‘Support The Heroes’ – An Ethical Charity?

A FORMER Royal Navy serviceman of 11 years has raised concerns over the ethics of a fundraising appeal recently stationed at The Peacocks Shopping Centre in Woking, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

Support The Heroes – a registered charity (1155853/12 February 2014) based in Preston– raised the eyebrow of concerned Woking resident Mr Mackenzie, who claims the donations it receives are being disproportionately allocated.

He said the charity is misrepresenting itself and other better known good causes of a similar name.  He also claims that the Support The Heroes accounts (not to be confused with
Help The Heroes) are not openly transparent, and those collecting for it are not volunteers but commissioned-based representatives.

In a bid to clarify the position, the News & Mail caught up with two representatives from the Support The Heroes charity last Thursday (18 August 2016) in Woking.

Mick, a spokesman from Liverpool – and a former member of the British artillery for nine years – did not want to disclose his surname, but refuted any claim that the charity appeal was unethical.

He said: “You can see we are a proper charity; you only need to read some of the publicity to see that 93.5 per cent of all donations go to charity. It supports former military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which I have witnessed first-hand after two former colleagues took their own lives. We’re in Woking as we obviously want to raise as much money as possible to help others with PTSD.”

While the sentiments appear plausible, the ownership of the charity remains unclear. It comes after Paulina Elizabeth White, a trustee and signatory to the accounts, was not known to Moore & Smalley, the chartered accountants in Preston representing the Support The Heroes’ financial affairs.

When asked if it would be possible to speak to Ms White last week, nothing was forthcoming.

The News & Mail can also confirm that at least one representative from the Support The Heroes appeal last Thursday was raising money ‘to help fund his way through university’.

Based on the latest balance sheets for the period ending 31 March 2015, Support The Heroes accumulated £72,474 through voluntary and investment income.

Charitable giving comprised £21,864, leaving a net balance of £46,045 after governance costs, which should be made available for charitable giving at some future point.

It is understood that the bulk of the charity’s income comes from Support The Heroes’ subsidiary, Support The Heroes (Fundraising) Limited, which acts as the commercial trading arm for
the charity.

However, there is no information on what percentage of the limited company’s gross income is set aside for charitable means.   Job adverts posted on Indeed.co.uk confirm that Support The Heroes’ volunteers are professional fundraisers and receive a commission-based income.

The limited company is not required to provide the same detailed set of accounts by Companies House.

The Lancashire-based company is also reported to have had previous links to Prize Promotions Limited; a discredited professional fundraiser which was wound-up on 18 December 2015.

“While I don’t believe Support The Heroes is acting against the law, I do not believe their collection to donation ratio is moral,” cited Mackenzie. “For that reason, I feel the public needs to be made aware before they donate.”

When the News & Mail contacted the Woking branch of the armed forces charity SSAFA, their contact had never heard of Support The Heroes.

Shopping centres not to blame:

While Support The Heroes is in fact currently a registered charity and the accounts it is required to declare are above board, it would seem that, given the disproportionate amount of funds held back – which is the charity is not required to declare ‘for charitable giving at some point in the future’ – the organisation is not breaking the law.   However, when compared to other similar forces’ charities, the questions of transparency and ethics come to the fore.

As long as a charity has passed all the required checks, shopping centre staff and visitors have no reason to doubt that the fundraising is not honourable, and in the vast majority of cases it is.

Rowen de Grauw, customer experience manager for Woking Shopping, said:

“Support The Heroes passed stringent checks to ensure they were suitable to fundraise on the Mall.  These included checks with The Charity Commission to ensure they’re registered and compliant.

“We constantly strive to provide the best level of service possible via our tenants and third parties and take any customer complaints very seriously.  As such, we have drawn our relationship with this charity [Support The Heroes] to a close,” added de Grauw.

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