- On 27 January 2017, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/interim-manager-appointed-support-the-heroes.
- I first wrote about STH on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposing in my first post almost all the issues the commission says it wants the inquiry to investigate. That year, too, I revealed more about the unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around the military charity and its business model (see my 11 August 2015 and 25 November 2015 posts, in particular). In its press release the commission says, rightly, that it has “serious concerns about an agreement that the charity has entered with a commercial fundraising company.” That unnamed company is Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed.
- TML worked with another military charity based in the north west, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029). The Charity Commission announced on 8 November 2016 that it has, finally, opened a statutory inquiry into OLHF, too (see my 23 December 2016 post and references therein).
- But it’s worse than that, as regular readers will know. Prior to working with TML, OLHF used the services of another discredited professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). And before PPL was the official professional fundraiser for OLHF, the company had this role for failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
- Oh, PPL and TML are owned by the same person: Tony Chadwick of Blackpool.
- Three linked military charities – AH, OLHF and STH. Each is now the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission. On 2 October 2016, Andrew Gilligan in The Sunday Times reported my work on Mr Chadwick’s companies and the three linked charities (“Veterans miss out on charity millions as fundraiser keeps up to 80% of cash”). There he named me as the source and included quotes (see my 3 October 2016 post, which includes a link to Mr Gilligan’s newspaper article and the context). On 13 November 2016, Remembrance Sunday, the Mail on Sunday on its front page reported that the Charity Commission has ordered the opaque STH to stop all fundraising (“Shame of Poppy Day profiteers”): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3930982/Shame-poppy-day-profiteers-Charity-banned-crackdown-raised-3million-gave-just-250-000-heroes.html. As you can see, I’m named and quoted in the front-page story.
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. The group first contacted me about the charity in December 2015 (email). The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839/.
- Money raised by charity Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company. In 2014, I exclusively exposed OLHF for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working when fundraising. Nevertheless it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on the charity, identifying “serious regulatory concerns”. Here I now show, too, that there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. Finally, links between the new chair of the charity and Mr Pearson demonstrate that questions remain about the governance of OLHF.
- Hitherto I‘ve examined the fundraising activities only of OLHF, a military charity based in Bamber Bridge, Preston (registered charity number: 1142029). It isn’t a member of the official umbrella organisation for military charities, the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo). In 2014, I exclusively exposed the charity for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working with a rip-off professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). Previously, I’d shown that the same discredited professional fundraiser had worked with failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it’d opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
- On 9 November 2014, I appeared for the first time as a live studio guest on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme. There we exposed PPL and its work for the two military charities. OLHF had told BBC Radio 5 live then that it would stop working with PPL – only to still be working together at the end of that year (see my 26 December 2014 post). In February 2015, I reported that the charity was finally working with another company, newly formed Targeted Management Limited (TML). Yet TML is owned by the same person behind PPL, Tony Chadwick. Unlike PPL, TML claims it isn’t a professional fundraiser; rather it’s a “management” company. Nevertheless TML appears to perform or have performed on behalf of OLHF some or all of the same activities as predecessor PPL (see my 11 August 2015 post).
- In January 2015, PPL entered administration, which ended in December that year when the company was wound up by the High Court. Liquidators were duly appointed in February 2016. PPL remains in liquidation.
- It wasn’t until March 2016 that the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, published a highly critical case report on OLHF, identifying “serious regulatory concerns” (see my 4 April 2016 post). These include “a very low level” of charitable expenditure and “high” fundraising costs – only 20% of the money raised in its name actually goes to the charity, a fact I revealed back in 2014. (What took you so long, Charity Commission?) OLHF only avoided a statutory inquiry, the commission’s most serious form of engagement with a charity, because the trustees apparently showed an “open and responsible approach” in their dealings with the commission.
- The commission’s case report raises many questions. Why exactly was the commission so lenient on OLHF? I’m not the only one: Stephen Cook, former editor of Third Sector, wrote a column in the charity sector magazine asking the same question: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-commission-lenient-once/governance/article/1390419. Why, too, did the commission fail to mention rip-off PPL and its role for the charity? The case report examined fundraising concerns involving TML only, without considering the relationship between that company and predecessor PPL, owned, of course, by the same person. A glaring omission.
- But now I show that concerns about OLHF extend beyond fundraising. There’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by the charity founder, Steve Pearson. The charity founder is also its chief executive and president.
- The OLHF trustees’ annual report (TAR) with the most recent accounts, for financial year ending (FYE) 28 February 2015, documents payment of grants to beneficiaries for boiler installation. Similarly, grants for boiler installation appear on the “What we have done” page on the OLHF website (screen shot in Figure 1). As you can see, there are no dates on the page for the charitable activities. On 4 July 2016, I therefore asked Des White, chair of the charity, in an email for two dates. First, when did OLHF help “Sarah from Blackburn”? Second, when did it help “Peter from Blackpool”? No response a week later so I sent a reminder. At date of publication I’ve received nothing from the charity.
- In a glowing testimonial, “Peter from Blackpool” praises by name the company that fitted the boiler, Premier Property Maintenance. Indeed, he recommends them. So who are Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited (registered company number: 08933567)? Well, all three directors share the same surname – Pearson. First, there’s Steve Pearson, who founded OLHF. More about him and his exact role at the charity in a moment. Second, meet Antony Pearson, who was a trustee of the charity until 20 October 2015. Finally, we have Robert Pearson. Incorporated on 11 March 2014, at date of publication the company’s first accounts are eight months overdue at Companies House.
- Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited isn’t actually on the Gas Safe Register, but another of Steve Pearson‘s companies is – B-Safe Property Services Limited (registered company number: 07501243). He’s the sole director. The Gas Safe registered engineer at B-Safe is familiar: Robert Pearson (screen shot in Figure 2). At date of publication B-Safe‘s accounts are more than 2.5 years overdue at Companies House. The company is again threatened with being struck off for failing to file its accounts on time.
- Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited and B-Safe Property Services Limited are just two of Steve Pearson’s companies. He owns a complex web of companies, several of which have “Our Local Heroes” in their names: Our Local Heroes Monitoring Services Limited; Our Local Heroes Limited; and OLHF Events Limited (now renamed Challenger Events Management Limited). Warriors of Steel Limited is another in his empire: the charity held two fundraising events called Warriors of Steel, according to the TAR with the first OLHF accounts, for FYE 28 February 2012.
- As I said, Steve Pearson is the charity founder. He’s been president since registration of OLHF as a charity on 20 May 2011, according to his LinkedIn page (screen shot in Figure 3). Mr Pearson is also chief executive: see http://www.garstangcourier.co.uk/centre-for-ex-servicemen-in-fowlers-hill-wood-causes-controversy-1-7087310. He runs the charity: see http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/collector-stole-cash-donated-to-war-heroes-1-7343277. There it says: “Run by businessman Steve Pearson, the charity finds employment for injured military veterans by setting up companies for them. If successful, the revenue from the ventures is invested to create further companies and more jobs.” But, as we’ve seen, there’s a lack of clarity and transparency around the relationships between OLHF and the complex web of companies owned by Mr Pearson. Here I’ve shown that money raised by the charity was used to fund work at a company owned by the charity founder, who’s also chief executive and president of the charity. A trustee of OLHF, with the same surname as the charity chief executive, is also director of the company.
- The charity had four trustees in its first year, three called Pearson. None of the now three trustees, though, have that surname. The chair of a charity usually line-manages the chief executive on behalf of the trustees (see the Charity Commission guide, “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do” (CC3)). Yet new chair Des White set up a company with Steve Pearson AFTER becoming a trustee on 16 February 2015. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited (registered company number: 09598436) was incorporated on 19 May 2015, with Mr White and Mr Pearson as the two directors and two shareholders. Mr White resigned as a director on 1 April 2016, but remains as a shareholder, according to the company’s annual return made up to 19 May 2016. Community Covenant Housing Management Limited is active with Mr Pearson as sole director. Mr White, meanwhile, is sole director of a new company with a similar name, Community Covenant Homes Ltd (registered company number: 09381764). He incorporated that company on 9 January 2015 – that is, BEFORE becoming a trustee of OLHF. He’s sole director, too, of another similar-sounding new company, Community Covenant Development Limited (registered company number: 09930786). Date of incorporation was 29 December 2015, so AFTER Mr White became a trustee. The registered office address of both Community Covenant Homes Ltd and Community Covenant Development Limited is the modestly titled Pearson House, also the address of the charity, according to its website and the Charity Commission public register. The links between Mr White and Mr Pearson are a potential concern: are the trustees only really in charge of the charity? The trustees must take joint responsibility for management of OLHF and be able to challenge Mr Pearson, who could be perceived to be a single dominant individual at the charity. It was him, tellingly, not the then trustees, who spoke for OLHF to BBC Radio 5 live in our November 2014 programme, for example.
- The arrangements for boiler installation revealed here and the previously documented fundraising concerns both prompt the same reasonable question: is the charity being used for inappropriate private gain?
- STOP PRESS: Premier Property Maintenance NW Limited IS now on the Gas Safe Register for business registration number 520996 (screen shot in Figure 4). The trading name for that number on the register was changed from B-Safe (Figure 2) on 10 August 2016.
- On 30 March 2016, the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), a military veterans charity (registered charity number: 1142029). The “serious regulatory concerns” at the charity include “a very low level” of charitable expenditure and “high” fundraising costs – only 20% of the money raised in its name actually goes to the charity. Here is the Charity Commission case report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-local-heroes-foundation-case-report.
- As you can see, OLHF only avoided a statutory inquiry, the commission’s most serious form of engagement with a charity, because the trustees showed an “open and responsible approach” in their dealings with the commission.
- On 30 March 2016, The Telegraph reported the Charity Commission case report, with responses from both OLHF and the company that organises its fundraising, Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/30/war-veterans-charity-spent-just-two-percent-of-income-on-grants/.
- In 2014, I exclusively exposed OLHF for both its excessive fundraising costs and highly misleading ways of working, as regular readers of this blog will know.
- TML of Blackpool is an opaque company: https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/targeted-management-limited-censorship-and-secrecy/. Further, at date of publication there is still no mention of TML on the OLHF website. Its role(s) at the charity should not be hidden. Shameful.
- Meanwhile, at date of publication TML’s first accounts are weeks overdue at Companies House. Not a good sign.
- Please read my previous post published 25 November 2015.
- On 27 November 2015, I emailed Support The Heroes inviting a public response to that post about the charity and the Daily Mirror report (19 November 2015). I said I’d publish its response in full on the blog.
- On 5 December 2015, I received an email from Pauline White, public contact and a trustee for Support The Heroes. Before her response, three points about what she wrote.
- First, it is important to note that Ms White fails to refer to Prize Promotions Limited – though my post explicitly identified the discredited professional fundraiser and its relation to Targeted Management Limited, an opaque company working with Support The Heroes. The omission is unacceptable. Both Blackpool companies are owned by the same person, Tony Chadwick. This is a simple fact anyone can check on Companies House records.
- Second, Ms White refers to the charity’s first accounts, for financial year ending 31 March 2015. These are now available on the Charity Commission website. But there is no mention of Targeted Management Limited in the accounts, so there is still a lack of clarity and transparency about the company and its role(s) for Support The Heroes. As I wrote in my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited, the money flows in and around the charity – including the company – should be disclosed.
- Third, turning to the actual statement from Support The Heroes that I challenged in my 25 November 2015 post: the charity has now deleted the post from its official Facebook page, it seems. Anyone can still read it though: see the screen shot in my previous post.
- Here is Ms White’s email in full:
“Dr May 5 December 2015
I received your email of 27 November inviting me, on behalf of Support The
Heroes charity, to respond to your latest blog ‘Support The Heroes: a
statement that must be challenged’ with regard to the points which relate
You state that our response to a Facebook query by Mark Bishop concerning
an article appearing in the Daily Mirror, penned by Andrew Penman, on 19
November headed ‘Another company poses as armed forces charity to rifle
aid for injured soldiers’ and relating to the section ‘Armed forces
‘charities’ – the roll-call of shame’ was false. We challenge your
accusation, stand by our statement and suggest you provide us with
evidence of a link between any of the charities/companies mentioned
You then, at clause 5, mention that ‘nothing about Chadwick and any of his
companies appear on the charity website and as at 25 November 2015 there
is still nothing about Targeted Management Limited’ you then accuse us of
hiding the involvement of the company. On this point I refer you to my
email of 5 May 2015, posted on your blog 8 May 2015, in which I give in
detail our relationship with Targeted Management Limited.
We would like to bring to your attention that your blog, due to your
unfounded and untrue accusations, has caused us considerable damage. Our
teams, and even staff at the venues where we operate, have been verbally
abused, threats have been levelled at us and for our own safety we have
had to temporarily discontinue our charitable activities. We have many
ex-service personnel working as fundraisers whose jobs could now be in
Our Charity, numbered 1155853, was registered with the Charities
Commission in February 2014. Our financial statements are posted on the
Charities Commission website albeit the filing date was January 2016.
Our financial statements including details of our donations are also
published on our website http://www.supporttheheroes.org.uk
During the period we donated £15,120 to PTSD Resolution for counselling of
PTSD sufferers, £2,500 to NGVFA The National Gulf Veterans and Families
Association which covered the cost of a respite break for six wheelchair
bound veterans and six carers, £2,400 to The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home
in Worthing to fund two months neuropsychologist services enabling
residents with complex neurological disabilities to live with a lower
level of frustration and anxiety and £1500 to Blind Veterans UK. We still
had £46,000 available for future donations the most recent being £7138.99
going to The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2015 representing 100% of
donations and 100% of profits made from sales activities from the 26th
October to the 8th November 2015.
Our Trustees have not received any financial remuneration, benefit or
expenses from the Charity or connected business, hardly the actions of a
‘dubious charity’ or an organisation trying to ‘hide’ anything.
We would be more than happy to meet face to face and try to understand
your concerns and to ease any doubts you may have regarding our charity
and its probity.
As you stated ‘I’ll publish your response in full on the blog’ I look
forward with interest to reading same.
- At 25 November 2015 the charity Support The Heroes (registered charity number: 1155853) has a statement on its official Facebook page that must be challenged (screen shot in Figure 1).
- In response to a query from Mark Bishop dated 21 November 2015, the military charity publishes the link for Andrew Penman’s report on Blackpool “charity” Our Brave Heroes in The Daily Mirror last week (see my previous post). Support The Heroes says: “We can confirm that this is NOT US and we have no links to any of them.” But that is false.
- As you can see, Penman doesn’t refer to Our Brave Heroes only. He lists five other dubious military charities/good causes linked to Blackpool, under the headline “Armed forces ‘charities’ – the roll-call of shame”. Failed charity Afghan Heroes (registered charity number: 1132340) is one. As Penman says, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool was its official professional fundraiser. The discredited professional fundraiser is now in administration (company number: 07829587), as I revealed in January.
- As this blog exclusively reported, the owner of Prize Promotions Limited, Tony Chadwick, has a new company now working with further military charities. It’s called Targeted Management Limited (company number: 09036445). And, as regular readers know, Support The Heroes is one of the charities (see my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited).
- I exposed the link between Chadwick and Support The Heroes in my 21 April 2015 post. I noted then that there was nothing about Chadwick and any of his companies on the charity website. And at 25 November 2015 there is still nothing about Targeted Management Limited there. Support The Heroes continues to hide the involvement of the company. Why?
- In November 2014, someone wishing to remain anonymous brought to my attention the self-described charity Our Brave Heroes. I quickly noticed that the “About Us” page on its website http://www.ourbraveheroes.org at the time presented the registered company number (09225356) as if it was a registered charity number. So the foot of the page then said: “Our Brave Heroes is a charity limited by guarantee. Reg no. 9225356.” (There it now says only: “Our Brave Heroes is a charity limited by guarantee.”) Use of company number in this way is highly misleading. Our Brave Heroes wasn’t a registered charity then; and isn’t now.
- First Promotions Limited (registered company number: 09090941) is the official professional fundraiser for Our Brave Heroes. The logo on its website http://www.firstpromotions.org – green “f”, black “p” – is similar to that of Prize Promotions Limited, the discredited Blackpool professional fundraiser, now in administration – green “p”, black “p”: see Figure 4 in my 6 January 2014 post. For a review of Prize Promotions Limited, see my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited, another Blackpool company owned by the same person (Tony Chadwick). Also, Prize Promotions Limited raised funds for a similar-sounding North-West military charity: Our Local Heroes Foundation (often shortened to Our Local Heroes). Like Prize Promotions Limited, First Promotions Limited organises prize draws, selling tickets to the public in shopping centres round the UK – and again a rip-off 20% only of the ticket price goes to the charity (screen shot in Figure 1).
- Both Our Brave Heroes and First Promotions Limited hide behind registered office addresses. By law, all UK companies must have a registered office address, the official address for all correspondence from Companies House and HMRC. The registered office address doesn’t have to be where the company conducts its business (the trading address). The “Contact Us” page of the Our Brave Heroes website shows only the registered office address – the Blackpool-based accountants, Crossley & Davis. This is the company that was obstructive and obfuscatory when I contacted it on the express instruction of the founder of the Blackpool-based military charity, A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK: see my 19 October 2015 post. Again, the “Contact Us” page of the First Promotions Limited website shows only the registered office address – in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear (screen shot in Figure 2). Nevertheless the sole director of the company is linked to Blackpool (see below).
- The company Our Brave Heroes has three directors, according to Companies House records. Yet only one is named on its website: Gordon Ross (screen shot in Figure 3). On 1 October 2015, I emailed Mr Ross three simple questions about Our Brave Heroes. The evidence in the first question might be connected to why Mr Ross is the only director of the three to be named on the website.
- “FIRST QUESTION: Your fellow directors, Justine Sutcliffe and Laura Teresa Sutcliffe – is either or both related to Kristofer Sutcliffe, sole director of First Promotions Limited?”
- “SECOND QUESTION: I refer to the PDF file on the “Grant Application Form” page of your website: http://www.ourbraveheroes.org/forms/. Document properties of the PDF file were viewed from within Adobe Reader by clicking File on the main menu bar, and then selecting Properties. The Description tab of the Properties dialog box reveals the document author. Why is Kristofer Sutcliffe the document author?”
- “THIRD QUESTION: Is Kristofer Sutcliffe of First Promotions Limited the same Kristofer Sutcliffe in the following three reports in The Blackpool Gazette? http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/local/lies-led-to-arrest-1-4542197 (“Lies led to arrest”, 12 May 2012); http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/local/false-claim-liar-in-sentence-reprieve-1-4804006 (“False claim liar in sentence reprieve”, 4 August 2012); http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/community/community-news/bully-said-he-would-chop-ex-s-head-off-1-7077791 (“‘Bully’ said he would chop ex’s head off”, 29 January 2015).”
- Not receiving a response from Mr Ross, I sent a follow-up a week later (8 October 2015). That day I also sent a message to Mr Sutcliffe at First Promotions Limited, enclosing my first message to Mr Ross. There I asked whether Mr Sutcliffe might answer the three simple questions about Our Brave Heroes and First Promotions Limited. At date of publication I haven’t received a response from Mr Ross to either of my two messages. On 15 October 2015, I sent a follow-up to Mr Sutcliffe. Again, at date of publication I haven’t received a response from Mr Sutcliffe to either of my two messages.
- The unresponsiveness of both Our Brave Heroes and First Promotions Limited is unacceptable. My three simple questions are legitimate.
- Mr Sutcliffe is currently sole director of First Promotions Limited only – as “Kristofer Sutcliffe”, that is. But the 4 August 2012 report in The Blackpool Gazette names him as “Kristofer John Sutcliffe”. In that guise, Mr Sutcliffe was sole director of two other companies, both dissolved 21 October 2014, according to Companies House records. One used the same registered office address as First Promotions Limited. The three reports in The Blackpool Gazette all make clear that Mr Sutcliffe lives in Blackpool (or at least did at the date of the reports). His reported age each time is consistent with date of birth at Companies House, which is the same for both versions of his name.
- There are recent newspaper reports of First Promotions Limited being kicked out of shopping centres once people realised Our Brave Heroes isn’t a registered charity. In April 2015, it was told to leave St Catherine’s Walk Shopping Centre, Carmarthen, Wales, according to the Carmarthen Journal: http://www.carmarthenjournal.co.uk/Questions-raised-fundraising-activities/story-26401038-detail/story.html. The newspaper printed an update September 2015 where Mr Ross says Our Brave Heroes has applied to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity: http://www.carmarthenjournal.co.uk/Armed-forces-fundraisers-vow-return/story-27799979-detail/story.html. In October 2015, it was expelled from Fareham Shopping Centre, Fareham, Hampshire, according to the Southern Daily Echo: http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/13892404.Fundraisers_kicked_out_of_shopping_centre_over_charity_status_concerns/; and the Portsmouth News: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/fareham-shopping-centre-kicks-group-out-after-complaints-1-7029167. Again, Mr Ross tells both newspapers that Our Brave Heroes has applied to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity.
- It’s bad enough Our Brave Heroes once used its company number to create the impression that it’s a registered charity. That apparent deliberate deception alone raises serious questions about the honesty and integrity of the people involved. But it’s a matter of public record that the sole director of First Promotions Limited has twice been convicted by a court of a criminal offence – and jailed on both occasions. Further, the first conviction was for a criminal offence involving dishonesty. Honesty and integrity are essential in both running a charity and fundraising. Finally, it’s unclear whether Our Brave Heroes and First Promotions Limited are really independent of each other.
- The latest accounts for the charity A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK hide both the cost of generating funds and the involvement of a professional fundraiser. In doing so the accounts considerably overstate the expenditure on charitable activities. When I queried this, the founder of the military charity, who is both a trustee and public contact, was defensive and obstructive. Finally, he expressly instructed me to contact a named individual at the Blackpool-based charity’s accountants. But this person was obstructive and obfuscatory. It was only when I asked the charity founder why the accountant didn’t seem to want to communicate in writing for the record that I received a very short email response via the founder. Yet this failed to explain why the accounts hide both the cost of generating funds and the involvement of a professional fundraiser. It merely stated that the cost of generating funds was included under “events expenses”. And that was it – one sentence. This response is inadequate because the accounts show “events expenses” as an item under cost of charitable activities. The absence of cost of generating funds is misleading and means that the accounts considerably overstate the expenditure on charitable activities. Cost of generating funds will include those costs incurred in working with a professional fundraiser, among other costs. Cost of charitable activities and cost of generating funds are distinct and should be shown separately. In contrast to the accounts, the charity homepage says it works with a professional fundraiser, MAG Events Ltd, also of Blackpool. But the website fails to specify when the company became official professional fundraiser. In August 2015, the charity founder told me in an email that they’d been working together for “about 15 months”. The latest charity accounts are financial year-end (FYE) 30 September 2014, so these should disclose their relationship and associated money flows. They don’t. Besides the accounts, there’s another concern: the professional fundraiser itself. It’s jointly owned by a leading light at Prize Promotions Limited, the discredited Blackpool professional fundraiser, now in administration.
- Registered October 2012, A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK (registered charity number: 1149233) is a Blackpool-based charity raising funds for charities supporting wounded soldiers and their families. Its founder is former Sgt Rick Clement of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who was seriously injured in Afghanistan April 2010, aged 30. “I lost both my legs and almost my right arm as well as suffering massive internal injuries that left me unable to have children after stepping on an IED,” says Mr Clement on the charity website, a-soldiers-journey.co.uk.
- The charity homepage proclaims the official professional fundraiser, MAG Events Ltd, whose “teams” can be found “in a venue or an event throughout the UK” (screen shot in Figure 1). More about the company later. There are two accounts for the charity, FYE 30 September 2013 and FYE 30 September 2014. Cost of generating funds isn’t specified in either. Expenditure, according to the notes on p.7 of both, is assigned to one of three categories: cost of generating funds; cost of charitable activities; and cost of governance. Yet cost of generating funds isn’t shown in the expenditure breakdown on p.12 of both accounts. Absence of cost of generating funds was the motivation for asking Mr Clement two questions in an email 19 August 2015. First, when did MAG Events Ltd start working with the charity? Second, did the charity work with professional fundraisers before MAG Events Ltd? If so, who and when?
- In his same-day reply, he told me: “I’m not wishing to divulge any information over email. I would be happy to arrange a meeting with both myself and those running MAG Events to gain a greater knowledge of who you are and why your [sic] asking these questions.” On 20 August 2015, I explained the interest: I’d been reading the accounts for the charity, adding that these are publicly available. The questions in my first message are simple and clear, I said. They’re legitimate questions for a charity trustee. I finished by saying I was surprised, asking: “Why don’t you want to answer those questions in an email?” Again, Mr Clement responded that day. He now invited me to call to “discuss” the questions. On 21 August 2015, I thanked him in an email for the offer to speak on the phone, but said I didn’t think it was necessary. He knew my name.
- I next heard from him 25 August 2015, when he decided to answer the questions in an email: “MAG Events have been our fundraising partner for about 15 months. This is the only company we have ever used and only did our own fundraising events before that.” In my reply 27 August 2015, I explained that cost of generating funds isn’t specified in either accounts; and asked him to account for the absence of cost of generating funds. Cost of generating funds will include those costs incurred in working with a professional fundraiser, among other costs. At August 2015 A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK had been working with MAG Events Ltd for “about 15 months” – so where is cost of generating funds in the latest accounts?
- On 9 September 2015, for an answer to the question, Mr Clement in an email expressly instructed me to contact a named individual, Dominic Donleavy, at the charity’s accountants, Crossley & Davis of Blackpool. That day I emailed Mr Donleavy the question with all necessary background. Yet his same-day response invited me to call “to discuss further”. On 10 September 2015, I wrote: “Let’s do this in writing for the record, please. Email.” His second message (11 September 2015) was obstructive and obfuscatory: “As you will appreciate all of our client’s details are confidential and therefore any information released has to be authorised. Additionally I am unsure of who you are, please can you contact me before I prepare a response.” My third and final message (14 September 2015) dealt with his latest points. I wasn’t seeking personal data and/or information relating to the charity. None such were required to answer the question. As to my identity, I reminded him that he knew my name. I explicitly stated that I write a blog at dralexmay.wordpress.com, as Mr Clement had observed in his first email. The blog confirms my identity and email address. But I finished: “Yet who I am isn’t actually relevant anyway. I could be anyone. That’s the point. Charities must be accountable to the public. I’m a member of the public with a legitimate question for trustee Mr Clement. Your client has expressly instructed me to contact you for an answer.”
- On 30 September 2015, I contacted Mr Clement to confirm that I’d received nothing from Mr Donleavy at Crossley & Davis after my third email to him 14 September 2015. I then asked: “Why doesn’t Mr Donleavy seem to want to answer the question in writing for the record?” On 5 October 2015, Mr Clement wrote in an email that Mr Donleavy “was ignoring you but as you can imagine is very busy.” But even less satisfactory was the enclosed response from the accountant: “Further to your query in respect of the charities [sic] filed accounts I can respond. The costs you are referring to have been included under ‘events expenses’. I trust this answers your question.”
- So the latest accounts for the charity hide both the cost of generating funds and the involvement of a professional fundraiser. In doing so the accounts considerably overstate the expenditure on charitable activities. But what are the exact figures? Charity income was £106 900 FYE 30 September 2014; while expenditure on charitable activities is reported as £109 073. Yet the latter includes “events expenses” of £36 198. In fact, “donations to charities” of £63 026 is the only item under cost of charitable activities that is unambiguously a charitable activity.
- Now I turn to another concern: the professional fundraiser itself. It’s jointly owned by a leading light at Prize Promotions Limited, the discredited Blackpool professional fundraiser, now in administration. For a review of Prize Promotions Limited, see my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited, another Blackpool company owned by the same person (Tony Chadwick). So who is MAG Events Ltd? Well, for a start, the company has recently changed name to A Soldiers [sic] Journey Events Limited – as of 28 August 2015, according to Companies House records (registered company number: 08897182). But you wouldn’t know from the charity homepage: at date of publication MAG Events Ltd is still listed as official professional fundraiser. A Soldiers Journey Events Limited has two directors: Darren Mason and Zachary Griffin. Like the notorious Prize Promotions Limited, their company doesn’t have a website. For information or enquiries about the professional fundraiser, the charity homepage says to call Darren (no second name) on a mobile number. Absence of a landline contact number doesn’t inspire confidence. The Charity Commission explicitly warns the public not to donate to charitable collections where fundraising materials only bear a mobile number – see the fourth of nine checks the commission recommends in the London-wide safer giving campaign: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/commission-backs-london-wide-safer-giving-campaign. Here it’s even worse: the professional fundraiser itself only uses a mobile number. In fact, it’s the same mobile number Mr Mason used in the name of Prize Promotions Limited on fundraising materials when it worked with failed military charity Afghan Heroes (registered charity number: 1132340): see Figure 4 in my 6 January 2014 post. As you can see, he also used his first name only then (2013) for an official leaflet distributed by highly misleading, organised teams of paid street-sellers of Afghan Heroes wristbands. Further evidence of Mr Mason’s senior role at Prize Promotions Limited is on the website of Bo-Concepts, the self-styled “experts in promotional space management”. Mr Mason for Prize Promotions Limited praises the company on its testimonials page (screen shot in Figure 2).
- On 13 October 2015, I emailed Mr Clement to ask: “Does it not concern you that Darren Mason is or was a leading light at Prize Promotions Limited, the discredited Blackpool professional fundraiser, now in administration?” In his same-day reply, he wrote: “I am aware of Darren Mason working for them and that this company had a bad reputation.” But Mr Clement was “confident with myself overseeing that nothing untoward will happen and that should it, I would identify it within a week and cut ties.” He finished by saying how proud he was of the charity, and then: “I won’t let anyone or anything damage that reputation as it would jeopardise my ultimate goal of helping those who need it.”