The Invicta Foundation: what is the trading address of official professional fundraiser EMS?

  1. The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, has this week exposed the Colchester-based charity The Invicta Foundation (registered charity number: 1143326) as yet another military charity working with a rip-off professional fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839. These rip-off professional fundraisers not only have excessive fundraising costs, but usually work in highly misleading ways. They often create the impression that donors are dealing directly with the charity, wearing charity-branded uniforms. The public isn’t always aware that the collectors in shopping centres and other private sites are actually working for a third-party company – a company that retains for itself 80% of the funds it raises in the name of the charity. This blog has exclusively exposed many of these dubious military charity/professional fundraiser combos. It has exclusively revealed, too, the fact that so many organisations with this business model are from in or around Blackpool.
  2. Here I show that co-founder and public contact Stephen Robertson hasn’t suddenly become unwilling to answer legitimate questions about his charity and its official professional fundraiser. In April 2016, he was obstructive and evasive, refusing to tell me the trading address of the company it works with. What’s worse, he still wouldn’t disclose the information after I’d proven the link between the company and another Blackpool-based professional fundraiser – yes, Blackpool again – that has faced scrutiny for its business practices.
  3. The Invicta Foundation works with Events Management Solutions (EMS) Ltd (registered company number: 09807577), which was incorporated on 3 October 2015. The EMS website lists the company’s registered office address, which is in Birmingham. The trading address, though, isn’t shown. In April 2016, meanwhile, EMS was recruiting a “charity fundraiser” on the Indeed jobs website – from Lytham St. Annes FY8, next to Blackpool (screen shot in Figure 1). So at that time I first asked Mr Robertson for the address of EMS in Lytham St. Annes FY8. He refused to tell me.

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

  4. I then made the same request after proving the link between EMS and the company The Veterans Trust Limited (registered company number: 08945478). Andrew Penman had exposed professional fundraiser The Veterans Trust Limited in his Daily Mirror column in November 2014: the then Lytham St. Annes-based company had declined to reveal its fundraising costs, only divulging the alleged total amount of money it had passed to its then charity partner after raising money in its name. In December 2015, The Veterans Trust Limited changed its name to TVT Fundraising Ltd. Michael Figg is sole director of the company. Mr Figg was also a director of TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 09515278), which was incorporated on 27 March 2015. The registered office address was in Lytham St. Annes FY8. Initially, there was another director of TVT Publications Ltd: Nick Travis, the person behind Sterling Support, the official professional fundraiser for the notorious Blackpool-based military charity Families of the Brave. Both the Mirror’s Andrew Penman and I independently exposed Families of the Brave and its work with Sterling Support in 2014 (see my 20 December 2014 post and references therein).
  5. There’s a link between TVT Publications Ltd and EMS. Sean Smythe is sole director of EMS. And Mr Smythe posted a job ad for “magazine/wristband fundraisers” on the Birmingham Jobs Facebook page in the name of TVT Publications Ltd from Lytham St. Annes FY8. The ad is dated 13 April 2015 (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

  6. On 13 September 2016, TVT Publications Ltd was compulsorily struck-off the register at Companies House without filing any accounts. So much for its financial reporting – or lack of. Meanwhile, days later (on 21 September 2016), Mr Figg started another TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 10388268) – this time with a registered office address in Kirkham, a town midway between Blackpool and Preston.
  7. So it was a simple question for Mr Robertson in April 2016: what is the trading address of your official professional fundraiser? And he wouldn’t answer. But then he’s not the only one hiding the address: the EMS website isn’t forthcoming either. There isn’t actually much on the company website: no names of people, for instance. We only know about sole director Mr Smythe because of filings at Companies House. As we’ve repeatedly seen, there’s an unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around money flows for these charities working with rip-off professional fundraisers. Yet on its website The Invicta Foundation doesn’t disclose the trading address of its official professional fundraiser – and won’t even do so upon request. Now, why doesn’t the charity want the public to know the details of the company?
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Families of the Brave removed from the charity register

  1. In March, I helped expose military charity Families of the Brave and its official professional fundraiser, Sterling Support. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/) For a summary of the case, see para 8 in https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/army-of-angels-from-tts-promotions-to-vale-promotions/.
  2. On 18 December, Families of the Brave (registered charity number: 1151982) was removed from the Charity Commission public register. The charity, registered 10 May 2013, has “ceased to exist”.
  3. That’s one less bogus military charity from in or around Blackpool.

Army of Angels: From TTS Promotions to Vale Promotions

  1. The military charity Army of Angels has a new official professional fundraiser, Vale Promotions. Here I show why Vale Promotions invites suspicion.
  2. In April, a trustee of the military charity Help 4 Homeless Veterans, Kevin Hartley, rebuked me after I’d written about his charity and its official professional fundraiser, TTS Promotions Limited/ TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/trustee-of-help-4-homeless-veterans-asks-why-im-attacking-vulnerable-ex-service-personnel/) As you can see, Hartley took particular exception to my examining his professional fundraiser.
  3. The previous month, I’d revealed that Army of Angels used to work with TTS Promotions – until Army of Angels suddenly ended the relationship without explanation 4 October 2013. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/tts-promotions-limited-was-fundraiser-for-army-of-angels/)
  4. TTS Promotions was this summer working with yet another military charity, Forces Support (registered charity number: 1136954; http://www.forcessupport.org.uk/). I know because in July someone wrote to me complaining about the alleged unacceptable conduct of TTS Promotions when raising funds for Forces Support. (The person wishes to remain anonymous.)
  5. Well, it seems that Forces Support has got rid of TTS Promotions: see this announcement from the charity dated 1 September 2014 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForcesSupportCharity/posts/531164353681472. My correspondent wasn’t the only one dissatisfied with TTS Promotions: the charity apparently received “constant complaints”. There Forces Support says that it has reported TTS Promotions to the police.
  6. Back to Army of Angels: it now uses another professional fundraiser to organise its prize draws, Vale Promotions: http://www.armyofangels.org.uk/can-you-help/skill-draw. The charity provides no other information about the company on that page – no link to a website, say – just its name.
  7. So who exactly are Vale Promotions? Or rather who is Vale Promotions, as the company has one director, Sean Lockett, according to Companies House. It’s a new company, only incorporated 20 August 2014. Like TTS Promotions, Vale Promotions doesn’t actually have a website. Yet there’s a more important similarity: Sean Lockett was a director of TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd until 21 October 2014. And he remains a director of TTS Promotions Limited.
  8. Sterling Support preceded TTS Promotions as official professional fundraiser for Army of Angels. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/tts-promotions-limited-was-fundraiser-for-army-of-angels/) After Army of Angels, Sterling Support worked with the notorious new military charity, Families of the Brave. In March, I helped expose Families of the Brave and Sterling Support. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/) The day after I published my investigation, Sterling Support made its website inaccessible: a password was now required to view it. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/password-required-to-view-sterling-support-website/) While in April, the Families of the Brave website vanished. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/families-of-the-brave-whither-the-website/) Both Families of the Brave and Sterling Support now appear to have shut down, as confirmed by Andrew Penman in his 13 November 2014 column in the Daily Mirror newspaper. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/opinion/the-veterans-trust-4619833)
  9. Sterling Support, then TTS Promotions – Army of Angels has previously worked with discredited professional fundraisers. While new official professional fundraiser, Vale Promotions, is in fact run by a director of TTS Promotions. It is clear that Vale Promotions invites suspicion.

Accessible Aid For Heroes: a new Blackpool “heroes” military charity

  1. On 26 April 2014, I received an email bringing to my attention a new Blackpool “heroes” military charity – Accessible Aid For Heroes. The name is obviously similar to Help for Heroes. “John Jamieson” also submitted his message as a comment at my “About” page. Please read his comment.
  2. Yes, we’re in Blackpool again: see para 7 in my 18 March 2014 post on Families of the Brave, another military charity. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/) What is it about Blackpool?
  3. The Accessible Aid For Heroes website is: http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/accessible-aid-for-heroes.html. As you can see, the Accessible Aid For Heroes logo, which includes the Union flag, shows a registered charity number – 1152312. Yet the Charity Commission lists that number for new Blackpool charity Accessible Aid (registered 6 June 2013). According to the commission’s public register, the Accessible Aid website is: http://www.accessnetwork.org.
  4. Visitors to the Accessible Aid website encounter the Accessible Aid For Heroes logo – and clicking the logo produces the page http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/accessible-aid-for-heroes.html. Beneath the Accessible Aid For Heroes logo, there are two photos, both without a caption. One photo shows Simon Weston, the well-known Falkland’s War veteran (http://www.simonweston.com), with another man that I don’t recognise. The other photo is of a group of what appear to be soldiers, in silhouette. And that’s it: there is no text on the page other than the title, Accessible Aid For Heroes.
  5. On his official website, Weston lists the charities that he endorses: http://www.simonweston.com/charities-links/. His list doesn’t include Accessible Aid For Heroes or Accessible Aid (at 27 April 2014).
  6. You won’t be surprised to learn that Accessible Aid For Heroes is running a “prize draw”: http://www.accessnetwork.org/page/prize-draw.html. The Accessible Aid For Heroes logo appears at the top of the page. The “prize draw” is organised by official professional fundraiser BOL, address: “2-4 Ansdell Road, Blackpool, FY1 5LX”. Its company number is shown as “7099208”. There isn’t a link to a website for BOL.
  7. According to Companies House, company 07099208 is Blackpool Office Ltd. Its registered office is: 2-4 Ansdell House, Ansdell Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 5LX. Blackpool Office Ltd was incorporated 9 December 2009, by founding director Mark Butcher. Mark Butcher is a trustee and secretary of the charity Accessible Aid. On 27 March 2013, his appointment as director of Blackpool Office Ltd was terminated. On that day, Mrs Abbie Butcher was appointed as director.
  8. There is a Blackpool Office website: http://www.blackpooloffice.co.uk. Although the company says it provides various “business services”, there is no mention of professional charity fundraising, let alone BOL. The website doesn’t show the company number. There are no names of people either – not even on the “Contact Us” page. (http://www.blackpooloffice.co.uk/index.php/contact-us.html) It doesn’t publish an email address: email contact is only possible via the form on the “Contact Us” page. The address is shown as: “Ansdell House, 2-4 Ansdell Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 5LX”.
  9. So official professional fundraiser BOL doesn’t have a website. Sounds familiar? Neither does Prize Promotions Limited, also of Blackpool, the official professional fundraiser 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/)
  10. On 27 April 2014, I wrote to Simon Weston to ask whether he is happy for his photo to appear on the Accessible Aid For Heroes/Accessible Aid website.

Families of the Brave: whither the website?

  1. On 18 March 2014, I published my investigation into the activities of military charity Families of the Brave and their official professional fundraiser, Sterling Support. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/) There I revealed the striking similarities with the Afghan Heroes case. Following that post, a password is now required to view the Sterling Support homepage. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/password-required-to-view-sterling-support-website/)
  2. In my post on Families of the Brave, I showed that there are many issues with the charity’s website. (http://www.familiesofthebrave.org) Well, it has apparently disappeared. Anyone trying to access the Families of the Brave website is redirected to a page on the Wix website (http://www.wix.com) that says at the top: “Hey. This domain used to be connected to a Wix website.” The headline on the page is: “Create Your Own Stunning Website for Free with Wix”.

Families of the Brave: it’s not only Hilton Blackpool refusing to answer questions

  1. On 18 March 2014, I published my investigation into the activities of military charity Families of the Brave and their official professional fundraiser, Sterling Support. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/) There I revealed the striking similarities with the Afghan Heroes case. Following that post, a password is now required to view the Sterling Support homepage. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/password-required-to-view-sterling-support-website/)
  2. In my post on Families of the Brave, I described my efforts to get hotel Hilton Blackpool to answer a public interest question. The “Events” page on the charity’s website states that on 20 December 2013 it held its “Christmas Ball” at the hotel. After repeated requests, Hilton Blackpool finally declined to say whether that event really did take place there. I observed how Families of the Brave provides no other details about the purported event and only one photo – of what seems to be a generic function room, empty (without people) and unidentified. As I said, it could be anywhere.
  3. I am grateful to “Anon again” for their same-day comment on my 18 March 2014 post identifying the source of the photo: the website of the company Weddings By Design, also in Blackpool.
  4. On 19 March 2014, I emailed Weddings By Design to ask whether the company was involved with the Families of the Brave “Christmas Ball”. I gave the link to my post on the charity.
  5. On 26 March 2014, I called Weddings By Design, not having received a reply. “Victoria” told me she hadn’t got the email and requested that I send it again. Having confirmed the email address on the phone, I sent her another message that day.
  6. It’s now another week later and I still haven’t heard anything…

TTS Promotions Limited was fundraiser for Army of Angels

  1. On 18 February 2014, I exposed how at July 2013 military charity Army of Angels (registered charity number: 1143612) was displaying the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) “give with confidence” tick logo on its website, despite then not being a member of the FRSB. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/can-we-trust-army-of-angels/) There I also showed that when I queried this, the charity first ignored me; and then when it did finally answer the legitimate question, its response was inadequate.
  2. In my 18 March 2014 post on Families of the Brave, another military charity, I described how its official professional fundraiser, Sterling Support, had previously worked with Army of Angels. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/families-of-the-brave-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-give-with-confidence/).
  3. Here I reveal that Army of Angels worked with TTS Promotions Limited, a fundraiser based in Stoke, after ending its relationship with Sterling Support.
  4. Andrew Penman exposed fundraiser TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd, also of Stoke, in his 20 March 2014 column in the Daily Mirror newspaper, “Is Prize Draw the full ticket?”. TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd sells £2.50 “prize draw” tickets apparently for yet another military charity, Help 4 Homeless Veterans. Neither the charity nor TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd would disclose to Penman – let alone the original purchaser – how much of the ticket price, if any, went to the charity.
  5. TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd is a new company, incorporated 20 September 2013. It has two directors, Anthony John Chetwynd and Sean Lockett. Both are also directors of TTS Promotions Limited with a third director, Thomas Bergin. TTS Promotions Limited, too, is newly incorporated: 19 June 2013. Neither company has filed accounts. (Source of company information: Companies House.)
  6. On 4 October 2013, Army of Angels tweeted (@aoa_official): “TTS Promotions are no longer trading with us as of now. They have raised over £15,000 for Army of Angels. A…”, with a link to the “Skill Draw” page on the charity’s website, http://www.armyofangels.org.uk/can-you-help/skill-draw. On the same day, Army of Angels also announced on Facebook termination of its relationship with TTS Promotions Limited: https://en-gb.facebook.com/armyofangels.charity/posts/594923407216474.
  7. Here is the “Skill Draw” page from the website at the announcement (i.e. 4 October 2013): http://1drv.ms/1jlC8iw. You can see the tweet in the “Latest Tweets” section, bottom left. The parting of Army of Angels and TTS Promotions Limited seems to have been sudden as the page states: “Army of Angels are pleased to announce that TTS Promotions will be our new fundraising partner going into 2014.” The charity describes TTS Promotions Limited as “experienced skill draw specialists”. Yet it’s a new company.
  8. It is unclear when exactly TTS Promotions Limited started working with Army of Angels. But according to the “Our clients” page on the Sterling Support website (http://www.sterling-support.co.uk), Sterling Support was “offical [sic] charity partner” to Army of Angels September 2010-May 2013. And TTS Promotions Limited was only incorporated 19 June 2013.
  9. Please note: following my 18 March 2014 post on Families of the Brave, a password is now required to view the Sterling Support homepage. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/password-required-to-view-sterling-support-website/) Nevertheless, at 22 March 2014 it is still possible to access directly the “Our clients” page with the full address, http://www.sterling-support.co.uk/#!our-clients/c8k2.
  10. There are three striking similarities between TTS Promotions Limited/ TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd and Prize Promotions Limited, the official professional fundraiser 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/) First, both operate competitions apparently requiring “skill”. But as for Prize Promotions Limited, the “skill draw” isn’t a legitimate competition design. Second, both don’t have websites, which makes me suspicious. Neither is open and transparent. Third, both won’t answer legitimate questions, as I found with Prize Promotions Limited and as was the experience of the Mirror’s Penman – and his reader – with TTS Promotions Limited/ TTS Promotions (UK) Ltd.
  11. Army of Angels says that TTS Promotions Limited raised “over £15,000” for the charity. Perhaps it did. But how much did TTS Promotions Limited keep for itself?
  12. ADDENDUM: The three directors of TTS Promotions Limited are also the directors of Wounded Heroes Limited. Incorporated 20 June 2013, this company hasn’t filed accounts either.