Joshua Slade, Esq. Former Soldier, Combat Veteran, Stay-at-home Dad, and Lawyer
There is no doubt that the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is, er was, one of the great charities that worked to help wounded veterans. Great numbers of celebrities rallied to their cause under the guise that it was a charity doing good work with low overhead. But the charity is now under fire for its spending practices. Once considered the gold standard of veteran charities, the public perception of WWP has changed now that people see where money sent to the charity actually ends up.
Few causes in this country will induce people to open their hearts and wallets more than the men and women who fight for it. A charity devoted exclusively to helping wounded soldiers, sailors, and airmen in battle is even more likely to get support. This is why people are rightly outraged when the spending patterns and executive decisions of the Wounded Warrior Project were recently revealed.
According to reports, the charity received hundreds of millions of dollars ($372 million in 2015 alone) in donations for wounded troops, but only spent 60-80% of those funds on wounded troops. That is correct: when grandma sends in a check to this organization to provide care and comfort to Johnny who was injured in Iraq – only slightly more than half of her check will make it to Johnny. Where does the rest go? The rest is spent on salaries for the charity’s top executives, travel for employees, dinners, entertainment, and lavish staff meetings.
As a former soldier myself, I absolutely deplore stories like these about the fraud, waste, and abuse that is rampant among charities posing as beneficial to soldiers. But how can something like this happen in today’s day and age? Aren’t there protective laws in place to keep results like this from occurring? Sadly, laws are not as strong as they should be, and charities are not heavily regulated.
When an individual decides to establish a charity, it is up to that individual to determine how it will run, what purposes it serves, and how funds are spent. As long as the charity is not a for-profit organization, it will largely escape oversight. This means employees are permitted to take a salary, and it would be easy for a charity employee to abuse the funds that roll in without facing any kind of real scrutiny. Just Google “CEO salaries and charities”, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be shocked by what you see.
Traditionally, state attorneys are responsible for regulating these organizations and ensuring they comply with their intended purpose as well as state and federal laws. However, those offices are cash strapped and overwhelmed with other work.
So what’s a well-intentioned, charitable person to do? The best way to hold these types of charities accountable is through the press that highlight these stories, and by the public doing their own research before donating.
But honestly, who has time to do research on a charity when it uses such an emotional pitch to get donations? In the end, the best way to do charity work for vets and their families is by making a phone call, sending a text, or taking them a casserole.