The telephone caller was working for the National Police and Troopers Association. He said the organization provided help to families of cops killed in the line of duty. Would I make a small financial pledge and return it in an envelope I would be sent? It certainly seemed like a pitch for a charity.
The caller said his name was something that sounded like Ken Doherty. But it might have been Ken Dougherty, Ken Daugherty or some other spelling. I didn’t know. So I politely asked him to spell his name for me.
Ken promptly hung up without uttering another word. Some questions, I suppose, are just too difficult.
But I already knew the general answer. That’s because I once wrote up in this space the NPTA, a trade name used by the International Union of Police Associations AFL-CIO. I called the organization “among the scuzziest” outfits trolling for money in Seattle. Why? It outrageously misrepresented what it did and spent next to nothing on anything remotely connected with good works.
Besides “scuzziest,” I now can make the IUPA/NPTA the sixth candidate for my long-running list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is pretty simple: charities that call the New To Seattle world headquarters asking for money despite being the subject of a previous critical post. Can it get any dumber than that?
(Maybe. This organization also is severely challenged by spelling. It can’t even agree on its own name. The official NPTA website home page calls it the “National Police and Troopers Association”–Troopers in the plural. But an official badge, reproduced above, that was on the site until a few days ago uses “Trooper”–singular. In his call to me, Ken He-Who-Can’t-Spell-His-Last-Name also used Trooper in the singular.)
Based in Sarasota, Fla., the IUPA/NPTA is a labor union. That means the goal is to improve wages and working conditions for its members. There’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not a charitable purpose, and donors shouldn’t be lulled into thinking they are supporting a genuine charity. It continues to be a scandal that charity regulators in the 50 states allow an organization whose members are law enforcement personnel to get away with suckering the public.
Let me explain the IUPA/NPTA financial m.o. using the most convincing evidence I know–its own filings with government regulators. The numbers I cite are all from financial statements for the most recent period I can find, the year ending March 31, 2014. By clicking here, scrolling down to the line “Annual Filing for Charitable Organizations 3/31/2014” and clicking on that link, you can download and follow along.
I am reasonably sure the IUPA/NPTA doesn’t want you to do that.
Operating across the country, the IUPA/NPTA raised $9.7 million in donations from the public. This was real coin, double the amount raised seven years ago. But the organization spent a whopping $8.8 million of that on fundraising expense. Almost all went to four outside fundraisers–JAK Productions Inc. of Atlanta, Courtesy Call of Las Vegas, Outreach Calling of Reno, and Public Awareness of Irving, Tex.
Put another way, only 9 cents of every dollar given by folks like you escaped the clutches of the fundraising machine.
But the full picture was even worse than that.
The NPTA home page says “your donation helps to support,” among other things, “immediate financial assistance to the survivors of member officers who are killed in the line of duty, training and educational programs for today’s changing law enforcement environment [and] financial contributions to organizations for physically challenged individuals.”
It all sounds very good and very charitable. But according to its filings for 2014, the IUPA/NPTA spent only $34,190 on those purposes. That was barely 3/10th of 1% of the $9.7 million raised. Again put another way, only 3 cents of every $10 donated went to anything that I would call even remotely charitable. And I’m including the $5,000 in scholarships awarded to the sons of two board members. Moreover, it’s extremely clear from the filings that not a single penny went directly that year to a family of a fallen officer, the quick elevator pitch I got on the short call from Ken Whatever-His-Name-Is.
Why does the IUPA/NPTA operate like this? “While the percents (returns) are not what we would like them to be, it’s money we otherwise wouldn’t have to support our officers,” a spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times three years ago. In other words, the union figured it could reduce dues on its 12,000 members about 30% by snookering the public (which, by the way, can’t legally deduct the contributions). The newspaper put the parent organization as No. 5 on its widely noted list of “America’s Worst Charities,” based on the amount of money paid to outside fundraisers over a decade.
A few days ago, I emailed a request for comment to the IUPA/NPTA outlining my perceptions of its fundraising and spending patterns. I haven’t heard back, which isn’t very surprising. But my email clearly was received. In it I had opined that the organization seemed confused on whether its own name is Troopers or Trooper, calling the discrepancy “puzzling.” Within a few hours, the logo with the singular Trooper simply disappeared from the website. Poof. I think this means Troopers is in the name.
As for Ken However-He-Spells-His Last-Name, I’m not too worried about any blowback from him. That’s because he doesn’t exist. Ken is an interactive computer-generated voice monitored by a real human, a paid fundraiser who is trained to end conversations at the first indication of trouble.
In short, besides being a borderline con artist, Ken is also a wimp who cuts and runs. On several levels, not exactly the greatest image for law enforcement. No matter how it’s spelled.