Police chiefs' group renews debated charity deal with firm

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A charitable foundation run by Missouri police chiefs has renewed its contract with Texas-based fundraiser United Appeal Inc. despite criticism that the telemarketing company takes too big a share of the contributions.

The extension was similar to the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation's previous contracts with United, calling for the foundation to get just one-fifth of money raised for the charity by United while the company gets about 80 percent, said Sheldon Lineback, executive director of the Jefferson City-based foundation.

Most of the money is raised by telephone solicitations.

"It's the best we can get. It's the best anybody can get right now," Lineback said. "We looked at three other companies. This was the one we were most comfortable with and the one with the fewest complaints."

Lineback has said the foundation, among other things, runs a Web-based police training program, conducts statewide training conferences and offers technical assistance to police departments. Lineback also said the foundation was a clearinghouse for homeland security equipment for police departments statewide.

Cape Girardeau police chief Steve Strong said he personally does not like that the foundation uses telemarketing for fundraising, but he relies on the funds for programs within his department.

"This month they're bringing an instructor that would cost me thousands to bring in," Strong said. "They have made it possible to get training, among other things, that we would not have been able to get without financial assistance. I do not like telemarketing, but I also need the resources that money brings in.

Lineback and Mike Force -- police chief in the St. Louis suburb of Lake Saint Louis and chairman of the foundation's board -- said the organization was working to move away from using a professional fundraiser, perhaps by next spring when the contract extension expires.

Force said he doubted whether many donors solicited by telephone knew that most of their donations went to United.

Details of what was then a five-year arrangement between the foundation and United surfaced in February, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the foundation had been getting about 17 cents of every dollar raised.

According to state records, the foundation got about $520,000 of a reported $3.1 million raised by United from spring 2000 to spring 2004.

"Is it illegal? No," Jim Judge, the Better Business Bureau's head of charity review for the bureau, has said. "But if people were to know that most of the money they give is going to a professional fundraising company, would they donate? I don't think they'd be too happy."

Lineback earns about $70,000 a year -- half coming from his work with the foundation, the rest from his work with the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show.

The foundation's meetings are not open to the public.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.post-dispatch.com

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