Veterans’ fundraising firm asked to stop collecting in Norwich amid concerns only 20% goes to the charity

Collectors for Pro-Fundraising Ltd acting on behalf of the 1st Knight Military Charity. Picture: Sup

Collectors for Pro-Fundraising Ltd acting on behalf of the 1st Knight Military Charity. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

A firm fundraising for army veterans in Norwich city centre have been asked to stop, amid concerns they were not making it clear enough that just 20pc of their takings were going to charity.

Pro-Fundraising Ltd had been operating in the city's Castle Mall this week by asking people to take part in a quarterly prize-draw, with its pop-up banners claiming participants would be 'Supporting British Forces'.

However, they were yesterday asked to stop the operation by bosses at the Mall after our investigation found just 20pc of the £2.50 ticket money raised was going to the Blackpool-based 1st Knight Military Charity.

Our probe was launched following concerns from a member of the public the company was not being clear that 80pc of people's donations would not go to the charity.

We found the only mention of this was in a black folder on the stall, while the two staff manning it were only instructed to provide the details 'when asked' and the raffle tickets themselves did not make it clear.

UPDATE: Military charity changes fundraising after ban from Norwich's Castle Mall

Although there is no suggestion the firm was doing anything illegal, when confronted about the concerns, director William Greenwood admitted it could 'do more to help with public confidence'. However, since the issue came to light, Pro-Fundraising Ltd, set up in November solely to collect for the charity, has confirmed that as well as being asked to leave the Castle Mall, it was no longer working for the cause.

Mr Greenwood said: 'The Mall asked us to leave but offered us our money back because we were not doing anything wrong. The charity has since decided to go it alone and we will no longer be collecting for them.'

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In its literature, Pro-Fundraising Ltd stated that it aimed to raise £100,000 a year for the charity, which would leave £400,000 to go elsewhere.

However, Mr Greenwood was adamant there was a 'misconception' of where that money ended up, adding: 'People think someone is lapping it up on holiday, but most of it goes on costs.

'You have two paid employees who spend six days of the week as fund-raisers, you also have the rental space, hotel costs and then the cost of travel. The set up costs alone are about £2,000 a week.

'The charity are making more than we are. We make about 20pc but throw in the corporation tax and we are probably looking at 16-17pc.

'Once you throw in the director's salary and other admin it really doesn't leave much profit.

'Sometimes we make a loss, but it is a win-win for the charity because they get the money without doing anything. We are not trying to trick people.'

A Fundraising Standards Board spokeswoman confirmed it had received no complaints in relation to either the firm or the charity.

The Blackpool-based charity gives respite to wounded soldiers, airmen and sailors and runs a charity shop in the seaside town.

Trustee Andrew Linihan confirmed that 20pc of the money collected on its behalf goes to the charity, but referred us to the collection company for further comment.

Bosses at Castle Mall declined to comment, other than to confirm the firm had been asked not to continue with its collections.

Do you have a story for the Investigations Unit? Contact David Powles on 01603 772478 or email david.powles@archant.co.uk

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

Dan Flaskey, head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising, said under law, all fundraisers who make a personal request for money are required to make some form of solicitation statement, which outlines that not all the money will be going directly to the charity.

They are not expected to declare how much of the cash they receive, but should declare what the charity receives.

What seems less clear, however, is how prominently they should publish this information. In this case, the fact 20pc was going to the charity was not being mentioned by the staff unless they were asked. It was not on any of the banners or on the tickets, but could be found in a letter in the back of a folder on the desk.

Mr Flaskey explained that the institute's role was to ensure charities were aware of the guidelines and carrying out best practice, but that any complaints around alleged breaches would be determined by the Fundraising Standards Board.

He added: 'There is no set guidance which says that 50p in a £1 going to a collection firm is okay, but 70p, for instance, isn't.'

ONGOING CONCERNS

Earlier this month we exposed a group of rogue wristband sellers operating in Norwich's Gentleman's Walk without the proper licence.

The gang-of-four were selling the 'anti-bullying' bands at £2 a time. While they admitted to our investigators the cash was 'not for charity', when questioned as to where it was going there were major inconsistencies in the answers they gave.

Norwich City Council confirmed the group had no licence to operate and they have not been seen in the city centre since.

Nationally, there have been concerns raised about the legitimacy of some charity collections up and down the country, as well as the methods they employ.

In June this year, Croydon became the 100th council in the country to ban so-called 'chuggers' from its high streets.

The issue has also led to concerns being raised by Stephen Bell, of Tyneside-based charity Changing Lives, that aggressive tactics to make shoppers commit to giving money are making people 'turn their backs on legitimate charities' and harming good causes.

Ministers have announced plans for a Charities Bill to introduce tighter regulation of the sector and the exact details of what that will mean are currently going through Parliament.

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