Another independent report today of a dishonest employee of professional fundraiser Prize Promotions Limited selling £2.50 “prize draw” tickets in the name of military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation.
The charity isn’t new: it was registered 3 December 1991, according to the Charity Commission website. But its domain name, open-doors.org.uk, was only registered 10 February 2014. (source: Nominet WHOIS tool)
The “Our Supporters” web page proclaims: “This section is dedicated to all the companies and individuals that have supported us over the years. Without whose help Open Doors would not exist.” Beneath it says only: “Under Construction”.
On 23 June 2014, I received a comment at my “Contact Me” page bringing to my attention the charity Open Doors (registered charity number: 1006623). Please read the comment from “General”.
The Open Doors website is http://www.open-doors.org.uk. As you can see, the homepage shows the Union flag and a saluting soldier in silhouette. In the top-left corner, there is a link “Supporting our Heroes”. The “Supporting our Heroes” page states: “Our fundraising is simple, we sell skill prize draw tickets, you answer a simple question and then you just sit back and wait for the draw date.” (http://www.open-doors.org.uk/supporting-our-heroes)
Although Open Doors is in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex there is still a Blackpool connection (Please see my posts with the Blackpool tag.) The charity’s official professional fundraiser, Dove Promotions Ltd, is based in Thornton-Cleveleys, part of the Blackpool Urban Area. A new company, incorporated 22 January 2014, Dove Promotions Ltd doesn’t have a website.
Ben Wallace, the MP for Wyre & Preston North (http://www.benwallacemp.com), is a patron of military charity Our Local Heroes Foundation. On 4 April 2014, I wrote to him (email) with my concerns about the charity due to its use of professional fundraiser Prize Promotions Limited. Having heard nothing, I sent a reminder three weeks later, 25 April 2014.
On 20 May 2014, I received a reply from his office. Zoe Dommett, Senior Parliamentary Assistant and Office Manager, wrote: “I am writing on Ben Wallace’s behalf in response to your enquiry regarding his role as a Patron of Our Local Heroes Foundation. You should be aware that as a Patron, Mr Wallace is not involved in the day to day management of the charity. He has investigated the issues you raise about the charity’s decision to use a professional fundraising company. While, of course, we would all prefer to have dozens of fundraising volunteers, the use of a fundraising company is common practice amongst charities, large and small. The important thing is whether the charity itself is doing what it sets out to do. Mr Wallace will continue to monitor the performance of Our Local Heroes Foundation. However, to date the only issue you identify is that you are suspicious of the fundraising company, rather than the charity. Mr Wallace is a Patron of the latter, but has nothing to do with the former. Thank you for taking the time to contact Mr Wallace.”
As an MP, Mr Wallace lends credibility to the charity. His endorsement is worth even more because he himself is ex-military. People will assume that Our Local Heroes Foundation is credible as Mr Wallace will surely have done due diligence. But former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP was a patron of Afghan Heroes (as was comedian Bobby Ball).
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.
Contrary to Mr Wallace’s response, I don’t have concerns about use of a professional fundraiser per se: it’s the company that Our Local Heroes Foundation works with and how they work together. Prize Promotions Limited was the official professional fundraiser for Afghan Heroes.
Not only does Our Local Heroes Foundation permit unreasonable fundraising costs. But also it allows inadequate disclosure of fundraising costs to both actual and potential donors. The £2.50 “prize draw” tickets sold in its name don’t say how much of the ticket price goes to the charity. It is wrong to conceal the fact that the proportion is just 20%. Further, the ticket sellers in the charity branded clothing are unable on request to provide printed information with the answer.
Although ticket-holders are referred to http://www.ourlocalheroes.org.uk for “winners, donations and merchandise”, the Our Local Heroes Foundation website fails to disclose the proportion too. There the lack of disclosure persists, despite me bringing it to the charity’s attention in an email 14 May 2014.
Our Local Heroes Foundation acts against the public interest by approving unreasonable fundraising costs of 80%, especially for such a popular cause. The charity also acts against the public interest by permitting Prize Promotions Limited to raise funds on its behalf without disclosure of fundraising costs. The £2.50 “prize draw” tickets sold in the name of Our Local Heroes Foundation are highly misleading. For these and other reasons, it is clear that the charity deserves scrutiny for its fundraising activities. I don’t understand why patron Mr Wallace disagrees.