America's worst charities

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

In detail#49: Firefighters Burn Fund

Ron Lagur had been a broker for years, matching charities with telemarketers and taking a cut of the donations for his trouble. When he retired in 2007, however, Lagur didn't get out of the business. Instead, he helped his wife, Cathy Simpkins, start Firefighters Burn Fund. Then he used his connections to help her find solicitors.

In the four years since, those telemarketers have been the primary beneficiaries. Firefighters Burn Fund has raised about $2 million. Fundraisers kept 82 percent. The charity has given cash grants of $30,000 over that time, though its IRS filings do not include details about the recipients. Simpkins is the only paid employee, receiving about $45,000 in 2011.

When Simpkins was looking for fundraisers in 2009, she wrote to a telemarketer in Iowa describing her charity as a "soft sell with excellent returns." The Iowa solicitor took on Firefighters Burn Fund, but it was a short-lived relationship. In November 2010, the Iowa attorney general's office filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the telemarketer, who agreed to close his business.

To settle Iowa regulators' claims that Firefighters Burn Fund had not adequately monitored the telemarketer, Simpkins signed an agreement in early 2011 that prevents the charity from soliciting in that state for seven years.

Neither Simkins nor Lagur responded to calls or a certified letter seeking comment.


Firefighters Burn Fund

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Iowa 1 Ban 0

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
2011 pdf $748,580 $616,024 $132,556 $47,699 $19,800 2.65% $31,326
2010 pdf $616,511 $502,982 $113,529 $47,566 $10,550 1.71% $23,617
2009 pdf $519,038 $432,399 $86,639 $45,383 $0 0.00% $23,187
2008 pdf $125,589 $105,454 $20,135 $7,266 $0 0.00% $120,654
zTOTALS $2,009,718 $1,656,859 $352,859 $147,914 $30,350 1.5% $198,784

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2009 Collier County Entertainment and Promotions Company $84,176 $71,550 $12,626 15.00% telemarketing
2009 Safety Communications $83,982 $67,186 $16,796 20.00% telemarketing
2009 Telequal $48,684 $38,947 $9,737 20.00% telemarketing
2009 Safety Division (New Orleans, LA) $13,990 $10,492 $3,498 25.00% telemarketing
2009 Lino's $25,907 $22,021 $3,886 15.00% telemarketing
2009 Bay State Inc $25,034 $20,528 $4,506 18.00% telemarketing
2009 Safety Publications $19,060 $16,201 $2,859 15.00% telemarketing
2009 Area Benefits $145,429 $123,614 $21,815 15.00% telemarketing
2009 Community Publications $72,776 $61,860 $10,916 15.00% telemarketing
2010 PC's Unlimited $79,311 $62,675 $16,636 21.00% telemarketing
2010 Safety Communications $97,572 $76,246 $21,326 21.90% telemarketing
2010 Safety Publications $44,530 $36,670 $7,860 17.70% telemarketing
2010 Telequal $127,297 $101,050 $26,247 20.60% telemarketing
2010 Lino's $49,603 $42,158 $7,445 15.00% telemarketing
2010 Collier County Entertainment and Promotions Company $73,531 $61,704 $11,827 16.10% telemarketing
2010 Area Benefits $144,667 $122,479 $22,188 15.30% telemarketing
2011 Debbie Lopez $12,730 $9,700 $3,030 23.80% telemarketing
2011 PC's Unlimited $217,793 $174,296 $43,497 20.00% telemarketing
2011 Menacola Marketing $102,108 $86,825 $15,283 15.00% telemarketing
2011 Safety Communications $90,858 $72,696 $18,162 20.00% telemarketing
2011 Lawrence Enterprises (Indianapolis, IN) $61,659 $49,503 $12,156 19.70% telemarketing
2011 Atlantic Southern Productions $42,400 $36,040 $6,360 15.00% telemarketing
2011 Collier County Entertainment and Promotions Company $18,375 $14,700 $3,675 20.00% telemarketing
2011 Safety Publications $202,657 $172,264 $30,393 15.00% telemarketing