Thursday, September 20, 2018
Business

Wounded Warrior Project spends 58% of donations on veterans programs

Editor's note: As part of a yearlong investigation into charities across the nation, the Tampa Bay Times and its reporting partner, the Center for Investigative Reporting, asked readers in June to suggest nonprofits for closer review. Readers responded with nearly 300 suggestions. In the coming months, the Times and CIR will examine some of those charities and share what we found.

Wounded Warrior Project, created in 2003, has become one of the fastest-growing veterans' charities in the country.

It was also one of the most requested when the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting asked readers to suggest charities to investigate.

Readers wanted to know how Wounded Warrior was using its donations and whether the charity was spending a large portion of those donations to hire for-profit corporations to raise money.

To find out, reporters examined four years of tax filings and reviewed thousands of actions by charity regulators across the nation to determine if the charity had violated laws governing charity operations.

Unlike the 50 worst charities the Times and CIR named on its list of America's worst, Wounded Warrior does not rely heavily on for-profit solicitation companies to raise money. And it does not pay telemarketers to drum up donations.

Instead, it uses a combination of fundraising events, corporate sponsorships, advertising and direct mail appeals.

Last year, the charity raised nearly $150 million.

About $81 million was raised through professional solicitors. Wounded Warrior paid 11 percent of that money to cover its solicitors' fees and the expense of the solicitor-run campaigns. In comparison, veterans charities on the Times/CIR list paid an average of 82 percent to their solicitors.

Wounded Warrior Project spends most of the money it raises counseling veterans and running sports and educational programs.

Last year, it also gave nearly $5 million to other charities, including the American Red Cross and Resounding Joy, a music therapy group in California.

Wounded Warrior also gave about $880,000 to nearly 100 veterans in the form of college scholarships and stipends for its year-long Track Program, which helps veterans transition to college and the workplace.

In its 2012 IRS filing, Wounded Warrior reported that about 73 percent of its expenses went toward programs. But the charity is one of many that use a commonly accepted practice to claim a portion of fundraising expenses as charitable works. By including educational material in solicitations, charities can classify some of the expense as good deeds.

Ignoring these joint costs reduces the amount Wounded Warrior spent on programs last year to 58 percent of total expenditures.

The charity has been criticized for its salaries, with 10 employees earning $150,000 or more. Chief executive Steve Nardizzi, whose total compensation was about $330,000 last year, said salaries are in line with similarly sized organizations.

"We're a direct service provider, dealing with some of the world's greatest social ills," Nardizzi said, referring to the charity's more than 250 employees who provide services to veterans. "We hire the best of the best and we pay them a living wage."

While the Times and CIR found no actions against the charity by regulators, Wounded Warrior has gotten mixed reviews from independent charity watchdogs. The charity meets all 20 standards set by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance but only gets three of four stars from Charity Navigator.

Charity Watch gave Wounded Warrior a "C+" grade, up from a "D" two years ago, based on the amounts spent on programs and fundraising.

Comments
St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council blessed the largest budget in city history on Thursday night, adopting a $717 million budget that starts Oct. 1.The 2019 budget is about $200 million more than the current budget. That massive increase was driven by ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Talk to your grandparents about marijuana - before somebody else does.The latest release of a massive federal drug use survey shows monthly marijuana use has skyrocketed among older Americans. The past decade, in fact, has seen a sea change in the de...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Former Tampa Bay exec and Chico’s CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

Former Tampa Bay exec and Chico’s CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

ST. PETERSBURG — When Shelley Broader worked in Tampa Bay, she was turning around a failing grocery store.It was the early 2000s. Amazon wasn’t a powerhouse yet, people were still on Myspace and no one was ordering groceries online. On Thursday, she ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay’s fastest selling used car is a Prius. Do you drive the slowest selling car?

Tampa Bay’s fastest selling used car is a Prius. Do you drive the slowest selling car?

Apparently, a lot of people in Tampa Bay are trying to get their hands on a Toyota Prius. An analysis by iSeeCars shows that the eco-friendly car is the fastest-selling used vehicle in the area, averaging 19.2 days on the market. That might not be su...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Cargill recalls more beef on E.coli worries from Colorado plant tied to previous recall

Cargill recalls more beef on E.coli worries from Colorado plant tied to previous recall

Cargill Inc. is recalling more than 132,600 pounds of ground beef possibly contaminated with harmful E. coli bacteria that food-safety investigators believe has already caused 17 illnesses and one death.The beef originated at a Cargill slaughterhouse...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Colorado-based alternative fuel company to hire 45 at new $10 million factory in Plant City

Colorado-based alternative fuel company to hire 45 at new $10 million factory in Plant City

PLANT CITY — Alternative fuel firm MLMC Florida will open a $10 million factory near the Hillsborough-Polk county line and will create 45 new jobs paying an average salary of at least $58,383 a year, officials said Thursday.Based in Parker, Colo., ML...
Published: 09/20/18
Publix has pumpkin spice everything on sale, and other deals this week in coupons (Sept. 20-26)

Publix has pumpkin spice everything on sale, and other deals this week in coupons (Sept. 20-26)

Sometimes, the coupon gods align. And, man, that’s beautiful because everyone loves so-cheap-it’s-almost-free stuff.Vegetarians rejoice: This week’s steal of a deal is for you. Publix has Quorn "chick’n" nuggets and patties on BOGO (buy one, get one)...
Published: 09/20/18
Homes sales jump in Pinellas and Hillsborough in August after months of declines

Homes sales jump in Pinellas and Hillsborough in August after months of declines

Home sales in August hit their highest levels in a year in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as prices throughout the Tampa Bay area continued to rise. In Pinellas, sales of single-family homes jumped nearly 7 percent from the same month a year ago....
Published: 09/20/18
Floridan hotel misses deadline, faces hearing on repairs to keep more concrete from falling

Floridan hotel misses deadline, faces hearing on repairs to keep more concrete from falling

TAMPA — When a chunk of concrete fell off the Floridan Palace Hotel last month, injuring a woman who was struck by debris, city officials gave the historic building’s owners a deadline to submit an engineering report and make repairs.That deadline ca...
Published: 09/20/18
Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Tapping home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries and utilities is a recipe for financial peril. It can work for a while, especially if home prices are rising. Eventually the spigot runs dry, bills pile up and your home can be lost to...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18