Alexander's Column

A Wounded Warrior Warning?

Emotional Appeals? Caveat Emptor!

On the Wounded Warrior Project and other veteran support groups.

Mark Alexander · May 20, 2015

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams (1770)

It appears that some Leftmedia talkingheads have finally decided to ask some tough questions about the corrupt practices of the Clintons, Bill and Demo presidential hopeful Hillary, and their flush Clinton Family Foundation.

Charity Watch has the CFF on its “watch list,” and Bill Allison, senior fellow at the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group, has likened the CFF to a “slush fund” for the Clintons. And for good reason: The Clintons took in more than $140 million in donations in 2013, but spent a comparatively paltry $9 million on direct aid.

Seeing the corrupt Clinton Machine subjected to some scrutiny by the media is a welcome sight indeed, but it’s also a temporary one. It won’t be long before the Clintons’ media sycophants have circled the wagons around their Demo darlings and once again trained their guns on Republican presidential hopefuls.

But I digress…

This week, midway between Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, a Marine officer requested I ask some tough questions about another foundation amid charges of questionable practices.

He forwarded me an email assailing the integrity of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) — a Florida-based organization that spends so much of its revenue on advertising that it is now the most widely recognized veteran support organization.

My Marine colleague asked that we investigate the email claims, and we did.

On behalf of our readers, including tens of thousands of military Patriots and their families who have or are considering financially supporting WWP, here is what we’ve determined concerning the questions raised by a widely circulated email.

That email warns against supporting WWP for several reasons and cites as its reference, “Veterans Today,” a website “that exposed exactly how WWP spends the money it receives from patriotic Americans.” The email concludes, “WWP might as well be run by the Mafia.”

Notably, that referenced article cited has been removed, and for the record, Veterans Today is a purveyor of mindless “conspiracy theories” and borderline neo-Nazi propaganda. Thus, neither the original email nor its “source” is credible.

The errant email references notwithstanding, I have noted the enormous amount of donor dollars WWP spends asking for more donor dollars, and so we further reviewed WWP’s history and financial statements.

For background, the WWP was founded in 2003 by John Melia, who himself suffered severe injuries in a 1992 Somalia helicopter crash. In 2005, the United Spinal Association granted $2.7 million to WWP to “develop into a stand-alone charity with its own identity and programs.” WWP became an independent charitable organization shortly thereafter, certified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

WWP’s mission is to “honor and empower Wounded Warriors” and to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.” Its stated objective is to “raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, help injured service members aid and assist each other and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”

Fact is, WWP makes great strides to achieve its mission — all well and good. But to determine the degree to which WWP’s revenues support that mission, our team reviewed the two most recent audited financial statements available, 2012 and 2013, as well as the WWP’s marketing material and website.

In 2013, WWP took in almost $305 million in donations and claimed service to about 35,000 registered alumni and 4,000 others defined as “family or caregivers of a registered alumni.” Those donations were up from $200 million in 2012, due primarily to massive advertising expenditures.

With its proceeds, WWP funds about 15 programs and writes grants to other veteran support groups. But what we found most alarming is the amount of funding paid for advertising and administration.

Many veteran support organizations are run effectively by volunteers — but not WWP.

According to Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest oversight and review organization for charitable groups, WWP allocates about 55% of its revenue to program expenses while the remaining 45% is used for fundraising, salaries, consulting, meetings, events and travel.

WWP received a “D” rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy and only a C+ by Charity Watch. Indeed, WWP ranks substantially below other national veteran support groups like Fisher House Foundation, Operation Homefront and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

WWP’s CEO Steven Nardizzi, a lawyer who now receives a $375,000 salary, served up a legalese rebuttal to the evaluations from Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, insisting in The Chronicle of Philanthropy that those rating organizations were “horribly ineffective and misinformed.”

However, facts are stubborn things, and an organization’s audited financial statements can certainly expose a lot of facts.

While WWP expenditures appear to qualify under the legal parameters for 501©(3) nonprofits, only about 55 cents of every dollar WWP takes in goes to direct benefits for a wounded warrior. We have no objection to WWP’s considerable efforts to raise funds, but it should raise questions when such a large percentage of donations fail to make it to our wounded warriors.

My recommendation?

The growth of veteran support organizations since 2001, some of them worthy of your investment, is as viral as those surprise military homecoming videos — and most of those organizations are appealing to similar sentiments.

Of course, no American Patriot would oppose supporting veterans, particularly those who have suffered severe injuries. I know more than a few of them, and The Patriot Post has helped build several houses to accommodate the needs of severely injured warriors.

But, when organizations pitch strong sentimental appeals asking for your money, whether those appeals be for starving children in Africa or disabled Veterans at home, caveat emptor.

When investing your dollars to support veterans, seek out good third-party evaluations to determine how much of those dollars will actually support that mission, and choose one where at least 75% of revenues do just that. (For example, here in Chattanooga, there is very successful locally-based wounded veteran support organization, Honoring the Sacrifice, and it is volunteer-run and all revenue goes to mission.)

Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis

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