Scrutiny for Wounded Warrior Project

One nonprofit is in hot water following the dismissal of its top leadership. The Wounded Warrior Project – a charity whose mission is to provide care for injured veterans – is facing scrutiny following reports that personnel grossly mismanaged organizational funding and directed few resources to its charitable programs.

The group’s board jettisoned Chief Executive Steven Nardizzi and Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano, while attempting to reassure the public that the nonprofit has done nothing wrong. A press release from the group claims that statistics on organizational spending cited by the charity watchdog group Charity Navigator as well as The New York Times are misleading.

Critical reports cited extravagant galas and meetings – one of which cost $1 million dollars and featured histrionics including Nardizzi rappelling from the ceiling. The overall picture is further darkened by first-hand accounts from former employees, one of which described the organization’s operations as “frat party.”  The former staffer – Erick Millette, a veteran himself – continued by remarking that “there was heavy drinking, dancing, inappropriate sexual behaviors. There was everything. It was just totally out of control.”

Long a topic of debate in the world of philanthropy, the ratio of programmatic spending versus spending directed to fundraising is not set in stone. Many in the field – including Wounded Warrior ally and vocal apologist for the organization Dan Pallotta – believe that spending a lion’s share of fundraising on further fundraising is ultimately the best way to achieve results.

Key Elements Group will have more as event unfold at the Wounded Warrior Project.

Vetting Veterans Charities: How to Make a Difference this Memorial Day

What is perhaps the most important take away from the recent breakup of the Reynolds family scam nonprofit ring?

Vetting organizations before donating.

The Tennessee-based ring of cancer nonprofits swindled donors of $187 million, spending as little as 3 percent on the cancer patients purportedly assisted through the groups’ services. With sizable executive salaries for friends and families and the steep cost of third-party fundraising contractors taking up to $0.85 for each fundraising dollar, the rings’ actual services were superficial at best.

The organizations in the network, however, had atrocious ratings long before they were shut down. The recent lawsuit alleging illegal and deceitful practices was simply the final straw that led to their dissolution. The use of high-fee solicitors is legal, and is practiced across the nonprofit world, essentially diluting charitable dollars.

This point may seem like 20-20 hindsight for the those whose generosity was abused by the Reynolds family and their associates, but being aware of nonprofit ratings in the future can be invaluable for making sure charitable gifts make the greatest possible impact.

There are multiple rating services that provide insight into how well nonprofits pursue their mission and how transparently they manage their finances.  Charity Navigator is easy to use and generates starred ratings for nonprofits that provide a sense of security for the giving public.

This memorial day, as the nation prepares to honor veterans, taking some time to look up and index several legitimate nonprofits will go a long way toward making sure that your charitable gift will make a real difference in veterans’ lives

Be sure to avoid groups mentioned on the worst charities list – a jointly compiled rundown by the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting. A number of veterans groups are featured, including some that employ third-party solicitors that take up to 90 percent of a funds raised.

The following organizations are highly rated, and promise a positive return on your gift this Memorial Day:

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Operation Support Our Troops – America

Thanks USA

Wounded Warriors Family Support

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