Association for Firefighters and Paramedics

Listed #14 on

THE WORST CHARITIES, RANKED BY MONEY BLOWN ON SOLICITING COSTS

The article goes on to say:

Michael Gamboa said he still doesn’t know what the fuss was about.

In May 2009, his charity, the Association for Firefighters and Paramedics, was one of 12 charities and 17 solicitors targeted by California Attorney General Jerry Brown for deceptive fundraising tactics. Brown said the charity misled donors about how much money would go to burn victims. And he accused its operators of diverting $33,000 in donations to pay for out-of-town board meetings and a Caribbean cruise for the three board members and their families before a meeting in Florida.

Gamboa, who has been president of the California charity since it was started in 2001, settled with the state in September 2010. The group admitted no wrongdoing but paid a $100,000 settlement and agreed to special monitoring. Board members remain the same.

Gamboa said California regulators targeted him just to generate cash for the revenue-starved state government. He defended the charity-sponsored travel.

“When you have board members and you can’t pay them, you want to take them somewhere nice once a year,” he said. “I didn’t hide it.”

The charity, whose mission is to provide “financial assistance” to burn victims and their families, continues to be dependent on professional fundraisers for all of its income. In 2011, solicitors kept nearly 90 percent of the $1.2 million raised. Gamboa, who has an online organic supplement marketing business on the side, took a salary of about $54,000. Less than $20,000 in direct cash aid was given to fire victims or hospital burn units.

The association pays about $6,600 a year for office space, although Gamboa said he usually works from home. When a reporter visited the office address listed on the charity’s IRS filing and website, however, it turned out to be a UPS box. Gamboa declined to speak with a reporter when she visited his home. In several phone interviews, Gamboa said his goal is to get rid of 90 percent of his telemarketers.

“I thought I could change how fundraisers work,” he said. “But once I got involved, I learned it was hard.”