by Rupert Insider
The Koptalk appeal for Alder Hey kids in Liverpool was designed as a free publicity stunt for Duncan Oldham and his failing site. In that respect , it bombed.
Oldham and his site came out of it looking worse than when he went in.
But Alder Hey hospital did get about £2,000 worth of goods from generous LFC fans.
We congratulate the donors. Happy Christmas to them!
But they and the kids were cheated out of a potential £560 . That’s how much donations of £2,000 would have been increased if they had been sent to Just Giving – a trusted agency which maximises tax benefits to registered charities increasing the original donation by 28% if the donors pay UK taxes.
Its not as though Oldham did not know about Just Giving and the available tax breaks. We recommended it on this blog. Some of our readers have donated to Alder Hey through it.
And Oldham knew about it as long ago as 13th July 2005 when he joined members of KT who were spontaneously sponsoring another member for charity. The Koptalk donation of £100 through Just Giving, at that time, was converted to £128.
So why did he deprive the donors and the kids of the 28% in this Alder Hey appeal?
He must have had a reason for insisting the money passed through his hands at such high cost to the charity.
That’s one of the question the Charity Commissioners may want to look into when we submit our dossier to them. It appears that Oldham did not observe the law in this matter, just as he flouted it in all previous appeals that achieved more than £1,000 in any given year. He did not register it with the Charity Commission.
The law is intended to protect the public especially the generous public. It knows how easy it is for someone with a web site to use a good cause to raise money and then misuse the money.
That’s why it insists on donations being accounted for separately and not being mixed with the organisers business and personal funds, and why it insists that the organiser can’t dip into the money or borrow from it as an operating fund.
It also insists that all the organisers dealings with the fund must be arms-length. He may not profit from the appeal by selling goods and services to it.
These rules are for everybody – even the most honest and upstanding.
They apply even more to Oldham who has a long history of dishonesty and shady dealings on his web site and in his trading and also in his handling of charities. This blog has detailed them.
As a result he knew that we were scrutinising his every move on the Alder Hey charity. Under that scrutiny he went to great lengths to claim he was being honest this time. In fact, a normally honest and trusted person would not have had to protest so much.
As a result this appeal was conducted more transparently than his others. But that’s not to say it was conducted properly. That is a judgement for the Charity Commissioners.
It appears that once again he mixed the donations in the same bank account that held his personal and business funds. We don’t know the name and address of that account. Perhaps the Charity Commissioners will insist on knowing.
We don’t even know if he held donations in a drawer in his office or in a sock under his bed. We have no way of knowing if he borrowed the money to pay bills, to make one of his big frequent bets, or buy the plane tickets for what was probably a phantom trip to New York.
But the point is – he could have. The law is supposed to rule out even the possibility.
Our scrutiny stymied some of Oldham’s tricks – but we don’t know if we caught them all.
It looked like he was playing with the idea of selling to the kids the Argos vouchers he already had earned from advertising on Koptalk. In other words the kids would get what he wanted to sell them at the price he set – he would convert the vouchers that could only be exchanged for a certain line of goods into cash for himself.
It also looked like he was chopping and changing the rules of accountability. He would promise openess and then close threads. His sums did not add up. He never scanned and produced the receipts for the purchase of the goods.
But the potential irregularities of this Alder Hey Appeal pale in comparison with those of the Lauren charity which may have run into scores of thousands of pounds – almost all of which is unaccounted for independently or verifiably. He failed to register that, too. So the Charity Commissoners may want to take that into consideration when they examine his handling of the Alder Hey appeal.
But apart from the irregularities and the accounting why did his Alder Hey publicity stunt fail?
His original idea was that it would involve him waddling into our beloved Alder Hey dispensing gifts to children right and left. He would ensure that the photographers would be there to capture the images for the local Liverpool media. And the kids caught in the photo would have their faces launched unto the internet by Oldham who would milk the event for every ounce of publicity he could for his web site.
The scheme would help buy this Wallsend-dwelling Yorkshirmen and Newcastle season-ticket owner some Liverpool cred. It would help repair the damage to his reputation. It might attract new members. And the clincher was that it was free – it would be paid for by donations from his members.
It started to go wrong when we and many who read this blog contacted the local media and the hospital with our concerns about the publicity aspects, the danger that the children images would be misused and so on. Click here for one of our letters to Alder Hey.
In response, Oldham claimed he was no longer interested in publicity . But his sidekick Katie gave his surreptitious intentions away when she revealed that she and Steve would be taking photos of the kids.
The hospital decided that Oldham was not welcome. And the members of his family he would send would not be allowed access to the children. They would not be allowed to take photographs of them. They would be restricted to visiting the hospital’s fund- raising office.
You can catch some of the hospital’s caution in this recording of a telephone conversation that was sent into us by a reader. It was about 11 am on 20th December, 2006. The hospital had made an appointment with Koptalk to bring their stuff to the office the evening before. But Koptalk failed to show and had offered no explanation. In fact they did not arrive for another two days.
Those of you who were following the events on Koptalk would know that Steve and Katie were supposed to be Liverpool on Tuesday night 19th December . And Oldham was supposed to be in New York with his X-Box mate Smoove.
It looks like the New York story may have been a cover to explain why he was not allowed to go to Alder Hey. But not to worry because 13 year old Charlotte was running Koptalk, making the tough decisions, issuing orders to Steve and Katie and holding forth in a manner remarkably like her ignorant father’s. (Of course, it wasn’t Charlotte, at all, but Oldham using her name, as he had used Steve’s earlier in the day).
So this little publicity stunt reminded the world of Oldham’s previous shady charities, it brough him to the attention of the Charity Commissoners in Liverpool, he failed to get access to the hospital, he and his cronies were forbidden to make images of the children or publicise their stunt and our scrutiny even caused him to cough up a donation – something he could not manage for the Lauren fund.
Best of all the kids got £2,000 worth of goodies from generous people on the net.
But who would trust a charity organised by such a gaggle of cloak-and-dagger pretenders hiding behind multiple false user-names who can’t talk straight.
How much easier, if you want to help Alder Hey or any other charity to send donations to Just Giving