San Diego Charity Watchdog Downgrades Wounded Warrior Project
Is the new commercials, the scenes of the severely injured veteran and his family coping with the new reality of life. Sometimes there is a celebrity spokesman. And limited work -- Wounded Warrior Project Esper programs and services to help disabled veterans. This powerful appeal, but is it on the up and up? The San Diego nonprofit that evaluates charities downgraded the project saying it's not qualified recommendation. Joining me is Greg Hillgren chairman of The Patriots Initiative. Greg, welcome to the program. Thank you Maureen, happy to be here. We contacted Wounded Warrior Project, they did not respond to our invitation to be on the show. Are they not providing the type of help to the showing in those commercials? We believe that they are helping quite a few wounded warriors. But the fundamental issues are they doing everything they could be doing with the amount of monies they have collected? Basis -- is substantial portion of the donations that we've looked at, more than $.40 out of every dollar is going to the overhead, salaries, marketing, and fundraising. With an organization that size, for March dollars should be -- far more dollars should be going to the cause. In our view in our in-depth analysis that we take, they are not exercising best practices, and they are not being as effective as they should be. What is the organizations excuse for spending so much an overhead, travel and other overhead growth issues? The expressed in some of their public communications that these types of in depth expenditures are required to raise the funds that come into the Wounded Warrior Project. And that is probably a fair statement in some regards. But the extent of the dollars that they are spending in the types of things that have been spending them on for their own overhead and operations is, in our view, not consistent with best practices. Back you say $0.40 on the dollar is going -- they are spending on their organization and overhead. What should the breakdown be between the amount of money that goes towards their projects in the amount of money that goes towards keeping the operation going? Back that is a great question, Maureen. Every charity is a bit different and often change depending on where they are in their life cycle. But a more effective, one we think a suitable would be approximately 20% and in some cases lower. In an organization that has grown as large as the Wounded Warrior Project is, there should be economies of scale, efficiencies. Those should benefit the wounded warriors. So we would expect to see something substantially less than what they have shown over the last several years. And I take it enough -- another problem is that the Wounded Warrior Project is not as transparent and open and how it is spending its money as you would like to be? Back that is true. We look at every single cherry the that we evaluate -- charity that we evaluate. We have identified and there are about 100 of them weeks -- say are the finest. In the case of Wounded Warrior Project, they have spent considerable amounts of money on their salaries, there overhead expenses. There are for more ways that they can do that -- there are more ways far more effective that they can do that. Ultimately, we decided maybe there mission is just to assist with the wooded and fallen and to help increase awareness and America's awareness and education them. We think there is some validity about that without a doubt. We're back in score through our metrics and gave them higher marks for that they still could not get over the hurdle to be included in our best and finest list of nonprofits. I want to talk a little bit more about your group The Patriots Initiative . How do you make your evaluations? We basically bring in investment banking approach to a. Frankly look at American donors as though they are investors. In this case they are not investing for internal rate of return or return on investment, they are investing for impact they went to changing situations, ones that they are typically passionate about. So we look 360 at every nonprofit organization to see if they are engaged in the types of business and operating behaviors that would be indicative of success immediately and long-term. So we're looking at the leadership, we are looking at the engagement of their directors. We are looking at their financial capability and soundness to see if they can in our view execute their mission. We're looking very carefully at their efficiency ratios. We are also looking at subjective criteria of King -- trying to determine whether or not some of these organizations are maybe the next really good or great ideas. The Patriots Initiative you say you list hundreds of these charities that have made it through the scrutiny. Where can people go and find that list? We have a website. It's The Patriots Initiative.org. People are welcome to go to that. They can then make their decisions more fully informed on that list directly. They can also donate through The Patriots Initiative if they want . We take zero cents out of any of those donations. 100 cents on the dollar we will pass through to the organizations. Or we will combine them with other donations and amplify their impact by making those donations go directly to the most important critical projects out of that list of best in finest charities they have submitted to us that they feel are most compelling. We look at them, examine them. And we make sure that those donations are going to the most important projects out there. I've been speaking with Greg Hillgren he's chairman of The Patriots Initiative . Thank you very much. Thank you Maureen. Good to be with you.
Greg Hillgren believes that most Americans want to assist returning veterans who need help, but they often don't know how, and frequently they're afraid.
Hillgren, chairman of The Patriots Initiative, a Rancho Santa Fe-based group which evaluates and rates military charities, says the unease comes from news stories about the wasteful spending and inefficiency of many military charities, such as the very well-known Wounded Warrior Project.
The Wounded Warrior Project raised $235 million in 2013 and helped 59,000 veterans, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. But the charity spent nearly $32 million on fundraising, and close to $17 million on veterans. Recently CBS News reported that the Wounded Warrior Project's spending on travel and conferences rose from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014.
The Wounded Warrior Project has said its relatively high spending on overhead costs is necessary to maintain its services.
The Patriots Initiative downgraded the Wounded Warrior Project last week, taking it off its directory of efficient, transparent military charities. The 100 charities that remain in the directory, says Hillgren, also have an engaged leadership and spend the majority of the funds they raise on the people they profess to serve.
The Patriots Initiative is not going to stay local for long. In the coming months it will roll-out offices in four more areas.