Wounded Warrior Project Exposed for Overspending

Wounded-warrior-projectThe Wounded Warrior Project, a not-for-profit organization that helps war veterans, is under fire for overspending. With 500 employees and $225 million raised in 2015, the organization seems, on surface, to be successful and doing good work. But its expenses show a different picture: 

  • $250 million budgeted for soda and candy for its staff
  • A CEO who was paid $470,000 a year
  • Less than 60% of funds going to veterans (about 90% of top organizations' funds go to programming) 
  • Lavish staff retreats, including one at a five-star resort that cost almost $1 million

The snack expenses have received particular attention. The budget was revealed in a senior executive's email about staff gaining weight. According to The Daily Best, "Emails reveal that the organization spent more than $46,000 on snacks at its Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters in summer 2015."

In addition, employees have been quoted saying the environment is like a "frat party" and that the outings aren't about team-building as claimed: "You don't learn anything about your teammates, you don't learn anything about how to better serve-you just have a good time at donors' expense, you have a good meal, and then everyone drinks."

Why hasn't this been reported sooner? According to another employee, the organization operates like a cult:

"It's a brainwashing, in essence… You need to be quiet, do what you're told, drink the Kool-Aid and parade around with that logo on. It's cult, it really is… it's like how you would train a monkey, if you do something give them a piece of candy-in this case you give them a T-shirt or a polo… it's extreme intimidation," 

According to The Times article, "At least half a dozen former employees said they were let go after raising questions about ineffective programs or spending."

No surprise, Wounded Warriors is also criticized for not meeting veterans' needs. Programming like cooking classes, yoga, hiking trips, and Lego clubs aren't that helpful. 

The CEO and COO have been ousted, and the board is trying to rebuild the organization. In a press release, management disputes many claims but admits, "The review also found that some policies, procedures and controls at WWP have not kept pace with the organization's rapid growth in recent years and are in need of strengthening."

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Discussion Starters: 

  • What do you think prevented employees from going to the press or other sources about Wounded Warriors' overspending? Even if jobs are threatened, we do have whistleblower laws to protect people. 
  • In addition to the press release, what should Wounded Warriors do to rebuild trust? Do you think the organization will be successful, or is it hopeless?
  • Will employees have a difficult time finding a new job? How can they discuss their experience in a job interview?