Lyndon Agency “responsible for the organization of the 2014 Awards and on going press and publicity”.
  6. We don’t know whether Lewis is paid to endorse SOTLT. Presumably not, as it’s a charity. But the public should know.
  7. Even if Lewis isn’t paid, his endorsement is not a disinterested one. Not only does he benefit from association with a “good cause”. The “good cause” isn’t even independent, given Harkin’s paid PR role for Lewis.
  8. It is easy to imagine Lewis rightly criticising a celebrity endorsing a charity for which his/her PR agent is a trustee. But I’m sure that he’d disapprove even more if the celebrity hides the fact that his/her PR agent is a trustee of the charity.
  9. Here are seven further reasons why I believe Lewis, consumer champion, shouldn’t be involved with SOTLT:
  10. FIRST REASON: I exposed how on one day in November 2013, SOTLT raised funds from the public in central Manchester illegally, in two different ways. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-charity-or-political-lobbyist/)
  11. SECOND REASON: SOTLT gives the impression that it directly supports “heroes”, but in fact it doesn’t. Rather, it in turn donates funds to other military charities – very inefficiently. In 2012, it donated only 8.3% (i.e. £15 000) of its £180 564 income to military charities. So for whom exactly is the charity raising funds? (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-charity-or-political-lobbyist/)
  12. THIRD REASON: Harkin’s conflict of interest. Trustees have a duty to act always in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries. (http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/trustees-staff-and-volunteers/trustee-board/conflicts-of-interest/) Yet Harkin as trustee of SOTLT has a glaring conflict of interest: he is managing director of the Lyndon Agency, which is paid for work it does for the charity. His decisions as trustee are therefore influenced by his own interests as managing director of the PR and events company. Declaring a conflict of interest does not remove it. That we can’t be sure that Harkin as trustee is always acting in the charity’s best interests undermines confidence and trust in SOTLT.
  13. FOURTH REASON: SOTLT acts as a political lobbyist, offering “access” to “government” for cash. “Meet the PM and other MPs”, says its corporate brochure. The charity/political lobbyist is at the heart of government. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-charity-or-political-lobbyist/)
  14. FIFTH REASON: In the days before its “flagship event”, the 2014 Soldiering On Awards, SOTLT censored its website, preventing scrutiny of its activities. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-the-fab-new-website-that-censors-previously-published-information/)
  15. SIXTH REASON: “We would be delighted to hear from you and to answer your questions”, says the charity on its “Contact Us” web page. (http://soldieringon.org/contact-us/) Enquiries are directed to Chairman Wing Commander Tal Lambert. Yet Wing Commander Lambert didn’t reply to my 2 April 2014 message asking “why in the run-up to the Awards Night on Saturday [5 April 2014] SOTLT has removed much of the previously published information on its website, soldieringon.org”. In full disclosure, I provided a link to my 31 March 2014 post on the changes to the SOTLT website. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-we-would-be-delighted-to-hear-from-you-and-to-answer-your-questions/)
  16. SEVENTH REASON: Wing Commander Lambert isn’t the only trustee who doesn’t answer legitimate questions; Colin Debenham doesn’t either. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/soldiering-on-through-life-trust-charity-or-political-lobbyist/)
  17. I believe that the Money Saving Expert would rightly criticise a charity that behaves in any of these ways, let alone all of them. So why exactly is he endorsing SOTLT?
  18. Consumer champion Martin Lewis undermines his credibility by endorsing SOTLT. His PR agent is a trustee – and even worse, the Money Saving Expert fails to disclose the fact. On SOTLT, Lewis has a conflict of interest, which he doesn’t even reveal. The Money Saving Expert has long campaigned against celebrity endorsement of what he deems rip-off financial products. So it’s unclear why Lewis himself endorses a military charity that is such a bad deal for the public. Anyone wishing to donate to military charities should do so directly, bypassing this expensive, unnecessary and opaque intermediary.

Accessible Aid For Heroes: A week later I ask again…

  1. On 28 April 2014, I emailed chair and founder John Kelly to ask how much of the “prize draw” ticket price goes to the charity. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/accessible-aid-for-heroes-how-much-of-the-ticket-price-goes-to-the-charity/)
  2. Having heard nothing a week later (5 May 2014), I have today emailed him again for the proportion. I also copied my message to the other three trustees, inviting a response from any of them.(http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/contact-us.html)