As a Disabled Veteran I Don't Support Wounded Warrior Project
 

As a Disabled Veteran I No Longer Support Wounded Warrior Project

By Bryan Black

Wounded Warrior Project

As a Disabled Veteran and Alumni of Wounded Warrior Project, I’ve continued to sit by and keep my mouth shut publicly about the Veteran Service Organization’s practices, but that ends today.

Thanks to our readers and customers at ITS, we’ve proudly raised thousands of dollars over the past six years to help various Veteran and Military related charities. We’ve always tried to focus on the smaller charities that are making a difference, which means those without a CEO making $300k+ a year, those who don’t spend their raised funds to frivolously sue other charities and those who don’t refuse donations from entities that are related to firearms.

High Salaries

I’ll address the first issue by being up front and saying that as a business owner, I understand capitalism and the free market economy that’s paved the way for high salaries, but what I have a hard time with is seeing how this is feasible in a non-profit like Wounded Warrior Project. Their mission is raising money to “help thousands of injured warriors returning home from the current conflicts and to provide assistance to their families.” Again, I struggle with how large salaries are helping that mission.

For full disclosure and to present all the facts, WWP is ranked with an 86 out of 100 on Charity Navigator, a website that helps to inform the public of various non-profits nationwide and their rating based on financial health, accountability and transparency.

That score of 86 for WWP is derived from a September 2013 income statement, or IRS form 990 and is an average of their financial score of 80.77 and a accountability & transparency score of 96.

Wounded Warrior Project - Charity Navigator Stats

Their total revenue was $234,682,943 and 57.7% ($91,220,626) of that went back to the Veterans and their families in the way of programs. 36.5% ($57,718,417) went to fundraising and 5.8% ($9,134,900) went to salary. Here’s an article from the Tampa Bay Times that speaks directly to that 58% going back to programs.

Don’t get me wrong, I think $91.2 million dollars is a lot of money that’s going back to Veterans and their families and it’s amazing that WWP is able to facilitate this, however I feel it needs to be a greater percentage of overall revenue. Perhaps it’s the $57.7 million in fundraising that needs to be taken a look at. I just know that from my perspective there are better organizations to donate your money to, who give more than 58% of it back to the people they’re raising it for. My list of these is further down in this article.

Lawsuits Against Other Charities

Salaries are just one reason I disagree with donating money to the Wounded Warrior Project, another is that WWP is suing other Veteran charities over their use of the term “Wounded Warrior” and logos that contain silhouetted soldiers.

An article from The Daily Beast yesterday is what prompted me to finally write my article, because I’ve had enough of WWP. They’re currently suing the all-volunteer Pennsylvania based Keystone Wounded Warriors over their name, who according to The Daily Beast, has an annual revenue of $200k, which is less than the WWP Executive Director Steven Nardizzi was paid in 2013. I’m sure it’s even more now.

There’s even more stories in The Daily Beast article about WWP flexing their wallet and using up more funds to sue, rather than using that money to help Veterans and their families.

Again, to put this into perspective as a business owner, I understand protecting your business name and your logo. It’s tough with the term Wounded Warrior though, which is what WWP is suing for. I personally view that as a non-enforceable trademark, much like my company ran into years ago.

In short, we had one of the first commercially available vacuumed-sealed trauma kits out on the market back in 2009, which we were calling the ITS Blow Out Kit. A blow out kit is a term that’s been around for a long time in the military and predates the 2006 trademark registration that an individual filed for that term.

We were contacted with a trademark infringement and a request that we change the name of our product to avoid confusion. I was extremely cooperative and held a contest on ITS to change the name of our kits, which are now called ETA Trauma Kits. However, I later learned from a trademark attorney that we could have pushed for that being a non-enforceable trademark, due to its usage in the military before being registered as a trademark.

Either way, I’m sure we would have wound up in a lawsuit and as a young company, I knew that we couldn’t afford that, so the product name was changed. I was naive then too in my feeling that it was what others should do as well. My retelling of this story is to illustrate what these charities might be dealing with when WWP comes calling with their infringement notices and such. I’m willing to bet that the Keystone Wounded Warriors were not only standing up to WWP, but fighting them for everyone else out there that couldn’t. I don’t see what the outcome of that lawsuit was, but I’m definitely interested to find out.

Firearms and the WWP

The final reason I’ll list today on why I don’t support the WWP is because they don’t fully support the 2nd Amendment. Back in 2012 the Wounded Warrior Project Public Relations Director, Leslie Coleman, declined an opportunity for the WWP to be represented and appear on Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk radio show.

Coleman stated in emails (that can be found here), that the WWP doesn’t participate in interviews or activities related to firearms. When pressed for an explanation, Coleman quoted the following policy, which has since been buried on their website:

“Please note the following notice that appears on our website which also applies to WWP public awareness policy and inquiries from media outlets:
http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/additional-opportunities.aspx

WWP does not co-brand, create cause marketing campaigns or receive a percentage or a portion of proceeds from companies in which the product or message is sexual, political or religious in nature, or from alcohol or firearms companies.”

She further went on to say that the policy is not a judgment on those who own and use firearms, “clearly every member of our armed forces has been trained in the use of firearms and then called on to use them in the course of their service to this country. Our position regarding firearms and alcohol is in response to the struggles that many injured service members face with substance abuse and suicide and the roles those items often play in those issues.”

I agree with Tom Gresham, who said that’s the nuttiest thing he’s ever heard of and that suicides aren’t linked to firearms. As he goes on to say, Japan has more suicides than the US without the use of firearms and that suicide is a serious issue regardless of methodology used.

It’s been mentioned that WWP organizes hunting trips as programs for rehabilitation of wounded warriors, which means they can’t be anti-gun. That’s great and I’m glad they’re organizing these, but that doesn’t trump their own policies. WWP’s bias against firearms companies is something I can’t agree with and in turn further pushes me away from them as a charitable organization.

Notes

I’ll end the article with this. Is the WWP doing good? Yes, they are. They’re one of the most widely recognized Veteran Service Organizations and their logo and “mission” appears on everything from ketchup bottles to nationally syndicated TV commercials. I just ask myself if this is really where their funds should be going. Are expensive TV commercials necessary to raise funds that Veterans and their families only see 58 cents of every dollar from? Don’t get me started on their $19 a month program that paints Veterans like some Sally Struthers welfare project.

Just by example, the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust has 96.5% of their expenses directly funding programs for Disabled American Veterans. That’s 97 cents of every dollar raised going to where it should, versus the Wounded Warrior Project’s 58 cents of every dollar. Granted the DAV’s revenue was only $7.5 million in 2013 compared to WWP’s $234 million, so you should know that if it factors in for you.

As the owner of ITS, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, I’ll continue to support Veteran organizations that I feel fully embody the spirit of what they were created for in the first place, which is to give back as much as possible to those their cause supports.

We’ve been proud to support the amazing organizations below throughout the years and I would highly recommend them to anyone wishing to donate.

What are some Veteran organizations you support?

America’s Mighty Warriors
http://americasmightywarriors.org/
Charity Navigator Rating 

Warrior Dog Foundation
http://warriordogfoundation.org/
Charity Navigator Rating

Green Beret Foundation
http://www.greenberetfoundation.org/
Charity Navigator Rating

Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit / Guardian for Heroes Foundation
http://www.chriskylememorialbenefit.com/
Charity Navigator Rating: Not Found

Intrepid Fallen Hero’s Fund
https://www.fallenheroesfund.org/
Charity Navigator Rating 

Navy SEAL Foundation
http://www.navysealfoundation.org/
Charity Navigator Rating

Disabled American Veterans
http://www.dav.org/
Charity Navigator Rating

Update: I neglected to mention Team Rubicon, which is an organization I belong to and fully support. I often overlook them when referring to charities, as I see their mission differently. Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. They currently have a team of Veterans overseas right now on Operation Tenzing, helping with disaster relief in Nepal after the earthquake.

Update 9/2/16: Military Times has reported that “Wounded Warrior Project officials are firing half of their executives, closing nine offices and redirecting millions in spending to mental health care programs and partnerships as part of an organization overhaul in the wake of spending scandals earlier this year.” To read more, click here.

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Discussion

187 comments
Lambing
Lambing

I stopped contributing to them last year when I became aware of the shenanigans going on at WWP.

Thanks to Bryan, I learned about Team Rubicon, which I have joined as a volunteer. I'm already a disaster service worker and do emergency communications for San Jose, CA, and Rubicon is a perfect fit for me (I'm also a veteran)

StuartGoss
StuartGoss

As a long term monthly contributor to WWP, I was disgusted by the antics of Nardizzi and his cronies and I have withdrawn my support as a result. I thought that ths article was well written and helpful in providing the names of other more deserving charities.  However, and I know this comment will draw the ire of many who subscribe to this blog/web site, given their ardent support for the 2nd Amendment but where an organization stands on the 2nd Amendment ought not to be a criterion for donating funds to it for the assistance of wounded veterans and the same should apply to those who donate funds..  The focus ought to be on wounded veterans and their needs and notwithstanding the beliefs of those who support this blog and its aims, it would have been nice for once not to politicize this issue and conflate it with 2nd Amendment politics.   Still I guess that would be a lot to expect on this particular web site..

MJ12
MJ12

You might consider adding Fisher House to that list... www.fisherhouse.org

Rob
Rob

So is WWP an ambulance chaser? Is WWP spoon-feeding the public BS for that measly $19 donation or is there a hidden agenda only the exec staff and board are aware of?

Docledington28
Docledington28

That was WWP response when i asked to be removed from the program.

Docledington28
Docledington28

Anthony,

Unfortunately, the CBS news piece was misleading and full of incorrect information. We have refuted the false statements and have asked for a retraction. Wounded Warrior Project provides more than 20 needs-specific, free programs and services to more than 83,000 wounded veterans, who we call Alumni, and more than 15,000 family support members. We are constantly expanding our services to better support warriors. We just launched the Warrior Care Network™ to help provide world-class mental health care for wounded veterans. Warrior Care Network represents a $100 million investment to ensure warriors struggling with the hidden wounds of war get the help they need. We have already committed $110 million to our long-term support initiatives – the Independence Program and Long-Term Support Trust – two programs that directly help the most severely injured veterans. Here are a few of the false statements CBS reported:

1.) Overhead 60% v. 80.6%

Based on our most recent independently audited financial statements, 80.6 percent of total expenditures went to provide programs and services for wounded service members, their caregivers, and families.

2.) $26M Meeting Spend v. CSRP Program Spend:

CBS News incorrectly read our financial documents (IRS Form 990) and falsely reported our meeting expenses. 94 percent of the figure CBS News reported as meetings and events was actually expenses for warriors and their families to participate in programmatic events like our mental health programming.

We can remove your Alumni status at this time per your request. Please know that if you or your family need anything in the future, we are here for you. I hope you have a great day!

Respectfully,

Kelly

bryanpblack
bryanpblack moderator

@Docledington28 Hi Kelly, if you're an official representative of WWP, I'd appreciate it if you could identify yourself as such and state your job title with the organization.

I appreciate you adding the comment on the purported false statements by CBS. Hopefully you can understand why an independent audit of your financial statements isn't taken into consideration as fully as a report from Charity Navigator. I look forward to the most recent calculations being updated there from WWPs 2015 financials and seeing how things are going now. I do understand those numbers that were originally reported in this article have changed and I would like to update this with 2015 numbers once they're available on Charity Navigator.

Thank you,

Bryan Black 

Docledington28
Docledington28

Definitely not an affiliate of WWP. This was a response to my personal email asking to be removed from WWP.

Tom Beauchamp
Tom Beauchamp

You consider the poster, i.e. me? Or its tactical? Also 6% of 350 something million dollars is a good chunk of change

Chris Doucette
Chris Doucette

I don't fault them for not wanting to get involved. They have more important things to be worried about. I hope they refocus their efforts and make an effort to rectify these issues, though.

Vic Yancey
Vic Yancey

6% isn't alot...then again I consider the poster

Vic Yancey
Vic Yancey

Chris as a comparison, others companies of similars sizes have CEOs and others making 7 and eight figure salaries. I don't think they want to get dragged into the political gun circus, they are for veterans not political battles.

Vic Yancey
Vic Yancey

Tom Beauchamp I did look into many times you window licking cretin, if you knew how a large non profit was run then you can pass the dumb as fuck title to CBS for sensationalist propaganda lapped up by progressive shills and entitled POGs. Progressive shit bird.

Vic Yancey
Vic Yancey

I did the research on them, the 26 millions also covers events the host for veterans, but the big evil corporate angle sounds better. Narduzzi makes a 6 figure salary while other companies of similar sizes make 8 figure salaries and then some for comparison purposes and some levity to people who expect large non-profits to operate for free. Sounds like a bunch of disgruntled babies to me

Cathy McMahan
Cathy McMahan

well Vic other have investigated them and said the same thing, one was an officer.

Chris Janquart
Chris Janquart

^^ Thanks Tom. And that douchebag hides behind some clip art. ;)

MoFork
MoFork

A nonprofit is not a corporation. Apples and oranges.

Nathan Bangs
Nathan Bangs

Folks need to understand the definition of non-profit first and second understand how a non-profits pay structure works. Next you would need to understand how business works and that a quality CEO comes at a Price. Since they cannot pay out shares and dividends all you have is salary. We put too much faith in the words non-profit without understanding the structure. We speak but we know so little.

UZCommonSence
UZCommonSence

Those of us in business do fully understand the price of competent and effective leadership.  However, we also understand excess because we witness it.  $500k is a lot of money for anyone including private sector for profit leaders.


WWP's advertising is strong and far reaching but a non-profit such as this should strive for far greater percentages of donations to go to it's recipients.  The bad press for it not doing so virtually eliminates its advertising gains.

Jacob Galura
Jacob Galura

Is it fair to bash the entire company when most of the issues are centered around the executive leadership? I've been a volunteer with one of their programs for the last 4 years and I've seen the impact they made. The reports don't reflect the people I know inside WWP.

RangerReid
RangerReid

The state of Florida has a program put on by their forestry department.  Its called Operation Outdoor Freedom.  They take wounded vets hunting, fishing, anything in the outdoors.   The forest rangers do some work on the clock, and a ton off the clock.  They raise money, and every penny goes to the vets,   none of the donated money goes to salaries at all.  zero overhead.    it is an amazing program.

Tina Colomb
Tina Colomb

I enjoyed the article and your perspective as a wounded vet. As a civilian who donates, I find these types of articles important. Personally I want to donate my hard earned money to an organization that puts the highest value back in the hands of the intended recipient.

Paul Paradis
Paul Paradis

Another thing. All CEOs of charities make a butt load of money in salary annually. So you might want to call out all of them from your soapbox. The Red Cross CEO is also making at least $500,000. American Cancer Society CEO made at least $2.1 million. Boys and Girls Club $1.8 million. The United Way CEO well over $689,000. The DAV you lauded makes no salary, but pulls in over $400,000 in compensation annually from the charity. No charity is blameless.

Alex Cisneros
Alex Cisneros

Theses allegations have been around for a few years this me story has gained more traction and attention than the prior ones.Its been something that's dogged WWP so much that they had a webpage on their site dedicated to debunking the rumors but yet they still persist and that's not the "liberal media".

Billy Austin
Billy Austin

Hey Bryan, I'm not doubting your research here but the math in the quoted paragraph doesn't add up: "Their total revenue was $234,682,943 and 57.7% ($91,220,626) of that went back to the Veterans and their families in the way of programs. 36.5% ($57,718,417) went to fundraising and 5.8% ($9,134,900) went to salary. Here’s an article from the Tampa Bay Times that speaks directly to that 58% going back to programs." 57.7% is actually $135,412,058, 36.5% is $85,659,274.20, and 5.8% is $13,611,610.70. There's some change missing somewhere but that's the numbers. So a lot more goes to charity than you stated and a lot more also goes to fundraising and salaries. I could be missing something that you calculated in like taxes or whatever so forgive me if I'm wrong.

Paul Paradis
Paul Paradis

I'm not sure who to go with on this one. The mass liberal media or the charity who's response makes CBS look like incompetent liars.

Chris Doucette
Chris Doucette

I was lucky enough to spend time with some Wounded Warriors in my area at WWP-run skeet shoots (I say lucky because I'm an LEO, not a veteran). So the anti-gun thing is weird to me. Anyway... I get it. They spend too much on advertising. And I wish their CEO wasn't making half a mil. But... It's a huge company, making and spending millions on vets. So, their leaders are going to make a lot. Maybe with all this they'll refocus on their mission and spend more on programs. We can hope, right?

Brett Sayre
Brett Sayre

Well written article i do not support them at all the charity that helped me was the Semper Fi fund and those people are amazing.

Tom Beauchamp
Tom Beauchamp

And instead of just assuming people are sheep, why don't you look into it yourself first, and see if there's actually merits to their statement. Because your comment makes you look dumb as fuck

Tom Beauchamp
Tom Beauchamp

Yeah or look at their tax documents that they release. That is a very very top-heavy "charity"

Tom Beauchamp
Tom Beauchamp

I haven't in a long long time. Three years into monthly donations to them i looked up their tax documents. A huge chunk of the money they get coming in goes to their admin salaries. I think it was about a third that actually went towards wounded vets

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

I have, yes. I'll defer to Charity Navigator and their analysis of WWP financials rather than the company's own independent analysis. ~ Bryan

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

I did my own research, which is what I'd urge you to do as well. Take a look at the financials on Charity Navigator. ~ Bryan

Vic Yancey
Vic Yancey

There are two sides to every story, too bad your a sheep who believes what the mass media spoon feds you propaganda from disgruntled ex employees

GabriellaLewis
GabriellaLewis

Switching Charities right now! I am disgusted at the lack of compassion, shallowness and greed of WWP who I have always supported with my donations.

robert de haas
robert de haas

It is unfortunate that we even need an organization like WWP begging on TV commercials for services that should be covered period, but provide free health care, education, etc to the people that are in this country illegally (sorry, we now need to call it undocumented) with no questions asked.... It should be the other way around, support the people that suffered or are suffering securing our freedom and let the others beg for donations. Just my opinion

ThomasSavageBlackthorne
ThomasSavageBlackthorne

Many To One PTSD Support Foundation - no one is paid. All volunteer.


www.many-2-one.org

KathleenReillyLee
KathleenReillyLee

We support Bob Woodruff's REMind Foundation and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. 

WWP Student Abassador
WWP Student Abassador

"The final reason I’ll list today on why I don’t support the WWP is because they don’t fully support the 2nd Amendment." Accepting money from possibly controversial places, such as political, guns, alcohol, etc., sounds like a good philosophy, not a bad one. I don't see very many arguments that seem valid to me in this article.

That Guy
That Guy

Don't forget about HAVA (Honored American Veterans Afield).


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