Prize Promotions Limited, the official professional fundraiser for Our Local Heroes Foundation, is selling the military charity’s wristbands on Market Street in Manchester city centre without a street collection permit. In 2013, when previously working with Afghan Heroes, Prize Promotions Limited repeatedly sold that charity’s wristbands there, again without a street collection permit. This illegal selling activity raises serious questions about Our Local Heroes Foundation, as it did for Afghan Heroes.
Market Street in Manchester city centre is one of the main shopping streets in Greater Manchester. On the afternoon of 16 July 2014, I happened to be walking through when I encountered an organised team of people in Our Local Heroes Foundation branded clothing selling the charity’s wristbands. Their dark green tops had “Supporting British Forces” on the back. As I walked past, one of them engaged me: “Do you want to buy a wristband for Our Local Heroes?” I stopped and asked the price. “£3”, the seller replied, who was wearing a Prize Promotions Limited I.D. badge on his right chest. On his left was the charity logo.
Why does it matter that wristbands are being sold on the street in the name of a charity by its official professional fundraiser without a street collection permit? In short, without a street collection permit, the public cannot be confident in or trust this alleged charity fundraising.
A street collection permit issued by Manchester City Council covers a collection of money or sale of articles for the benefit of charitable purposes, on the streets of Manchester.
There is a formal application procedure and the council can refuse applications.
The permit is valid on the day(s) granted only and there are regulations for performing street collections.
There are also important post-collection requirements: a statement of returns as provided by the council must be submitted to its licensing section no later than one month after the collection has taken place. The returns form contains a statement of account of the proceeds, expenses and application of the proceeds of the collection. There a list of the collectors and the amounts contained in each collecting box is mandatory. Finally, the form must be certified by the promoter and “a qualified accountant”.
A published statement too is necessary. For a collection in the city centre, the council stipulates this appear in the newspaper Manchester Evening News/Manchester Metro. The statement there is a public record of the collection. As well as the amount collected, it includes the amount of expenses and payments, if any, incurred in connection with the collection.
But Our Local Heroes Foundation authorises its official professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited, to sell the charity’s wristbands on the street without a street collection permit. Without a permit, we can be sure of two things. First, this alleged charity fundraising activity isn’t open or transparent. That is, the public can’t scrutinise the money flows. Second, there’s no accountability either without a public record of amounts collected, where, when and by whom. The public can’t hold anyone accountable for the money raised in the name of Our Local Heroes Foundation. It is clear, then, that the public cannot be confident in or trust this alleged charity fundraising.
There’s another reason for mistrust. Last year, when Prize Promotions Limited repeatedly sold wristbands on behalf of Afghan Heroes in the same location, different sellers gave me very different answers to the question, how much of the £3 price goes to the charity? (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/the-fundraiser-the-comedian-and-the-ex-cabinet-minister-the-tale-of-a-military-charity/) That there was such a discrepancy in answers itself shows that the staff of Prize Promotions Limited can be dishonest and lack integrity. They can’t all have been telling the truth; if indeed any of them were. We can only wonder how much of the £3 price actually goes to the charity. Or how little.
Here I expose how Our Local Heroes Foundation authorises Prize Promotions Limited to sell the charity’s wristbands on Market Street in Manchester city centre without a street collection permit. In 2013, Prize Promotions Limited repeatedly sold Afghan Heroes wristbands on behalf of that charity in the same location, without a permit. But without a street collection permit, the public cannot be confident in or trust this alleged charity fundraising. On sale of wristbands on the street, Our Local Heroes Foundation again acts against the public interest by how it works with Prize Promotions Limited.
On 16 July 2014, I reported my suspicions about a new children’s charity, Smiling Faces Children’s Foundation (SFCF) and its official professional fundraiser, Support Aid. Celebrity Valerie Singleton is patron of SFCF.
There I described how at that date the Support Aid website, www.supportaid.co.uk, suddenly said only: “Website under revision”. It still does today (18 July 2014, 17:30).
But there have been changes to the SFCF website, http://smilingfaces.org.uk, since that first post two days ago. Then the homepage still had a link to the Support Aid website accompanied by a picture of a yellow Mini car. Both the link and the picture appeared in the yellow panel labelled “Fundraising partners”. But at today, both have disappeared from the yellow panel: it now says only “TBA” beneath “Fundraising partners”.
My 16 July 2014 post revealed how SFCF and Support Aid are not really independent (see para six there). Mr Marsh is sole director of the company youcanwinacar.com. The company is non-trading. Brian Campbell, Commercial Director of Support Aid, was also a director of youcanwinacar.com for the last six months of 2013.
SFCF hasn’t accounted for these changes, let alone documented them. At today, the most recent item – the only item in fact – in its news section is dated 15 April 2014: http://smilingfaces.org.uk/news/. The homepage directs us there for its “latest news and updates”.
Celebrity Valerie Singleton is patron of a new charity, Smiling Faces Children’s Foundation (SFCF; registered charity number: 1156514; smilingfaces.org.uk). The trusted TV presenter lends credibility to a children’s charity that by definition the public know almost nothing about – it was only registered 2 April 2014. The charity also explicitly uses Ms Singleton’s endorsement to recruit paid fundraisers. Given her role, you might reasonably assume that she’d be happy to say why she chose to be involved. But she isn’t – or rather her agent, Lili Panagi at Panmedia (www.panmediauk.co.uk), isn’t. On 13 June 2014, Ms Panagi confirmed on the phone that her client is patron of SFCF. Although I’d emailed her the day before, I was so concerned that I decided to call her to ask. The biography of Ms Singleton on the SFCF website is the same as that on the Panmedia website, and I wanted to establish whether this was plagiarism. Yet Ms Panagi has ignored my emails (20 June 2014 and 4 July 2014) asking why Ms Singleton is supporting the new charity in this way. Refusal to account for her role as patron both damages the reputation of the TV presenter and undermines confidence and trust in SFCF. Here are eight further reasons why I don’t believe this charity is credible.
FIRST REASON: one of the two directors of its official professional fundraiser, Support Aid, lied to me in writing. Like SFCF, Support Aid is new (company number: 08791282). Both directors have been trustees for charities, says the Directors page on the Support Aid website, www.supportaid.co.uk. Here is the page at 12 June 2014: http://www.freezepage.com/1402581382AQUNFUARMO. On that day, I emailed Support Aid to ask both directors the charities for which each has acted as trustee. In his reply the next day, Commercial Director Brian Campbell told me he used to be a trustee of the charity Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK (PHA UK; registered charity number: 1120756; www.phassociation.uk.com). He also said that Steve Cowie, CEO of Support Aid, is a trustee of the charity New Life Baptist Church Northallerton (registered charity number: 1134671; www.nlbc.org.uk). On 14 June 2014, I asked Mr Campbell (email) when exactly he was a trustee of PHA UK. I also said I was confused because [at that time] Mr Cowie wasn’t listed as a trustee of New Life Baptist Church Northallerton on the Charity Commission website. Mr Campbell didn’t respond. In fact, Brian Campbell has never been a trustee of PHA UK (email from charity 18 June 2014). “He has however done work on the charity’s behalf”, it told me. Mr Cowie does now appear as a trustee of New Life Baptist Church Northallerton on the Charity Commission website.
SECOND REASON: Chairman and trustee of SFCF, Alan Sharp, refused to tell me the charity/charities for which he has acted as trustee, and when exactly. The About Us page on the SFCF website states: “Alan has 5 years experience in assisting to run registered charities in the UK, and has acted as a trustee before.” Here is the page at 14 June 2014: http://www.freezepage.com/1402761133YMOCYAQGWR. I first asked him (email) 18 June 2014, but he didn’t reply. A week later, I asked again – and this time I did receive a response (26 June 2014). Mr Sharp wrote: “We have fully satisfied the criteria laid out by the Charity Commission, I therefore recommend that all such questions are directed to the Charity Commission.”
THIRD REASON: Perhaps this has something to do with the damning lack of openness from the Chairman and trustee of SFCF: Alan Sharp was previously a trustee of a charity flagged in red on the Charity Commission online register as one with its latest annual documents overdue. But on 13 June 2014, the charity – Chance International UK (registered charity number: 1096699) – was removed from the register because it ceased to exist. Unfortunately, for removed charities, the online register entry no longer lists the trustees or provides the accounts. This means that both Mr Sharp’s trustee role at Chance International UK and its accounts are now hidden. Prior to removal [at 12 June 2014], the SFCF register entry showed that Alan Sharp was also a trustee of one other charity only, Chance International UK, and flagged in red the charity as one with its latest annual documents overdue. To add to the confusion, the SFCF register entry again now says that he’s also a trustee of one other charity only, but it’s Roc Solid Limited (registered charity number: 1123959). Roc Solid Limited is shown as “due documents received”. Unfortunately, the Charity Commission online register doesn’t show date of appointment for trustees. But Companies House records show that Mr Sharp has been a director of Roc Solid Limited (company number: 06343524) since 31 October 2013.
FOURTH REASON: the exact role of Support Aid is unclear. Here is its home page at 12 June 2014: http://www.freezepage.com/1402581095JFWROUBFGN. As you can see, the official professional fundraiser for SFCF states: “We take the ‘hassle’ of fundraising and associated administration away from the charities themselves so that they can concentrate on their core good causes and helping needy children.” Support Aid says that it’s promoting its “exciting ‘win a car’ competition” at Manchester Airport to raise funds for the charity. As the professional fundraiser for SFCF, we’d expect Support Aid to be recruiting people for what it says is its promotion there. But as you can see from its home page at 12 June 2014, Support Aid doesn’t have any jobs available. Rather it was the charity itself then advertising on the government Universal Jobmatch website for “charity fundraisers” at Manchester Airport. (http://1drv.ms/1mKq9zB) It is clear from the job ad that both SFCF is the recruiter and successful applicants will be working for the charity “in the warm friendly environment” of the airport. SFCF explicitly uses Ms Singleton’s endorsement to recruit staff. There is no mention of Support Aid. The role is to promote “a FUN to enter competition – which provides regular prizes including a family holiday and a new Mini car!” Contemporaneous job ads for “promotional staff” at Manchester Airport appeared in the local press, the Manchester Evening News and Metro. Again, there was no mention of Support Aid. But here there was no mention of “charity” either; and only an indirect reference to SFCF, in an email address: applications are to be sent to email@example.com. So again it is clear that SFCF is the recruiter. The role is to promote “a FUN competition – ‘Win a Mini car’”. The SFCF website has never said anything about these jobs, as its About Us page at 14 June 2014 shows: http://www.freezepage.com/1402761133YMOCYAQGWR.
FIFTH REASON: SFCF and Support Aid are not really independent. Companies House records show that SFCF Head of Fundraising, Christopher Marsh (http://smilingfaces.org.uk/about/), is sole director of a company with a familiar-sounding name: youcanwinacar.com (company number: 07759628). The company is non-trading. Brian Campbell, Commercial Director of Support Aid, was also a director of youcanwinacar.com 10 July 2013 – 31 December 2013.
SEVENTH REASON: Although apparently based at Evolution Business Centre, SFCF and Support Aid have 0113 phone numbers – 0113 314 5353 and 0113 328 0606, respectively. But the code for Northallerton is 01609: the phone number of Evolution Business Centre is 01609 751 600. 0113 is in fact the code for Leeds. On both websites the 0113 phone number is presented as if it’s appropriate for location at Evolution Business Centre: there’s no explanation in either case for use of a 0113 Leeds number, which isn’t identified as such.
EIGHTH REASON: We don’t know where SFCF or Support Aid is actually based because of the inconsistency between business address, Northallerton, and phone number, Leeds. The business address may not be that meaningful anyway: as well as real offices, Evolution Business Centre offers a “virtual office solution ideally suited to mobile workers and businesses requiring flexible services”. (http://evolutionbusinesscentre.co.uk/index.php/virtual-office-services) A “virtual office” there “gives you a prestigious business address”, with “mail collection and forwarding”.
Celebrity Valerie Singleton should be happy to explain why she chose to be patron of SFCF. Otherwise why should the public care that the TV presenter endorses the charity? Ms Singleton needs to be accountable as she benefits from association with an apparent “good cause”. But in this case accountability is even more important for three reasons.
First, SFCF is a new charity with no track record for the public to examine. How then can anyone undertake “due diligence”?
Second, in its annual report for 2013-2014, the Charity Commission restates its view that people should think carefully before setting up a new charity. “Is starting a new charity the best way to help?”, it asks. SFCF says on its homepage that its “featured charity” is Happy Days Children’s Charity (registered charity number: 1010943; www.happydayscharity.org). Yet it is unclear why the public shouldn’t bypass SFCF and donate directly to the existing established charity. More of their money would reach Happy Days that way.
Third, deficiencies in the presentation of the Charity Commission online register allow SFCF’s Chairman and trustee, Alan Sharp, to avoid scrutiny.
Refusal to account for her role as patron both damages the reputation of Ms Singleton and undermines confidence and trust in SFCF. But there are many other reasons why this charity isn’t credible. The dishonesty is shaming and the lack of openness represents wilful obstruction. SFCF is not transparently separate from Support Aid, while the actual location of either is unclear. Despite Valerie Singleton’s endorsement, no one should donate money to SFCF.
ADDENDUM: At 16 July 2014, the Support Aid website says only: “Website under revision”.
On 5 July 2014, Mr Papagavriel replied to my second email. He said he had “no record of a previous email”. The charity “has no control over the prize draw as it it [sic] conducted by an outside fundraising/promotions company”, he added. Finishing, Mr Papagavriel stated that he’d forwarded my email to Dove Promotions Ltd, the official professional fundraiser, “who are better placed to answer the questions raised.”