Wounded Warrior Project Was Once One Of The Fastest-Growing Charities Ever. Not Anymore

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin

In its 15-year history, Wounded Warrior Project has the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing charities in history and one of the most rapidly shrinking.

After reaching a high-water mark of almost $373 million in donations for the 2015 fiscal year, the Jacksonville-based charity saw contributions plunge in 2016 and fall again in the 2017 fiscal year when it received $211 million in donations, equating to a drop of 43 percent over two years, according to an Internal Revenue Service report released this month by the nonprofit.

Like other charities, Wounded Warrior Project's Form 990 reports filed with the IRS are backward-looking because they contain data for the previous fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Doug White, a nonprofit expert who is writing a book about Wounded Warrior, said that while other nationally known charities have taken financial hits, the two-year swing for Wounded Warrior is the worst he's seen.

"I don't know of any organization that fell so far, so quickly," White said.

Related: A Senator Released His Report On Wounded Warrior Project Spending. Here’s What He Found »

But Wounded Warrior Project says it's experiencing a financial turnaround in the current fiscal year. The organization projects a $25 million increase in donations, enabling more money for services that assist those injured in military service after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And the organization said that even with the financial upheaval, it found ways to reach more veterans and family members than ever before.

"Our focus is on impact over revenue," Wounded Warrior Project spokesman Rob Louis said.

Louis said that in the 2017 fiscal year, Wounded Warrior worked with 132,000 veterans and family members, an increase of almost 15 percent.

When Wounded Warrior marked 15 years as a charity this month, CEO Mike Linnington, a retired Army lieutenant general, said the mission remains helping veterans with post-traumatic stress, creating connections with other veterans, and making a transition to civilian life after combat.

"More than 44 veterans and family members register with Wounded Warrior Project every day — proof the need is indeed great and growing," Linnington said.

Linnington has said it will take several years to return the organization to where it was before national media reports in early 2016 questioned "lavish spending" by the non-profit.

Wounded Warrior's board pushed back on the accusations and argued the findings were not accurate. But the board also said in March 2016 that it needed new executive leadership to strengthen some policies and procedures and "restore trust in the organization." The board ousted CEO Steven Nardizzi and Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano, two founding members who guided Wounded Warrior in becoming one of the nation's largest, fastest-growing charities.

Related: Wounded Warrior Project’s New Leadership Makes Some Drastic Changes To Staff »

White, who has criticized the board's reaction to the media reports, said Wounded Warrior Project remains a charity worthy of support.

He said he's not convinced the organization can regain its former growth, however. He said he hasn't seen evidence that Wounded Warrior will ramp up advertising through direct mail and television on a scale that would bring in enough donations to fulfill the organization's ambitious goal of assisting a generation of veterans as they get older.

"That was a big deal to look 30 to 40 to 50 years into the future," he said. "

Founded in 2003, Wounded Warrior began by delivering care packages in hospitals to men and women returning from the battlefield. As donations soared, Wounded Warrior Project was able to put $262 million into programs in the 2015 fiscal year.

In the 2017 fiscal year, Wounded Warrior spent $166 million on programs. Louis said for the current fiscal year, the organization expects to spend more than $200 million.

In addition to those everyday services, the charity created a separate Long Term Support Trust in 2013 to ensure support services would be available for those with severe wounds so they would not be institutionalized after the loss of their caregivers. The trust had about $100 million in it on September 2017, with almost all of the contributions occurring before Wounded Warrior's financial downturn.

Wounded Warrior put almost $55 million into the long-term trust in the 2015 fiscal year, but that fell to about $311,000 in 2016 when the organization coped with falling donations.

Louis said the trust stopped enrolling new members and has enough money to carry out the long-term care for those are are covered by the trust.

He said overall, Wounded Warrior Project is in strong shape. For the six months that ended March 31 compared to the same six-month period the prior year, donations were up by 11 percent and the organization expects that will continue for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

"We continue to remain in a strong financial position to ensure that we will be able to serve wounded warriors for a long, long time," he said.


©2018 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

Read More Show Less

R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.

Read More Show Less
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The U.S. Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America's allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the U.S. brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the U.S. has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.

Read More Show Less