Scottsdale fundraiser keeps 80% of donations

It’s the time of year when many groups are asking for your money. But a Valley charity’s records may make you ask where your money is really going.

The Scottsdale police union known as POSA — Police Officers of Scottsdale Association — stages several events every year to help bring police and the community closer together. Over the next two weeks, 500 Scottsdale children will go holiday shopping with $150 in their pockets at the annual Shop with a Cop event.

However, a closer look at POSA’s federal tax filings shows just pennies of every dollar you donate reaches the community.

“That’s way, way out of whack,” said Patrick McWhortor, who has worked with non-profits for 25 years and now leads the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits. POSA’s tax filings, he says, raise a lot of questions for donors.

“We need to ask questions,” he said. “‘Where are my dollars going?'”

The union’s most recent federal tax filings, for 2012, show about a million dollars in donations. For every dollar donated, professional fundraising services kept 81 cents — about $814,000, records show.

A little more than 6 cents of every dollar went toward the $62,000-a-year salary of POSA director Cindy Hill. Hill is also the wife of union leader Jim Hill.

Less than a nickel of every dollar — about $45,000 — was spent on events like Shop with a Cop.

“That is not typical of how most non-profits, the thousands in our community, that is not typical of the way they raise dollars,” said McWhortor, who also reviewed POSA’s tax filings.

He says spending of up to 40 percent of a charity’s revenue on fundraising would be considered high.

“Is there a cost to fundraising? Of course there is,” he said. “Is there a cost to running the program? Yes there is. Those are legitimate costs you should see in a non-profit. But 80 percent is way out of line from the norm in our industry.”

Tax records show the union’s fundraising has doubled in recent years — and so have the fees it pays to raise that money. Donors have given POSA $3.5 million over five years, but POSA spent $2.5 million of those donor dollars to raise the money.

POSA fundraiser Les Travis, of PFR Promotions, shares an office with the union in Old Town Scottsdale. He would only speak to 12 News off camera. Travis said his company had to pay a lot of money to hire and hold on to its telemarketers.

Jim and Cindy Hill never responded to several requests for an on-camera interview over the last two days.

Their relationship raises one more question for McWhortor: “When you also know there is a relationship between the president of the union and the executive director of the union, that is upsetting to see they don’t have a conflict-of-interest policy.”

Jim Hill did send an e-mail reading in part:

“We have done our best to make sure that our programs make the best use of the available money…. In order to accomplish (our) goals we have found it necessary to use professional fundraisers to help POSA raise the amount of money needed.”

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