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Wounded Warrior charity downgraded

Mar 1, 2016

A San Diego nonprofit that evaluates military charities and recommends them for support is criticizing spending practices at the Wounded Warrior Project.

The Patriots Initiative, which relies on both qualitative and quantitative research to judge the effectiveness of charities that serve veterans and members of the armed forces, said there is no excuse for certain spending by Wounded Warrior officials, recently reported in the media.

“We saw the need to simplify the philanthropic process for military donors and focus on connecting Americans with the most trustworthy, impactful and accountable nonprofits,” said Greg Hillgren, Patriots Initiative chairman. “Unfortunately, the Wounded Warrior Project consistently failed to satisfy many of the required criteria we consider necessary for donor engagement and success.”

The Wounded Warrior Project did not respond to questions about its removal from the Patriots Initiative list of accredited charities.

The Florida nonprofit, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade to serve injured and traumatized veterans and servicemembers, was the subject of a widely circulated CBS News investigation last month.

Among other things, organization spending on travel and conferences climbed from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, CBS News reported.

In 2014, the Wounded Warrior Project was included in a U-T Watchdog report about spending practices at charities dedicated to serving veterans. That report showed Wounded Warrior spent $31.7 million on fundraising in the same year it spent $17.7 million on grants to needy veterans.

The charity defended the spending at the time.

“When you limit your growth in infrastructure and fundraising, you may have a lot of good intentions but you’re not going to help a lot of people,” spokeswoman Jessie Gueterman said.

Hillgren, of The Patriots Initiative, said the Wounded Warrior Project’s intent is good but its execution has been lacking.

“We hope that WWP will take immediate steps to redirect its operational metrics and begin to adhere to ‘best practices’ in the years ahead,” he said.

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