Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fraudulent Charities, Fundraisers, Solicitations, Telemarketers and Scams

Oregon-based KTVZ.COM news reported on May 20, 2009 that Oregon Attorney General John Kroger joined the Federal Trade Commission and other states Wednesday in Operation False Charity, a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent fundraisers, non-profits and individual solicitors who claim to help firefighters, police and veterans.

The article goes on to say in part:

Kroger announced a settlement with Secure the Call, a Maryland-based company that claimed to be associated with local law enforcement and asked people to donate cell phones for domestic violence victims. Secure the Call can no longer operate in Oregon under the settlement reached with the Department of Justice.

Secure the Call allegedly misrepresented its non-profit status while soliciting cell phone donations by fax and drop boxes in supermarkets. An investigation by the Department of Justice found no evidence that Secure the Call was associated with any local law enforcement agencies or that the cell phones ever reached domestic violence victims.

Oregon is also one of at least 34 states to enter into a settlement with Community Support Inc. (CSI), a Wisconsin-based telemarketer that allegedly received no less than 83 percent of the donations it solicited on behalf of more than 35 charities nationwide.

CSI telemarketers allegedly falsely claimed to be police or veterans, misrepresented how much money went to charities and harassed potential contributors.

Under the settlement, CSI is enjoined from such unlawful activities and faces a minimum $10,000 penalty for each and every violation of state charitable solicitation laws.


Federal Trade Commission Announces "Operation False Charity" Law Enforcement Sweep - Agency Joined by 48 States in Bringing 76 Actions Against Fraudulent Solicitors Nationwide.

In a nationwide, federal-state crackdown on fraudulent telemarketers claiming to help police, firefighters, and veterans, the Federal Trade Commission, together with 61 Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, and other law enforcers of 48 states and the District of Columbia, today announced "Operation False Charity." Federal and state enforcers announced 76 law enforcement actions against 32 fundraising companies, 22 non-profits or purported non-profits on whose behalf funds were solicited, and 31 individuals. These include two FTC actions against alleged sham non-profits and the telemarketers who made deceptive claims about these so-called charities. The FTC and state agencies also released new education materials, in both English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize and avoid charitable solicitation fraud.


FTC Enforcement Actions

The two FTC cases announced today involve federal court complaints and proposed settlement orders against defendants who allegedly tricked consumers into giving by claiming that donations would support police or firefighters disabled in the line of duty, often in the donors' communities, or that the donations would assist military families in need, and by misleading consumers about how much of the money would go to those causes. According to the FTC, the defendants used legitimate-sounding names and described sympathetic causes to give their sham organizations a veneer of credibility. Their real goal, however, was to dupe consumers into contributing money that the defendants used overwhelmingly just to support themselves and their fundraisers.

In the first case, the FTC alleged that three sham non-profit organizations,

1. American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc. (AVRF),
2. Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc. (COPS), and
3. Disabled Firefighters Fund (DFF),

all based at the same address in Santa Ana, California, were created almost entirely to provide profits for the individual defendants and the for-profit fundraisers they hired. One defendant, Jeffrey Dean Duncan, ran COPS and DFF, while another defendant, William Rose, ran AVRF. Another defendant, Kathy Clinkenbeard, managed the telemarketers with which the entities contracted. The FTC contends that solicitors calling on behalf of AVRF falsely claimed that the money they were raising would support the families of soldiers fighting overseas through a program it called "Operation Home Front." In fact, AVRF spent virtually no money assisting military families. AVRF's bogus "Operation Home Front" is not connected to the genuine non-profit Operation Homefront, Inc., a national organization with 30 chapters across the country that provides real support to the families of troops and gets high ratings from watchdog groups. According to the FTC's complaint, the defendants misrepresented that donations would go to a legitimate charity, that the organizations have programs that do not actually exist, and that those programs benefit the donors' local communities. The complaint also alleges that COPS misrepresents its affiliation with police officers and sheriffs, and charges the defendants with assisting others to commit deceptive acts and practices.

The proposed order settles the FTC's complaint by barring the defendants from making false claims, or assisting anyone else in making false claims, in connection with charitable solicitations, or in connection with telemarketing. It also prohibits the defendants from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, requires that they make certain disclosures when fundraising, and it requires that they monitor any fundraisers that solicit on their behalf. Finally, the order imposes on defendants COPS, DFF, Duncan, and Clinkenbeard a judgment of $13.1 million and against defendants AVRF, Rose, and Clinkenbeard a judgment of $6 million. These judgments are suspended based on defendants' documented inability to pay.

In the second case, the FTC alleged that defendant David Scott Marleau ran several for-profit fundraisers that solicited money on behalf of sham police, fire, and veterans non-profit charitable organizations. The FTC charged that Marleau and his companies,

1. Jedi Investments, LLC,
2. Impact Fundraising, LLC,
3. Millenium Fundraising, LLC, and
4. PC Marl, Inc.,

misrepresented the programs for which funds were solicited, misrepresented that donations would benefit the donor's local community, mailed notices to consumers stating they had made a pledge when they had not even been called, and misrepresented their affiliation with sheriffs and police. Six additional counts in the complaint charged the defendants with multiple violations of the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, including ignoring company-specific do-not-call requests. The Commission also alleged that their operations often targeted seniors, sometimes debiting their accounts for donations without permission.

The proposed order settling the charges requires the defendants to stop misrepresenting facts, make certain disclosures when soliciting money from consumers, and stop violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The order also requires that the defendants substantiate any claims they make about a nonprofit or its programs prior to soliciting consumers, and requires that they train and monitor their telemarketers. Finally, the order imposes a monetary judgment of nearly $1.7 million against the corporate entities Jedi Investments, LLC, Impact Fundraising, LLC, Millenium Fundraising, LLC, and PC Marl, Inc. That judgment is suspended based on these defendants' documented inability to pay.


State Law Enforcement and Public Education

Law enforcement and public education efforts by the states are integral components of "Operation False Charity." The FTC would like to acknowledge the following state officials for their participation in Operation False Charity, either by taking enforcement action or initiating consumer education efforts: the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin; and other state agencies including the Secretaries of State of Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Washington, and the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Information about these agencies' participation is summarized on the FTC's Web site at

Private sector partners included AARP, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, the American Institute of Philanthropy, Guidestar, the National Association of State Charities Officials, and Charity Navigator.

Consumer Education

The FTC today issued a new consumer alert providing tips about charities that solicit donations on behalf of veterans and military families. According to the alert, which can be found on the agency's Web site at, while many legitimate charities are soliciting donations to support the nation's military veterans, not all "charities" are legitimate - some are operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves. Others are paid fundraisers whose fees can use up most of your donation.

The new alert, "Supporting the Troops: When Charities Solicit Donations on Behalf of Vets and Military Families," offers the following tips to help consumers ensure that their donations go to a legitimate charity. Many of these tips apply to charitable giving to other types of organizations, as well.
  • Recognize that the words "veterans" or "military families" in an organization's name don't necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation.
  • Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals, and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly.
  • If you have any doubt about whether you've made a pledge or a contribution, check your records. If you don't remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give.
  • Call the office in your state that regulates charitable organizations to see whether the charity or fundraising organization has to be registered.
  • Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax-record purposes, it's best to pay with a check made payable to the charity.
  • Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.Be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. You never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.Some sites where consumers can check out a charity include:
* - National Association of State Charity Officials, where you can look up and contact your state's charities regulator for more information.

* - Guidestar

* - Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance

* - CharityNavigator

* - American Institute of Philanthropy

The Commission vote approving each complaint and proposed court order was 4-0. The complaint and proposed order against David Scott Marleau, et al. were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on May 19, 2009. The complaint and proposed order against American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc., et al. were filed in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California on May 18, 2009.

The proposed orders announced today settle the FTC's charges against the following defendants:

1. American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc.; Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc.; Disabled Firefighters Fund; Jeffrey Dean Duncan, individually and as an officer or director of Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc., and Disabled Firefighters Fund; Kathy Clinkenbeard, individually; and William Rose, individually and as an officer or director of American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc.; and

2. David Scott Marleau, individually and as an officer or director of Jedi Investments, LLC, Impact Fundraising, LLC, Millenium Fundraising, LLC, and PC Marl, Inc.; Jedi Investments, LLC; Impact Fundraising, LLC; Millenium Fundraising, LLC; and PC Marl, Inc.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of complaints when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaints are not a finding or ruling that the defendants actually have violated the law.

NOTE: Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.

Copies of the complaints and proposed court orders are available from the FTC's Web site at and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Nonprofit Collaborative or Partnership Agreements:

It is no secret that for nonprofits (and the communities and constituents served) the major buzzwords are collaboration and partnership. For some nonprofits it may mean the difference between survival and dissolution. Is it clear what groups mean when these words are used? For instance, does the “collaboration” discussed in an application for funds mean a referral system, or does it mean a letter saying “we support” each other or is there something more in depth? How should a joint-project be addressed to commit resources together to resolve a community or a customer problem? What about a joint proposal for a grant; how will that be handled; how will the decision of who is lead applicant be made?

It is useful to consider developing good faith partnership agreements detailing who the partners are, what each will provide and to whom. The parties should perform due diligence in developing the relationship. There can be no secrets. The agreement should have a mutual hold-harmless clause, responsibilities for insurance, maintaining each other's independence and stating a beginning and ending date. A part of the agreement may include an authorization of release of information between the agencies for customers to sign. The issues of grievance and disputes between the parties and the process for handing them need to be spelled out, such as who has final say on paying bills, arbitration and so on.

In addition there should be solid discussion and written statements about most or all of the A-Z considerations below. These need to be put on the table, discussed and resolved.

A. Ethical issues – what are they for the partnership? Are there conflicting values or beliefs or corporate culture? Are there legally required ethical standards or professional standards? Is there a process for addressing these issues?

B. Conflict of Interest – What are they and how may they be perceived? Are the parties prepared to put them out front for discussion and resolution, how are they handled by each organization

C. Confidentiality- are there any issues of confidentiality; how will that be handled, will there be personnel and HIPAA issues?

D. How will referrals between the partners be made? Will they be different from current arrangements? Are there customer, legal or ethical barriers?

E. Are there new liability and insurance issues?

F. How will you plan and begin to balance the usual day-to-day activities and the new partnership work, will programmatic mission, vision, values, culture, spirituality, experience, competency and priorities affect the partnership?

G. How will leadership be determined? Will there be a plan for succession of leadership? How will leadership develop in the partnership? This can be an excellent opportunity to develop new leadership in both or all organizations.

H. Entrepreneurial spirit -- nothing is "free" – What budgetary needs are there for planning the partnership and for maintaining it? What will be the costs, what are the full (hidden) costs? How will administration and fiscal responsibilities be approached? Is there a business plan for this venture?

I. What are the goals, objectives and outcomes and how are they measured within the partnership? Is there a different view among the partners about measurement, goals and objectives? Look at monitoring results; customer and funder satisfaction; how will you publicize results?

J. Is there agreement about the use of written work plans, job descriptions and supervisory relationships for community work and developing/maintaining the partnership?

K. How do you organize and sell the partnership to other management personnel, staff, boards, current funders, other groups in the community? Have there been scans of the staffing for the day-to-day activities and the proposed new activities?

L. What if you propose the idea of a partnership with your management personnel and your office staff and they are not ready or willing to accept it? How will that be addressed? How will you handle the issues before they arise? How will rumors be handled? How will disagreements be handled?

M. How will the ambiguity in partnerships for staff who are management in the middle and not part of the negotiations creating the partnership be addressed? You will need top and middle management as leadership in the community, as follower in the community, handling failure and managing the partnership

N. What are the plans to handle the division of planning, tasks and fiscal aspects and other implications of the partnership - Communication, communication, communication

O. Is the technology between the partners sufficient to produce necessary reports and for communication?

P. How will the partners face diversity in the partnership, diversity of boards, staff and customers?

Q. How will you avoid stakeholders looking at the partnership as a threat to certain segments of the community; has there been a community scan of not only need but also the perceptions that exist now and can occur later? What are the potential economic, social and political repercussions for this partnership?

R. Has there been an assessment of the community’s readiness for the partnership, the value of local presence, co-location, job sharing and ubiquity -- how will the customers, their communities and nonprofit organizations roles evolve naturally and how will they change by the collaboration? How well do the leaders know the people and the demographics?

S. Is there agreement to viewing a continuum of services, involvement, tasks, roles, strategies, activities and feedback, feedback and feedback and evaluation

T. How will staffing issues in the partnership be developed – will there be an overriding concept about what is expected of staff; or expected of some staff; or a special unit; or no expectation at all for some staff – will there be joint staff meetings and planning sessions?

U. Will the partners seek grants and funding together and/or separately during the agreement, developing additional agreements and contracts between the parties on other issues?

V. How will training and orientation be developed for board and staff, management staff, fiscal personnel and support staff for partnering?

W. How and who will handle media and public relations during and the conclusion of the partnership; how will bad press be handled?

X. What steps will be taken to prepare the customers’ communities and partners as advocates supporting the partnership, shared customers and customer education

Y. What are the opportunities for partnering – employment, job training, housing, health issues,: Medicaid or food stamps outreach, homelessness, youth and children, technical assistance, domestic violence, self-sufficiency issues for customers, technology infrastructure and innovation for the customer communities, access to services, AIDS/HIV, lead-based paint, elderly, diversity, cultural and language-based activities, gay and lesbian initiatives, housing, poverty, disability-related issues, rural or urban activities, the arts, school/education/parent/community issues, drug and alcohol addiction, unsafe working conditions, migrant workers, the interface of employment and welfare, plant closing, community development, environment and many others

Z. What is the anticipated future? What will the partnership leave with the community for their own use in the future? What are the partners open to consider in the future? How will control and spin-off, future collaboration, partnering and cooperation, possibility for merger or alliance be viewed – how will you know when it is “over and done”? What are the benchmarks for the future?

The written agreement needs the assistance of an attorney to avoid pitfalls before they will happen -- and they will happen. Each partner should seek its own attorney for review or creation of documents. I hope the considerations above will assist in that preparation. It is an exciting movement and there should be every incentive for all to want to do it again.


Community Partnership Toolkit -

Why Is It Important to Develop a Community Partnership? -

Three community partnerships celebrated

Community Partnership Initiative -

Building Effective Community Partnerships -
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