Police charity ranks among the scuzziest trolling in Seattle

NPTA logoI think I now know one of the reasons why there hasn’t been much of a law-enforcement crackdown over the years against charities that misrepresent themselves to prospective donors or spend most of what is raised on things having nothing to do with charity. Some of the most scuzzy charities actually belong to law-enforcement groups.

Last night, I got a telephone call at the New To Seattle world headquarters on behalf of an outfit called the National Police and Trooper Association, in Sarasota, Fla. The male voice immediately launched into a spiel about how contributions would help fight crime and God knows what else. I was asked to promise that I would send in money if mailed a pledge card. But the caller quickly hung up after I said it was insulting to be pitched by a computer–which the caller was–rather than a real human.

Afterwards, I did a little research. Not surprisingly, it appears that just about everything I was told was a fib. But the really sad–or shocking–part is that the NPTA is not a stand-alone charity essentially sent up by some telemarketer who keeps most of the money but a division of an actual police union organization whose members, I assume, are supposed to protect the public. Yet the telemarketer still kept most of the money while the sworn officers were, in my judgment, complicit in deception.

According to public records, NPTA is a trade name of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO. The International Union represents 15,000 members in law-enforcement agencies across the country. As its name implies, it is a labor organization. The sole stated mission in its latest tax return, for 2012 (downloadable from this page) is to “bargain for just compensation and better benefits” for members.

That’s no charitable purpose as the public generally would understand the concept. You will not be surprised to know that my friendly computer caller made no mention of a union.

By my reading of the financial documents, for the year ending March 31, 2012, the union and its outside fundraisers collected $8.2 million and kept $7.7 million for fundraising fees and expenses, leaving about $500,000 for other purposes. That’s a fundraising efficiency of 6%–less than one-tenth the 65% threshold that charity watchdogs consider the bare minimum for a legitimate operation.

But it’s really stinks even more. According to the tax return, out of that last $500,000, the union handed out charitable grants–scholarships, and a death benefit for one officer in Indiana–totaling just $35,000. That rounds to just 1/2 of 1% of the money raised. The remaining $465,000 essentially went to negotiating higher pay for cops. Would-be donors who presumably also are taxpayers ought to know upfront that in our system of collective bargaining they are funding the other side.

I am not against cops nor unions. But since I don’t consider collective bargaining to be a charitable purpose, I reckon that from the perspective of the donating public the charitable commitment ratio–the percentage of total expenses spent in furtherance of true charity–was just one-third of 1%. Again, charity watchdogs set 65% as the minimum for respectability.

One of those watchdogs, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, says in a published report the NPTA, which used to be based in Wauwatosa, Wis., refused to cooperate in an evaluation. In the charity world this usually is a dead giveaway that something is seriously wrong.

Indeed, the NPTA is so sketchy that it cannot even agree on the spelling of its own name. One of the pages on the NPTA website–see it here–references both “Troopers,” plural, and “Trooper,” singular. It’s your choice, I guess, in which name you waste your hard-earned money.

The charity website of the Washington State Secretary of State’s Office, which generally is clueless in these kind of matters, states that the International Union’s charitable commitment rounds to 18% rather than 0% as I see it. The state agency apparently was counting the collective bargaining expenses as charity. Of course, 18% is pretty lousy in and of itself, so visitors to the site who understand the significance of this statistic might be on some kind of notice.

The International Union ranked No. 7 on the just-published list by the Tampa Bay Times of “America’s Worst Charities.” That was based on the amount of money that fundraisers kept over a 10-year period. As I did, the paper also calculated the amount of direct cash aid given out as 1/2 of 1% of funds raised.

A spokesman for the union told the paper that professional solicitors will continue to be used. “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,” he said.

I think Al Capone had roughly the same ends-justify-the-means thinking.

The International Union was the highest ranked law-enforcement-labeled organization on the 50-entity Times list. But hardly alone. Three others in the top 20 were American Association of State Troopers, United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and Police Protective Fund. I’d say about 20% of the entire list consisted of charities with a law-enforcement theme in their name.

Seattle is hardly immune to home-grown enterprises of this nature. Last year I wrote about the King County Police Union, soliciting money to fund an identification-card program for children called My ID Club. The caller–a real human, at least–told me 89% of the money raised went to the program. But as I estimated after looking at filings, the real charitable commitment ratio was maybe half that, or less. And as it turned out, the King County Police Union didn’t exist, but was a trade name of Public Safety Employees Union 519, a Seattle labor organization that represented very few police officers.

As usual, I invite comments below from anyone affected by or interested in this post.  It’s all in the interest of law enforcement.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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70 Responses to Police charity ranks among the scuzziest trolling in Seattle

  1. Were you told that contributions aren’t tax-deductible?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just received a robocall from the NPTA and was switched to a human whose explanation of the charitable of the association was sketch at best. I am glad I logged online and found this article because it speaks to all those scams claiming to be for charitable causes. I strongly agree with the writer that a union should finance it’s operating expenses through its membership contributions, not hide behind charity and spoil for all the other worthy charitable causes out there.

  3. The NPTA is very persistent. Did you receive anything in the mail?

  4. bert says:

    I live in Arkansas and got a call from the N.P.T.A. last week. I told them I would donate 50 bucks, but first I asked how much would actually go to the police. Infact I asked 5 times clairifying my question each time without receiving a real answer. I declined giving my credit card info and asked to have the bill sent to me for my review of their operations. As I expected they are crooks. Hoooo they will get nothing but a forward to out local sheriff.

  5. Thank you for doing the research on NAPTA for me! I’m not sending them a
    a dime. Cheryl O’Donnell

  6. Jamie Collins says:

    Wow….I’m completely baffled by this! I just received the same Automated Male Voice call asking for our support for the NPTA and send out the $20 pledge card I agreed to until it then told me to hold for the billing dept to come on the line to make sure they have my correct information…when she came on the line I asked for a phone number and website to look it up just to make sure this is legit due to the UNIMAGINABLE amount of scams and hacking going on these days…she gave me an 800 number and the http://www.nptadonations.org website which I proceeded to look up and IMMEDIATELY saw this post right below that website…Thank you for doing the research and posting this and I’m so glad I took the time to read the entire post! This is very Discouraging and Disgusting in my view also because I would be willing to donate and help if it wasn’t so shady! Thank you again for saving me from just giving money away to greedy people and not the actual men and women intended for!

  7. Zach says:

    Thanks for writing this! Saved me $20.

  8. This, sadly, is not new, The NPTA/IUPA long has had problems with plurality spelling. For some time, its website simultaneously contained references to “National Police and Troopers Association” (plural Troopers) and “National Police and Trooper Association” (singular Trooper). The website still contains misspellings. It is a scandal that charity regulators allow this.

  9. Jennifer says:

    My mother received a call from these people today. She showed me the number before picking up and asked me if I knew the number, I answered “nope”. She picked up the phone, a minute later I heard her say “is $35 okay?” then start digging in her purse for her debit card. I asked her who it was, and she said it’s the firefighters association. I told her to ask them for a website we can donate to instead, and to say she doesn’t give card info over the phone (which she almost did, had I not said anything), then they gave the website “Nptadonation.org” and then a minute later they said it was “Nptadonations.org” (pluralized). Then I told her to ask if it’s plural or not, and they replied “f*** off” and hung up. What a bunch of scammers!

  10. Don’t be surprised if you get dunned for the pledge you never made.

  11. Rob T says:

    They are still around and peddling their cause. It was a two-tier effort, first was the pitch man who said they would mail me a donation packet, then he transferred me to billing. The billing lady asked me, “Debit or Credit”. Neither, mail me the information packet.
    Packet includes a window sticker, info flyer on international child safety fingerprint kit, and my promised pledge amount on the donation form. LOL!

  12. Alexandra Moffett says:

    I just got this exact call yesterday. I also got a call just like it for breast cancer and no info or pledge was sent to my mailbox or email. Weird .

  13. Actually, with this outfit, virtually none of it goes to charity. The parent of the NPTA is a police union. Most of the money contributed goes to fundraising. And almost all of the rest goes to pay for collective bargaining, which is not a charitable endeavor. Contributions to te NPTA ar enot tax-deductible, which should tell you something.

  14. I got a call from these folks asking for money and as I usually do with callers asking for money forgot to ask what percentage of my money will go directly to the charity. In most cases it’s 5%.
    So now I’ll print this article and send it back to them instead of money.
    Thanks for your due diligence.

  15. Douglas Edward Kollar says:

    These folks called, didn’t ask for my CC info but sent a packet with a nice window sticker. I checked the web, finding this site. I’m glad I did.
    Now I’ll send the envelope back with this article.
    Thanks for your due diligence.

  16. Unfortunately, the organization’s fundraisers have a lot of different numbers.

  17. Jow says:

    This number called me once in Feb. and just a few minutes ago. I googled the number and found this article. I blocked the number. GRRRRR

  18. Erik says:

    206-319-9437 just called me a while ago. It was the NPTA. They kept asking me if I’m comfortable giving $50. I kept saying mmmmm no mmmm no. What scared me was that they had my name and address. According to you’re article, it is the police union. So I guess that makes sense?

  19. There are laws on the books now against such deceptive solicitations. The problem is that these laws are not enforced by charitable regulators or by other units of law enforcement. Of course, in the case of NPTA, its members ARE law enforcement officers. A sad situation.

  20. C. Apple says:

    Hello, I just rec’d a call from NPTA asking for donations to help Fallen Officer’s Families. When I told him I would “Google” him to research this solicitation , he promptly hung up. Are there any laws /referendums that can be passed to stop these scammers?

  21. It’s not a good thing when a police union lies to the public.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Got a call from them and took awhile to realize that it was a recording or computer generated. My questions were not answered and the talking just continued. I was going to send 25 but decided to do some checking. Went to their web sight and that is when I realized this was the AFL-CIO.
    Called there number and the lady I talked to first denied that they were part of the union but when I told her that it was right there on the computer she admitted they were part of the AFL-CIO.
    Lady said that there was someone that would be in tomorrow but was unavailable right now.
    Don’t think they will see any money from me but I will send the donation instead to the local police
    fund raiser.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Wife refused to give info on the phone and requested mail contact. Searched name on-line. As I suspected, not people to do with!!!! Thank you.

  24. IF anything, the NPTA/IUPA is kicking more than ever. I think the organization feels it has immunity from the law, which might not be surprising since it is a police union.

  25. LL says:

    Thanks for the helpful info. Sad that you wrote this article in 2013 and the NPTA is still alive and kicking in 2016. The address on my pledge card was from Butler, Wisconsin. The caller did not ask for credit card information but did want my pledge to send in a check within a week of receiving their letter. I always tell phone solicitors to send me something in the mail and I will donate after researching them.

  26. If you didn’t agree to a pledge, I doubt you will get a mailing. The NPTA is a scam in that it isn’t a charity at all, but a police labor union that uses almost all of the little money left over after paying the fundraiser to negotiate higher wages for cops, which is not a charitable purpose.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I just got off the phone with them. Told them that I don’t give out my financial information on a phone call that I did not initiate. She paused and then quickly said that they did not need the 3 digit security code on the back so “your credit card can’t be used again”. That was about the funniest statement I’ve heard in awhile! I told them to mail the charity information to me.
    Thanks for the article and insight into this pseudo charity. I’ll be tossing out their “pledge card” when it arrives!

  28. Dianne says:

    I just got off the phone with this exact group. All I said was “I don’t have a job, I don’t have any money at all” *dead silence*
    The guy then quickly said “Maybe you’ll remember us next year, we’re the (name) in Sarasota, Florida!” CLICK. Hah.

    ** I don’t give money in any form from people who call me, I have dedicated causes I give to that *I* have reached out to. That’s the only type of charitable giving I do, honest, real, etc.

  29. Michael Lewis says:

    Thank you. I wanted to help the families of the Dallas police officers families, but truly they would not have gotten my donation or any part of it.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thanks. I got a call from them and the caller was shady too

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thank you William- was just about to send along my pledge and decided to check it out. Its now torn up in the garbage. the rule of “Caveat Emptor” remains as relevant as ever. Thanx again.

  32. Aside from its dreadful financial efficiencies and outright misrepresentations, the NPTA in my judgment is particularly offensive because it is owned by a union representing police officers, who are supposed to operate at a higher standard.

  33. Shellyjohn says:

    I receive a call about a week ago from National Police And Troopers Association. And talk to real person with a very deep sexy voice, and Nom you were wrong if you were referring to these people as not asking for credit cards , the moment they verify that what you tell them is correct they wanted my credit card number or a way to pay them right away , I told them to send me there information , I always check out ever organization before I give . So glad I found your site.
    I very much appreciate the hard work and effort that you put in finding out information on these kinds of charities. If at least half is not used for helping people than its not a good charity .

  34. bing says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post the info- Into the trash- that’s where the pledge form is going.

  35. The NPTA’s deception is truly breathtaking.

  36. Pamela Davis says:

    I received a phone call just the other day. I just purchase a money order, but something inside of me felt funny. I am glad that I found your web page first. I am going to give this money order to whom I know, will use it in good and legal way. Thank you so much!

  37. One of the many, many problems with the National Police and Trooper Association, a trade name of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO, is that the organization is not a charity at all, but does little to state that in its telephone solicitations. What’s going on is a borderline cover-up, but, from the standpoint of the union, understandable. After all, how many donations do you think would come in if the caller said, “We’re trying to raise money so that we can hire better negotiators and get more money for our members at the expense of taxpayers like you.”

  38. Nicole A. says:

    Just got a call from these lovely folks. The first guy was a fast talker but he was human, as he did respond to a couple of questions. He made me promise twice that I would send money when I got their kit and I said yes. Then he handed me over to someone else who verified my name and address (they had the name right but the address wrong). She made me promise they could count on me, too, just as soon as I got my kit. I said yes again. FWIW, they never did ask me for my credit card number. Something didn’t feel right so I hit the internet as soon as I hung up. Boy am I glad I did! I have no intention of sending these people a check, but I am going to send them a copy of this article and a copy of their report from the Better Business Bureau. Thank you so much for saving my money for a more worthwhile charity!

  39. You should consult with a legal advisor, but it’s hard to imagine that the organization would pursue your reported pledge beyond sending a letter or two. You likely have plenty of grounds to assert you weren’t told the full story, and the publicity generated over any attempt to collect would be withering to the organization .

  40. Suelee says:

    I fell for this on the phone but do not have credit cards (and they DID ASK for). So they have sent 2 letters asking for my pledge money. Now after learning they are not an organization I want to give money to, am I legally bound to give them a check for my recorded pledge to do so?

  41. I suspect that nom is somehow connected with the NPTA or its fundraisers, which might affect the memory.

  42. HWoodLive says:

    Just got a call from these folks, and with all due respect to nom’s entry above, they DO ask for your credit card info. The telemarketers on the phone are very, very good at sticking to the script and moving things very quickly towards their goal: getting your money with a minimum of questions. So watch yourself. There was no mention of the option of sending a check. It was simply “would you like to use your MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover card, sir?” Maybe I’m wrong about the sir. Yeah, they probably didn’t say that part.

  43. My biggest objection is that the NPTA isn’t a charity as the public understands the term but doesn’t mention that in its solicitation calls.

  44. James says:

    Thanks for the research. I recently moved, and started getting calls from this group (with a Manhattan area code) within 48 hours of having our phone setup. I never answer the phone if I don’t recognize the caller, so I haven’t had the pleasure of actually interacting with these people, but I’d also note that their voice mail messages seem designed to creep you out and imply that real cops are calling your house. The first one was a very gruff, rapid male voice saying something like “National Police and Trooper Association, need to get in touch with you about an important matter.” Now, even more creepily, they use my name, so that the message is “James there . . . . hello?” in what’s probably a computer generated voice.

  45. You’re the first person on this thread to use the word “scum” in connection with the NPTA callers. Guess it takes one to know one.

  46. nom says:

    I would just like to say a few things that you have wrong ….The donation center never and I mean never asks for your credit card. They give you all the information you ask for you just have to be calm and understand all of the regulations that are put on the foundation. Also the caller does not see your money!!!! I mean never!!! It goes to a donation center from there it is distriputed to the foundation as well as the other allotments. Also you are given all of the numbers to call to get all of the information you need to know that the NPTA is legit and is helping these offercers families. Also they never say that they are a cop never! You will get a thank you letter as well as a decal that also comes with a DNA kit for your family as well as a conformation letter with seal. Also the caller’s who call you are registered solisoters with the state as well as the national registration. You have to understand that all of the money can not go to families because for one all those envoploes cost you know that also the millions of donators decals and kits. It also tells you all that your money goes to it mentions to pay for the cost of the drive!!!! So you know exactly what you get so try to understand and not just take someone’s opionon of a call he got that made him mad take everything into account. I would also tell you that you are taking to a real person do not think just because they are reading a script with a computer that they are not real. It makes calls fast and gets you off the phone quicker so you can go about your day as well as them also take into account they can not lie!!! they tell you that not all the money goes to the families, but it does all go to the charity what they do after that is there doing not the call centers. So before you call the workers scum think about what information is givin to them about what they are doing!!! Thank you

  47. It is extremely sad that an organization representing sworn law enforcement personnel tries to deceive the public in such a fashion. Fortunately, I know from the number of hits this post gets every day that some would-be donors are taking the time to check. I just looked and the fundraising website still spells NPTA in both the singular and the plural.

  48. Concerned Citizen says:

    thanks for the info i received a call from this group and pledged a donation amount upon receiving the pledge paperwork i checked the web for info to confirm if this was a legitimate “CHARITY” for police officers as some of my immediate family members and close friends are commissioned police officers and found your research very helpful in my decision NOT to contribute.this is a disgrace and there should be criminal charges against this organization and its affiliates. this was the second article i came across, the first being a report from the BBB saying: This Charity did not provide requested information. As a result, the Better Business Bureau cannot determine if it meets standards. also: This charitable organization either has not responded to written BBB requests for information or has declined to be evaluated in relation to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Charity participation in BBB review is voluntary. However, without the requested information, it is not possible to determine whether this charity adheres to all of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. The BBB encourages charities to disclose accountability information beyond that typically included in financial statements and government filings, in order to demonstrate transparency and strengthen public trust in the charitable sector. the address listed with BBB (PO Box 26368 Wauwatosa, WI 53226) did not match the address listed on the paperwork i received (PO BOX 670 ELM GROVE Wisconsin 53122). very helpful info i will not be sending a anything to this scam organization…

  49. The organization clearly is counting on the fact that a large number of the individuals called won’t try to check things out on the Internet before sending in money.

  50. Anonymous says:

    these people just called me. I am sooo glad I found your article. When I told the lady I needed to research first, I could tell she was shocked. They did their pitch SOOOO fast and before I knew it she was asking “visa or mastercard” She then fumbled to find me a number to call. Thank you very much for this informative article.

  51. Glad to be of some help.

  52. Bernice says:

    Thanks for doing all of the research! I am attaching a copy of your post to the form they sent me and mailing it back to them. Scuzballs!

  53. As both one of the earlier commenters to this thread and I noted, the organization is not a charity as the term is normally understood. It is a labor union representing law enforcement workers.

  54. Christine says:

    After getting 2 pledge cards in the mail & not sending the check out I got a call from them. I told the woman that I had only agreed to sending out the pledge if I found that they were legit on the internet which was not the case. She insisted that they were a very good charitable organization & I could read about them on their website http://www.iupa.org. When they originally called me they said they were the National Police & Trooper Association & the 2 pledge cards I received said the same & had a Jersey City, NJ address to send the check.
    From what I have read they are out of Sarasota but I guess they give different addresses to send the checks to along with going by different names to really make it confusing. It doesn’t matter which name you look them up on the web or what address they use, they all show them to be one of the worst charities, or scuzziest charities as you have so correctly worded it.
    I’m very grateful to have the internet to help steer me clear from these dishonest people so I don’t end up giving my hard earned money to them.

  55. A discussion of the country’s forfeiture laws would be a worthy conversation.

  56. ae em says:

    Another blog pointed me in the direction of police unions. I think that most things the police union is up to would either be efforts to undermine the constitution of united states or otherwise offensive nature such as tax evasion or undocumented fund raising through forfeiture laws (=money laundry). At least two good reasons why we all should keep an eye on these entities and their respective members. I will tell a friend and a good day acquaintance about this.

  57. I’m not aware of a Jersey City address for the charity or its fundraisers, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they move around.

  58. Christine says:

    I made a pledge of $25 to the “National Police and Trooper Association” of Jersey City, NJ. I guess they are the same group as the one in Seattle you are writing about. After I gave them my pledge amt., I told them I would send the check after I checked them out on the internet to see if they were legit & if so I’ll send the check. If not then I wouldn’t be sending a check.
    The processor I spoke to didn’t say anything when I told him I would be doing the research on the web, he just continued talking as if I hadn’t mentioned it which raised a red flag to me.
    I have received two letters so far asking for the pledge which I have thrown out & will continue to do if they send any more.
    I’m very thankful to you & others who take the time to look into & warn people about these types of fraudulent charities because I always check the internet first before I give.

  59. The NPTA remains very active on the fundraising front, no doubt due to a lack of ignorance on the part of the donating public.

  60. JaneJohns says:

    Just got a call from the scuzzballs. While it’s fun to torment them–“Wow! No LESS than 10 percent will go to programs? Is it even possible to give less than that and still continue to rip off the tax payer as well as the innocents who give to you? Aren’t you ashamed? Did your mother really bring you up this way?”–I feel bad for all the people who really do give their hard-earned money to these jerks.

  61. NewToSeattle says:

    An informed donor is the last thing that the National Police and Trooper Association wants to encounter.

  62. Drew says:

    I just tore up my check that was already sealed in the envelope. I am so glad I checked before putting the stamp on and mailing it! I obviously need to get back in the habit of checking before I put pen to paper. Thank you.

  63. In my opinion, the NPTA’s depiction on its web home page of what it does is deceptive and borderline fraudulent.

  64. Cathy Cate says:

    I, too, found your article both enlightening and helpful as I receive countless solicitation calls from “charities”. Having worked most of my career in not-for-profit service delivery for adults with intellectual disabilities, where fund-raising is required to make up the difference of federal/state funding and actual costs, shady groups likes the NPTA make it really hard to convince many individuals there are LEGITITMATE CHARITIES. As you stated, the NPTA’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Better Business Bureau in an evaluation for charities raises a huge red flag of their legitimacy. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting donors will never know this and send their often hard to come by dollars to these jerks!

  65. Thanks. This post has become one of the most viewed on this site. I assume that’s because the “charity” is casting its net far and wide but would-be donors before committing are doing a little Internet research first.

  66. steve says:

    GREAT ARTICLE!! Thank for the info!!!

  67. Well, the NPTA does pitch itself as a charity, and the parent organization is registered as an exempt entity. I doubt that many people reading my post or even just the headline–“among the scuzziest trolling in Seattle”–would have much doubt about my overall view. I agree with your implicit criticism of regulators; the post points out the failings of the Washington State Secretary of State’s office in this regard.

  68. Putnam Barber says:

    With respect for your investigative skills, William, I’d like to suggest that using the word “charity” to describe organizations at this end of the scuzziness spectrum is doing them an undeserved favor. What they are is cheats masquerading as charities. The fact that they are able to arrange things so they show up on official lists of “charities” is embarrassing in many ways; we others are under no obligation to follow the terminological lead of the regulators.

  69. Thanks. My simple trick is not to sign up for do-not-call lists.

  70. Jim Ulvog says:

    Wow. You keep finding the most amazing charities. Or rather, the most amazing charities keep calling you.

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