America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#14: Association for Firefighters and Paramedics

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."


In their own words: the Charity's mission

Association for Firefighters and Paramedics, Inc. ("AFP"") is a nonprofit corporation formed to provide assistance to the victims of catastrophic fires. AFP's purposes are to provide directly, and through other nonprofit irs 501(c)(3) organizations financial assistance for burn centers; financial assistance for children injured from fires; financial assistance for adults injured in fires; financial assistance for relocation and housing after fire and information and education about fire prevention and fire safety."

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State


Association for Firefighters and Paramedics

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
California, Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania 4 Cease & Desist, Fine/penalties $100,800

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
form
Cash
raised by
solicitors
Solicitor
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Charity
salaries
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
Reported
totals to
programs
2012 pdf $1,514,696 $1,329,869 $184,827 $44,060 2.91% $44,060
2011 pdf $1,165,476 $1,037,051 $128,425 $70,993 $18,750 1.61% $18,750
2010 pdf $1,411,498 $1,264,979 $146,519 $84,385 $15,075 1.07% $15,075
2009 pdf $1,899,806 $1,709,829 $189,977 $120,950 $65,280 3.44% $65,280
2008 pdf $2,433,185 $2,189,869 $243,316 $161,068 $82,085 3.37% $82,085
2007 pdf $3,218,330 $2,865,762 $352,568 $166,197 $107,048 3.33% $107,048
2006 pdf $3,971,713 $3,595,480 $376,233 $80,530 $80,530 2.03% $80,530
2005 pdf $3,664,929 $3,251,436 $413,493 $40,973 $152,307 4.16% $152,307
2004 pdf $2,830,997 $2,518,671 $312,326 $105,452 $109,415 3.86% $109,415
2003 pdf $1,878,710 $1,669,700 $209,010 $69,099 $70,720 3.76% $70,720
zTOTALS $23,989,340 $21,432,646 $2,556,694 $899,647 $745,270 3.1% $745,270

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2009 Source One Funding $49,197 $44,278 $4,919 10.00% fundraising
2009 Safety Publications $566,773 $510,096 $56,677 10.00% fundraising
2009 Public Safety Communications (Des Moines, IA) $162,487 $146,239 $16,248 10.00% fundraising
2009 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $358,870 $322,983 $35,887 10.00% fundraising
2009 New Liberty Promotions $99,890 $89,901 $9,989 10.00% fundraising
2009 Merit Fundraising $96,754 $87,079 $9,675 10.00% fundraising
2009 Menacola Marketing $267,234 $240,511 $26,723 10.00% fundraising
2009 Dytel $190,523 $171,471 $19,052 10.00% fundraising
2009 Debbie Lopez $76,034 $68,431 $7,603 10.00% fundraising
2010 Safety Publications $591,005 $528,936 $62,069 10.50% fundraising
2010 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $264,287 $237,396 $26,891 10.20% fundraising
2010 Menacola Marketing $227,612 $204,225 $23,387 10.30% fundraising
2010 Capital Assistance $117,493 $105,520 $11,973 10.20% fundraising
2010 Debbie Lopez $71,019 $63,850 $7,169 10.10% fundraising
2010 Public Safety $48,526 $42,864 $5,662 11.70% fundraising
2010 Meyer & Associates (Cincinnati, OH) $23,277 $20,914 $2,363 10.20% fundraising
2010 Safety Division (New Orleans, LA) $20,733 $18,659 $2,074 10.00% fundraising
2011 Safety Publications $535,160 $476,293 $58,867 11.00% fundraising
2011 Menacola Marketing $164,019 $145,977 $18,042 11.00% fundraising
2011 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $161,922 $144,111 $17,811 11.00% fundraising
2011 United Support LLC $95,784 $85,248 $10,536 11.00% fundraising
2011 American Help Group (Brooklyn, NY) $86,840 $77,288 $9,552 11.00% fundraising
2011 Debbie Lopez $34,701 $30,884 $3,817 11.00% fundraising
2011 Public Safety $24,374 $21,693 $2,681 11.00% fundraising
2011 Community Cares (New Brunswick, NJ) $22,506 $19,805 $2,701 12.00% fundraising
2011 Capital Assistance $21,779 $19,383 $2,396 11.00% fundraising
2011 Charity Solutions $18,391 $16,369 $2,022 11.00% fundraising

Who got direct cash aid

Year Recipient Cash received Location
2010 Burn & Fire Victim Grants For Those In Need $1,850