|Truth in Advertising Takes a Hit
May 27, 2006
Following the discovery that their mistake-ridden fundraising solicitation was full of “printing errors,” the Richmond Police Officers Association (RPOA) spent even more money mailing out 30,000 postcards asking for forgiveness, reiterating their appeal for donations and falsely assuring the public that their “donation will go ONLY to the Richmond POA.” In fact, according to a West County Times article on May 24, quoting RPOA President Kevin Martin, “about half the money raised will go to the association after the company [New Equity Marketing] recoups its initial investment in design, production, postage and other costs associated with the campaign.”
The postcard stated:
You may have recently received the Richmond Police Officers’ Association 2006 Fundraising letter. Unfortunately, there was a slight printing error within the text. We decided to use direct mail to approach our community for support, and wisely, the Eureka Police Officers’ Association did as well. In doing so, our groups happen to use the same printing company. Unfortunately, some of their text was inadvertently transcribed into our letter. This was an oversight by the printing company. Please be assured that this was an ERROR! This card is to retract this error and to appeal to your sense of forgiveness; in hopes that you will send the needed support to our group. We would like to assure you that your donation will go ONLY to the Richmond POA to help our cause and his community.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call us at 510-774-7740. Again, sorry for the confusion, and we hope you understand how important this program is to our community involvement.
I fail to understand why anyone who wants to support local charities would do so through the RPOA and see half their donations go to a marketing company in Newport Beach. I can see why the RPOA was attracted to New Equity Marketing’s offer, which states: “We specialize in POAs … No Financial Risk! NEP covers all up front costs, leaving your association with absolutely zero financial risk... Twice The Profit!
Take advantage of our economies to scale methods, and you'll see we can offer more profit for your association than even doing it on your own.”
I would recommend that if you want to support a Richmond charitable organization, you go direct. A few are listed below (click on the name for full information).
RICHMOND ART CENTER
RICHMOND FRIENDS OF RECREATION C/O WALTER E FAVERSO
RICHMOND PONY BASEBALL ASSOCIATION INC
RICHMOND STEELERS YOUTH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
RICHMOND POLICE ACTIVITIES LEAGUE INC
Richmond police union charity effort causes confusion
A Richmond City Council member is criticizing the city's police union for soliciting public donations with what he calls a "misleading" letter.
A direct-mail marketing company, acting on behalf of the Richmond Police Association, sent letters to 30,000 city residents, requesting donations to support "area Little Leagues, drug resistance programs" and "area high school scholarships." But nowhere in the letter is there any mention that the company will receive more than half of the money raised.
Councilman Tom Butt said the letter leads people to think any contributions will go directly to charitable organizations when that is not the whole truth
"People think these police associations are honest and doing a good job for the community," Butt said. "When they use that public trust to extract money from the public, and less than 50 percent actually goes to charity, it's despicable. They should be completely upfront about it."
Association President Detective Kevin Martin said the marketing company, New Equity Productions, chose the wording used in the solicitation letter, which was laden with mistakes. For example, the glitzy solicitation was signed off by "Ofc. Kevin Lawson, President of the Eureka Police Officers Association," instead of using Martin's name and title.
"I would have worded it a little differently. I would have made it more descriptive," Martin said. "And with all the mistakes, we are less than pleased."
New Equity Productions did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The association is the union that represents Richmond police officers. The union relies almost entirely on dues of $65 a month per member to cover the costs of disability insurance, retirement dinners and legal defense funds.
In the past, any funds that were left over were contributed to charitable organizations, athletic leagues and various nonprofits, Martin said.
However, in 2004, the city experienced a $35 million budget deficit, and the police department was cut by about 50 officers. The reduction in union membership also meant a reduction of about $35,000 in annual membership dues.
In order to raise extra money to contribute to charitable organizations, the association contracted with a Newport Beach marketing company that specializes in raising money for police associations.
According to the contract New Equity Productions signed with the Richmond Police Association, about half of the money raised will go to the association after the company recoups its initial investment in design, production, postage and other costs associated with the campaign, Martin said.
When the letter began showing up at Richmond homes last week, Butt received a flurry of phone calls, e-mails and faxes from residents who thought the letter was either a scam or at least not completely honest.
Martin said the only reason the association decided to solicit donations from the public was to raise money for charitable contributions.
"Absolutely none of the public money raised would go to union expenses. Absolutely none," Martin said. "We are not looking for money to facilitate union costs. We wanted to raise some extra money so we could contribute to charities and nonprofits."
Butt said the solicitation letter was a bad idea.
"They just shouldn't be in that business," he said. "Richmond police officers do a great deal of volunteer work in this community. They should do their own fund-raisers, and be completely upfront about how the money will be used."
Contact John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or at firstname.lastname@example.org