Professional fundraiser Dove Promotions and linked charity Open Doors have been using without permission the names of three high-profile military charities to lend credibility to themselves and their fundraising activities. The three are: The Royal British Legion; ABF The Soldiers’ Charity; and SSAFA. Open Doors in its fundraising and website misleadingly creates the impression that it’s a military charity, when it isn’t one. Dove Promotions raises funds for the charity, claiming that Open Doors “in turn” supports the three high-profile military charities, along with two others. All three have now independently told Dove Promotions to remove their names from the company’s homepage, after I brought my findings to the attention of each. Two of them, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and SSAFA, confirmed that they’ve accepted small donations from Open Doors. But The Royal British Legion has not: “To our knowledge we have not been offered or taken receipt of any funds from either Dove or Open Doors”, it said.
The published business model (money flows) for Open Doors and its “Supporting our Heroes” campaign is: public -> Dove Promotions -> Open Doors -> The Royal British Legion and others. So this is the Dove Promotions homepage at 20 July 2015: http://web.archive.org/web/20150720102035/http://www.dovepromotionsltd.co.uk/. Here Dove Promotions claims that Open Doors “in turn” supports five military charities, including three high-profile ones: The Royal British Legion (registered charity number: 219279); ABF The Soldiers’ Charity (1146420); and SSAFA (210760). These three are members of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities (https://www.cobseo.org.uk); the other two are not. Unsurprisingly, Open Doors isn’t a member of Cobseo either.
The three Cobseo members have now independently told Dove Promotions to remove their names from the company’s homepage, after I brought my findings to the attention of each. Two of them, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and SSAFA, confirmed that they’ve accepted small donations from Open Doors. But The Royal British Legion has not: “To our knowledge we have not been offered or taken receipt of any funds from either Dove or Open Doors”, said the Legion’s Guy Upward, Assistant Director of Fundraising: Individual Giving.
Well done to the three Cobseo members for independently acting to protect their reputations; and for being accountable to the public. Each has also acted in the public interest by taking public protection seriously. It isn’t only about their organisation and name. What a shame that the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment doesn’t seem to care.
First report in The Blackpool Gazette: 27 June 2015, “Cash collector denies claims”. (It’s available on the newspaper’s website: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/community/community-news/cash-collector-denies-claims-1-7329761) This records the appearance at court of Marvin Trussell, accused of operating fraudulent charity Army of Heroes. He pleaded not guilty. Blackpool magistrates adjourned Mr Trussell’s case for him to appear at Preston Crown Court 22 July. Note: Mr Trussell submitted four comments to this blog after I’d exposed Army of Heroes, which you can see on the first and third posts I cite in para 2.
Second report in The Blackpool Gazette: 14 August 2015, “Dad sold fake charity’s arm bands on Prom”. (Again available on the newspaper’s website: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/dad-sold-fake-charity-s-arm-bands-on-prom-1-7410223) This describes Blackpool Council’s successful prosecution of a local man for selling wristbands on the street illegally in the name of Army of Heroes, which he claimed was a charity. (There is surely an error in the headline for both the print and online versions: it’s wristbands, not arm bands, as is clear from the text of the report.) The local authority public protection officer’s description of his/her encounter with the street seller is very similar to my experience in Manchester city centre last December.
I’ve seen evidence that Army of Heroes wristband sellers operate or have operated outside the North-West: see the comment from “CJ” on my 16 February 2015 post, for example, who claimed that they were in Glasgow, Scotland in April. On 13 August 2015, “Dave Cash” alleged that its street sellers were in Lincoln city centre, East Midlands: see his comment on my 12 December 2014 post.
Have you seen Army of Heroes wristband sellers on the street? If so, where and when? Leave a comment below.
On 13 August 2015, I had a letter published in the Financial Times on the closure of the charity Keeping Kids Company (registered charity number: 1068298), known as Kids Company, and the need for celebrities who get involved with charities to be accountable.
There is a lack of clarity and transparency about new company Targeted Management Limited (TML) and its role(s) for two military charities in the North-West, Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) and Support The Heroes (STH). There is also a lack of clarity and transparency about each charity itself: its business model and costs of working with TML. Here I show why I consider this to be deliberate opacity.
I first made the allegation that TML was a professional fundraiser for OLHF in good faith, carefully with evidence. The evidence? An announcement from founder Steve Pearson on the OLHF website dated 19 February 2015, which I linked to. There Mr Pearson published the results of “the first prize draw” organised by TML on behalf of his charity. Professional fundraiser PPL had previously organised prize draws for OLHF. Given both companies apparently perform the same role here – an ostensibly independent company organising prize draws on behalf of OLHF – I inferred that TML, too, was a professional fundraiser. In other words, this is an operational definition of “professional fundraiser”.
OLHF has again recently redesigned its website. The charity has now removed Mr Pearson’s announcement dated 19 February 2015 on TML and “the first prize draw”.
I’d also archived the OLHF web page, again providing a link in my 3 March 2015 blog post. Yet the charity has now made an intervention which means that the archived web page is no longer publicly available, either. So clicking the link in my 3 March 2015 blog post produces the message on the Internet Archive (archive.org): “Page cannot be crawled or displayed due to robots.txt.” OLHF has now set up a robots.txt file for its website: http://www.ourlocalheroes.org.uk/robots.txt. This is a two-line text file, as you can see. The first line is “User-agent: *”; the second line: “Disallow: /”. This robots.txt file instructs all robots to stay out of the website. The Internet Archive follows the instructions in robots.txt, including retroactively, as the site’s FAQs page makes clear. Hence now the unavailability of the archived web page.
Not only is there censorship via robots.txt and disappearing web pages. But also secrecy on the OLHF website: there is currently nothing about TML and its role(s) anywhere. Searching the OLHF website for “Targeted Management” using the site’s search function produces no hits, either. Similarly, the STH website: there is currently nothing about TML and its role(s) anywhere.
Remember: we only know that STH works with TML from Ms White’s response (email) to my first post on her charity. My post prompted STH to disclose – to me, at least – TML’s involvement.
There is important, new and independent evidence on the role(s) of TML for OLHF: the report in The Blackpool Gazette newspaper 6 July 2015, “Collector stole cash donated to war heroes.” (It’s available on the newspaper’s website: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/collector-stole-cash-donated-to-war-heroes-1-7343277) I highlight three facts there. First, thief Simon Lacey “worked for the company Targeted Management which collected funds for the Our Local Heroes Foundation.” Second, he “disappeared with money collected from merchandise sales and donations for the Bamber Bridge-based Our Local Heroes Foundation.” Third, Mr Lacey “went all over the country raising money for the charity.” So TML raises funds for OLHF by selling merchandise and collecting donations around the country, according to the report. Sounds familiar: professional fundraiser PPL, too, had previously raised funds for the charity by selling merchandise and collecting donations around the country.
TML therefore appears to perform or have performed on behalf of OLHF some or all of the same activities as predecessor PPL. Yet unlike PPL, it isn’t a professional fundraiser. TML is a “management” company.
There is deliberate secrecy when TML recruits staff, too. The company consistently withholds its name when advertising posts on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website, for example. TML is the company shown as “confidential” in the Universal Jobmatch job ad for a charity fundraiser in my 29 April 2015 blog post, screen shot in Figure 2 there, a Freedom of Information request to DWP confirmed. Further, the charity isn’t identified in the job ad, either.
One difference between TML and PPL: the “management” company actually has a website; PPL has never had one. Yet targetedmanagement.com is laughably vague and unconvincing: none of the “wide range of organisations” for which TML allegedly provides “a range of management services” is identified by name or business sector, for instance.
What is the motivation for the censorship and secrecy? It is reasonable to consider this to be deliberate opacity. There is a need for clarity and transparency about TML and its role(s) for OLHF and STH. For each charity, there is also a need for clarity and transparency about its business model and costs of working with TML. The money flows in and around OLHF and STH should be disclosed.
On 7 August 2015, I had a letter published in The Guardian on the closure of the charity Keeping Kids Company (registered charity number: 1068298), known as Kids Company, and the role of the Charity Commission.