Building a non-profit organization is “no easy task,” says Blake Emmons, founder of the Wounded Warriors Weekend Foundation.
The foundation is four years old, and was set to hold its annual retreat in Chilliwack for the first time over the B.C. Day Long Weekend. Last Monday, Emmons announced the cancellation of the event here through a Facebook post. The foundation’s website only says that the page is “undergoing maintenance” and no contact information is available. This week, he responded to questions from The Progress with a written statement.
“Creating a structure for the board of directors, acquiring registered charitable status, and developing long term fundraising strategies takes time and dedication,” he explains. “Clearly, for Wounded Warriors Weekend Foundation, there are some growing pains yet to work through.”
Emmons and his board of directors had big hopes of holding a weekend retreat in Chilliwack for 250 military veterans, law enforcement officers and first responders who have suffered wounds (both physical and psychological) as a result of their service. The first three years helped about 700 people suffering from PTSD and other work-related injuries, and offered the weekend at no cost.
He was looking for somewhere between $350,000 and $600,000 to host the event here, organizers had told The Progress previously. It’s unclear how much money was raised locally, however, there were several fundraising events held in town over the past months. The Province of B.C. donated $25,000, and has been assured it will receive a refund of those taxpayer dollars.
Emmons told a local radio station that people who donated can expect a tax receipt in February.
Not possible, says the Canada Revenue Agency. Only registered charities are permitted to issue official donation receipts for the gifts they receive, said Magali Deussing, a CRA Media Relations Advisor and Spokesperson.
Reports had emerged that the WWWF was using another registered charity’s number. The CRA said that while confidentially restricts them from commenting on specific cases, both the WWWF and the organization’s that they reportedly were using “are not registered Canadian charities.”
But not being a registered charity doesn’t mean an organization can’t ask for money. In fact, anyone can ask for donations, Deussing points out. But what they can’t do is issue any tax receipts, and on this point the CRA is very strict.
“The CRA takes abuse of Canada’s tax laws very seriously,” Deussing said. “When registered charities and other taxpayers do not fully comply with tax legislation relating to registered charities, it jeopardizes the integrity of Canada’s tax base by placing an unfair burden on law‑abiding taxpayers and businesses, as well as jeopardizing the integrity of the charitable sector as a whole.”
Organizations also cannot share charitable status.
“The practice of sharing charitable status is illegal, Deussing said. “Where the CRA becomes aware that a registered charity has inappropriately lent its registration number to a non-registered entity for the purpose of issuing receipts, we will take all appropriate compliance action.”
Emmons’ email this week does not answer any of the questions posed to him by this newspaper. On a recent radio interview, Emmons advised anyone wanting their money back to contact the local organizing committee. However, without an event to hold here, that committee has now disbanded.
Emmons was asked if the event was cancelled for financial reasons, and how much the shortfall was for fundraising.
“The weekend retreats, which have occurred annually since 2012, have been successful because of the sheer determination of volunteers, sponsors and supporters,” he said. “Despite a valiant effort on behalf of the Chilliwack committee, the fundraising and organizing challenges for this year proved insurmountable. In order to guard the well being of the participants, and the integrity of the organization, the directors made the heart-wrenching decision to cancel the 2015 event.”
He was also asked what would happen to the funds raised locally, but did not address that question.
He did state that his foundation would continue to work toward its goal.
“In the coming months we will take the necessary steps to move forward with our development, to ensure that we will be here in the future to support those who have served so honourably,” he said.
He did not provide a contact number for anyone with questions about their partnerships or donations.
The CRA’s mandate does not include regulating organizations that are not registered with them, Deussing said.
“With respect to the potentially negligent, fraudulent, or deceptive practices of an unregistered entity that uses a charity’s registration number, note that it does not fall within the CRA’s mandate to regulate such entities.
If the public has concerns that an organization not registered with the CRA is misrepresenting itself as a charity, they recommend contacting the local authorities, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, or filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Canada.