Moral Money: our reader wants to know if they can have a say about the donation
I don’t want to appear uncharitable, but I feel miffed about this so I thought I would ask for your input.
I was out walking my terrier and came across a purse on the ground. It was a well-used footpath across the fields, but there are no buildings or houses close by. When I looked inside there was £350 in notes, but nothing else – no cards, documents or photographs that would identify the owner.
I took it to the local police station where they informed me the owner had 28 days to recover their property, or I could claim it as my own. The purse was quite tasteful and I thought to myself: ‘I could make use of that’. As for the money, I thought I could donate it to Riding for the Disabled Association as it’s a favourite charity of mine, for which I raise funds when I can.
I subsequently received a letter correcting this information and telling me that current police policy permitted the finder to claim only £100 of any cash amount handed in, with the balance going into the Police Property Fund. Apparently this fund does not, as the title would suggest, transfer ownership to the police, but is instead a fund that charities can apply to.
Well, I felt put out! I have never heard of the Police Property Fund, and neither have any of the charities I regularly support. It makes you wonder how the beneficiaries are selected? How would any charity even know this fund existed and they were entitled to apply for some money?
I think finders of unclaimed money should have the right to influence who benefits if it is to go to charity. The 28 days are now up and the owner has not come forward. Should I accept the return of the purse plus £100 of the lost cash, or should I be more insistent and curious about this Police Property Fund and put up a challenge?
Thanks for letting us know about your dilemma and providing a copy of the letter from the police. I can see why your suspicions have been aroused here, because when I tried to research the Police Property Fund I found that many police forces operate their own Police Property Fund or Police Property Act Fund specific to their areas – it is not just one large fund. I found one that’s specific to your area, which is referenced on its website under a slightly different name, and I am guessing this is the fund referred to in the letter – but it would have been helpful for them to use its correct name.
Apparently, awards from the PPF would only be made to local charities that have an influence in reducing crime or helping the victims of crime. This may explain why your preferred charity, Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), has never applied for funds as it falls outside the criteria to qualify as a beneficiary, being a national charity with no obvious connections to crime prevention or victim support – although its work is valued and useful to a different segment of society.
The RDA has a clearly defined purpose as a registered charity with transparency of accounts and constitution offered via the Charity Commission website under registration number 244108-2.
It’s unclear from the local police website exactly how its fund is constituted. If you applied directly to them for information, they may well tell you how much money they have and how they plan to distribute it. I must say you have got me curious, too, and a greater degree of transparency would be appropriate given the nature of the funds creation and discretion being exercised by a chosen few on its use.
I don’t think it fair, or that you would make any progress, asking your local police station to go against wider police policy and let you have more than the typical £100 returned to finders. It seems the RDA is lucky to have your ongoing support, but its part of this windfall is going to be restricted to the amount you get to exercise discretion over, and we need to hope the other £250 is put to good use in crime prevention or support for victims of crime.
I wonder if we should spare a thought for the person who lost their purse and cash. I wonder what they had planned for the money?
I hope you are at least able to make good use of the purse, Kate, and I think a healthy dose of curiosity about the charity fund is acceptable, and would not even be necessary if they were more transparent about the fund.