Professional fundraiser misrepresents Open Doors as a military charity: more evidence

  1. In my last post I described how Open Doors in its fundraising and website misleadingly creates the impression that it’s a military charity, when it isn’t one.
  2. Here I provide evidence of Dove Promotions, the official professional fundraiser, going further than creating the impression. In June 2015, Dove Promotions was advertising jobs for fundraisers “to represent a military charity” on the Fish4jobs website (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Professional fundraiser job ad at 20 July 2015

    Figure 1. Professional fundraiser job ad at 20 July 2015

  3. Dove Promotions works with Open Doors only, according to the company’s website.

 

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Why is the Army endorsing the unnecessary, non-transparent and unaccountable charity Open Doors?

  1. A charity is using named serving soldiers and their Army regiment to lend credibility to itself and its fundraising activities, yet it is neither open nor transparent about fundraising costs. The official professional fundraiser doesn’t routinely disclose the information either, and – again – won’t do so on request. Further, the charity in its fundraising and website misleadingly creates the impression that it’s a military charity, when it isn’t one. But even after I brought these and other issues to the attention of the regimental secretary, soldiers from his regiment are still endorsing the charity, which isn’t a member of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities.
  2. Dove Promotions is the official professional fundraiser for charity Open Doors (registered charity number: 1006623) and its “Supporting our Heroes” campaign: http://www.dovepromotionsltd.co.uk. Although the campaign name creates the impression that Open Doors directly supports “heroes”, it isn’t a military charity. This is misleading. The charity in turn donates an undisclosed proportion of the funds it raises this way to actual military charities, according to the Dove Promotions homepage.
  3. But this business model isn’t disclosed on the “Supporting our Heroes” page on the Open Doors website. Here is that page at 6 July 2015: http://web.archive.org/web/20150706161929/http://www.open-doors.org.uk/supporting-our-heroes/. It says: “Our immediate aim is to provide support to our returning heroes and their families in whichever way we can.” This statement is misleading because – again – it implies that the charity directly supports “heroes”.
  4. I last wrote about my concerns about Open Doors and Dove Promotions in March 2015: https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/stafford-or-stamford-lincs/. There I summarised multiple unsuccessful attempts to discover fundraising costs, including contacting Andy Pilley, the chairman of Fleetwood Town Football Club, who has conducted prize draws for Dove Promotions. (Dove Promotions is based in Thornton-Cleveleys, part of the Blackpool Urban Area.) How much of the £2.50 prize draw ticket price goes to charity Open Doors? Mr Pilley also declined to answer the legitimate question, not replying to emails at the end of 2014.
  5. The Army first publicly endorsed Open Doors and Dove Promotions, to my knowledge, on publication of the 16 February 2015 prize draw results. Here are those results on the Dove Promotions website at 17 February 2015: http://web.archive.org/web/20150217151915/http://www.dovepromotionsltd.co.uk/dove-promotions-latest-news.php. The named serving soldiers there are from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, two males. This endorsement prompted me to write to the regimental secretary (email). (http://www.army.mod.uk/infantry/regiments/29504.aspx) Col Chris Owen replied that day (17 February 2015): “Thank you, we will look into the mater [sic].”
  6. On 16 March 2015, I sent a reminder to Col Owen after hearing nothing four weeks later. Still no reply. I then wrote for the third and last time, 10 June 2015. There I stated that Dove Promotions continues to associate itself with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, citing the 18 May 2015 prize draw results on the firm’s website. (See those results on the professional fundraiser’s website at 3 June 2015: http://web.archive.org/web/20150603160734/http://www.dovepromotionsltd.co.uk/dove-promotions-latest-news.php.) I also explained why I was still concerned about this fundraising, with a link to my latest blog post on this set-up from March 2015. I said that this would be the last time I’d contact him on this matter. Again no response.
  7. Open Doors isn’t a military charity, as we know. On this the charity’s latest accounts, for 31 July 2014, are revealing. There in the one-page annual report David Papagavriel, trustee and public contact, writes: “From April 2014, we appointed an outside promotions company to raise funds on our behalf. Their sole activity was to run a prize draw in our name. From the period between May-July 2014, we netted a profit of over £9 500.” So Dove Promotions isn’t even identified. More importantly, there is no mention of the military “heroes” in whose name Open Doors and the professional fundraiser are raising funds. Here the accounts don’t even state that the charity in turn donates a proportion (undisclosed, remember) of the funds it raises this way to actual military charities. The charity’s business model for its “Supporting our Heroes” campaign is only specified – incompletely – on the Dove Promotions homepage. The accounts don’t mention the armed forces anywhere, let alone “Supporting our Heroes.”
  8. But it’s not just the accounts. The entry for Open Doors on the online charity register (at Charity Commission website) says nothing about the armed forces either.
  9. Because the Army is endorsing Open Doors it is reasonable for the public to assume that the charity is credible and worthy of support. Yet it isn’t a member of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities: https://www.cobseo.org.uk. Has the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment really done its due diligence?
  10. Whatever the exact fundraising costs, it is already clear that this is an inefficient way for the public to support military charities. It has to be, by definition. There are unnecessary intermediaries, Dove Promotions and then Open Doors, between the public and the military charities. Both intermediaries take a cut (whatever it is for each).
  11. Disintermediation is the answer. Anyone wishing to donate to military charities should do so directly to Cobseo members, bypassing these unnecessary, non-transparent and unaccountable intermediaries. That way more of their money will reach the intended recipients. So why is the Army endorsing Open Doors and its misleading “Supporting our Heroes” campaign?