Special Report: Wounded Warrior Project
One of the best known charities for Veterans is coming under criticism. Some are wondering if the Wounded Warrior Project is misusing donations.
They've served thousands of wounded Vets through their 19 different programs. The Wounded Warrior Project has experienced dramatic growth, but some question whether donors really know how their gifts are being spent. Their ads tug at your heart strings, pleading for your support to help wounded warriors. Their mission is to raise awareness and provide assistance to service members injuried after 9/11.
Alex Graham is a wounded Vietnam Veteran and columnist who writes for Veterans Today, a military and foreign affairs journal. He and other Veterans worry not enough of the millions of dollars raised by Wounded Warrior Project, is going to wounded Vets.
His biggest complaint is that WWP successfully lobbied Congress to fund V.A. caregivers for Vets wounded only after 9/11. Graham bases his complaints on figures found on the charity's IRS 990 tax form. It shows total revenue was $154.9 Million in the 2011 calendar year, ending in September 2012. Total fundraising expenses were $20.5 Million and total management and general expenses were $5.4 Million. Graham feels too many top execs at WWP are making big salaries. From $150,000 to more than $300,000 a year, with CEO Steven Nardizzi receiving a handsome incentive bonus.
But the Better Business Bureau says their salaries are not out of line for executives with other large non-profit charities. Asheville Better Business Bureau President, Norma Messer says, "a national organization has many facets to look at and it's fair. Wounded Warriors is fair. It's been proven to the council of better business bureaus that it is." Messer says The Wounded Warrior Project is an accredited charity, meeting all 20 of the Better Business Bureau's lofty standars. That includes spending more than 65% of total expenses on programs.
The Wounded Warrior Project opens its book on its webpage, showing 81.6% of its expenses are spent on programs. The rest going to administrative and fundraising. The charity's Communications Directior wrote in an email, "while some people focus on the IRS form 990, it does not present a complete picture of donations because certain categories of donations we are required to report are not included, and it does nothing to measure impact."
But, watchdogs like Charity Navigator read the financials differently, showing program expenses at just 57.9%. While CharityWatch says it's between 54% and 71%, they give Wounded Warriors a C plus. The Veterans charity, Fisher House, got their very best rating, an A plus, with 96% of its expenses going to programs, and a low cost for fundraising. Charity Navigator gives Wounded Warrior Project 3 out of 4 stars, while awarding Fisher House its highest rating. Another website good for measuring charities is Guidestar. Guidestar along with Charity Watch and Charity Navigator offer helpful ratings, comparisons and financial data to help donors make educated decisions about where to give.
But Graham isn't convinced, worried that people wanting to help warriors might be better served giving somewhere else.
By: Frank Fraboni
Follow Frank on Twitter @Frabonz