By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor

In 1992, state legislators and the Michigan Attorney Generals Office were fed up with complaints about unscrupulous professional fundraisers and their solicitation practices on behalf of public safety organizations. They wanted to introduce legislation to clean up the industry so legitimate appeals would not be confused with some of the seedy bunko operators claiming to represent police and firemen. Registration of non-profit campaigns, the ability to investigate complaints and stiff penalties for violations were necessary.

State officials made a smart move. They checked on POAM and its fundraiser, Midwest Publishing Inc., and found out that their solicitation programs were successful with few or no complaints. State Representative Curtis Hertel requested a meeting with representatives from POAM, the Michigan State Police, the Attorney General’s Office and Midwest Publishing to assist him in writing effective language in the proposed bill. I was the Vice President of Midwest Publishing at the time. The suggestions that Bill Birdseye and I made during the meeting blew people away. The legislation should require mandatory tape recording of every phone solicitation, require that all accompanying information and invoicing take place through the United States Postal Service, registration with the Attorney General, posting of significant bonds by the professional fundraiser and tough penalties for any misrepresentation. Participants couldn’t believe that we would agree to those requirements but the fact was these were already standard operating procedures for MPI, POAM and its local units. Public Act 298 became the most sweeping and effective legislation regulating public safety solicitation in the United States.

Since then, dozens of local associations have reaped the benefit of fundraising through Midwest Publishing under the POAM banner. Monies raised have been used to support deserving local charities, scholarship programs, fund the POAM Extended Criminal Plan, contribute to political candidates and other worthwhile efforts.

I left MPI to work with POAM in 2003 with the understanding that I would continue to oversee all facets of the telemarketing campaigns. Early in 2004, I renegotiated all of our contracts with “Midwest” and secured a substantial increase in the net proceeds to POAM local units. MPI has continued to do an outstanding job and has the ability to service more clients.

POAM urges its local groups to consider implementing a similar program in their communities. In addition to providing financial resources to your association, there are some unique applications of the information garnered in the process. In the case of Oak Park POA, MPI agreed to mail vital information to its established donor list on the issues of minimum staffing, ticket quotas and contract violations by its Administration. “We really shook up our City Council when they started hearing from concerned citizens about our troubles” said POA Treasurer, Andy Potter. “We like the program because MPI does all the work and Ed Jacques is the ultimate insider designated by POAM to oversee the details.” The program’s newest participant is the Southfield POA. “I hope we can continue our positive relationship with the city and spend all of our fundraising revenue on charities that benefit our residents” remarked President Mark Zacks.

If there is a genuine interest in your group becoming involved in a fundraising project, don’t hesitate to call me at the POAM office and I’ll be glad to walk you through every step and forward the appropriate information to your board, which will include a complete list of references. The work that POAM and MPI have done over the last 15 years has made this an attractive benefit available exclusively to POAM local units.