It’s not been a stellar week for the top executive at popular military-based charity Wounded Warrior Project. Fred and Dianne Kane, two top donors have called for Steven Nardizzi to resign or be fired after it came to light that the charity may have been overspending on “lavish” office parties and staff meetings.
The Kanes, parents of two Iraq War veterans, donated about $335,000 to WWP in the past seven years, through their charity, Tee-off for a Cause. When CBS News reported that barely more than half of those funds actually went toward benefitting veterans, the Kanes went looking for answers. They were not happy where that search led.
According to various media reports, tax forms showed massive expenditures, such as $26 million on conferences at luxury hotels in a single year. Conference and travel spending have grown substantially year-to-year, and these donors are fed up. CBS News reported the Kanes started an online petition demanding a public audit of WWP, and they canceled a planned benefit tournament. About the same time, Charity Navigator put WWP on its “watch list” of nonprofit organizations suspected of less than stellar conduct.
Former employees, some combat veterans, have come forward to express similar disgust for the way WWP spent their funds. When your cause and your brand are built around American heroes, to have those heroes calling you out and casting aspersion on your work, you have a major PR crisis on your hands.
Even if Nardizzi is ousted, it may not be enough to protect Wounded Warrior Project from further suspicion, and it certainly won’t be enough to repair the charity’s tarnished reputation. At this point, more people are beginning to view WWP as taking advantage of wounded soldiers to live the good life, an accusation the organization must distance itself from immediately. If they don’t start major damage control right now, the project may find itself wounded beyond recovery.