- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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?