At a very young age – maybe 5 – I joined my mothers singing and dancing troupe as it entertained at the Jamestown Crippled Children’s Home. Since I neither sang, nor dance yet, my role was to dress up as a robot and hassle the emcee (my mother). She promptly found a broom, and swept me down the aisle and out of trouble.
By the late 50’s, I was turning into a teenager. My mother was still very busy helping people – lots of people.
She had been teaching English to Russian Emigrants at North Dakota Agricultural College.in Jamestown. She went above and beyond the call of duty giving many of them personal attention. One lanky fellow who was grateful for her help the rest of his life was Gordon “Gordy” Kanklefritz.
When we moved to Fargo, North Dakota, she spent extra time with girls in trouble at Lutheran Welfare Service.
Decades later, her service record piled up, and in 1986 she received the prestigious Pope John XXIII Award. “The Spheres of Influence Award recognizes those who have made exemplary contributions to the physical, mental and spiritual health of others.”
She explained: “We pioneered in glaucoma mass screening. . . . Preventive medicine forums took place under sponsorship of local clinics. . . . Hobby fairs were successfully held in the YMCA and later in the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium. . . . Through cooperation with city hall and the police department, we provided a senior citizen identification card. . . . This worker has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since 1974 and has served on state and federal legislative programs. She has served by appointment [of the governor] on the State Board of Aging and on the State Advisory Board. She received a Certificate of Recognition for Dedicated Service to Others from the city of LaCrosse. She was appointed by the governor to serve on the executive committee of the Community Care Project. She served on the Community Action executive board and received a citation for services. She is a member of the National Council on Aging.
(Ask for a complete listing of her service work.)
With all that background it is not a mystery that I should also pay attention to service, and charitable projects. Where my mother was constantly looking for more ways to serve, I added the caution that we see just how much of the donations made were actually helping the intended people.
With my mother’s background, and my own searching look, I decided to examine how many dollars donated actually went to help the soldiers. You know, a breakdown of administrative costs versus wheelchairs, prosthetics, therapy, and the like.
I was disappointed with the ratio, and did not mail the check.
This week, I see someone else has also done some digging around at WWP.
An article by Justin Ferris was posted Jan. 22 on the Kim Komando web site, and it zeroes in on exactly the types of concerns I have about big charities.
We’re big supporters of our military men and women here at Komando.com, and we feel that they should get the honor and respect they deserve for putting their lives on the line for our freedom. That goes double for our soldiers who are wounded in the line of duty.
It’s a tragedy that so many wounded vets don’t get the care and treatment they need from the government. Fortunately, there are charities that step up and use donations from grateful Americans to help wounded vets get their lives back. Unfortunately, one of the most recognizable is allegedly not using those donations well.
You’ve probably heard of the Wounded Warrior Project. In 2014, it raised $300 million in contributions to funnel to wounded vets in need. However, a former spokesperson for the group, Army Staff Sgt. Erick Millette, who is an Iraq vet with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, is claiming that the money doesn’t go where it should.
He cites instances of expensive parties and stays in five-star resorts, large bar tabs, unnecessary gifts for employees and more money-wasting spending. CBS News found more than 40 former employees who have the same complaint.
It also discovered that in 2010, the charity spent $1.7 million on meeting and events, but in 2014 that was up to $26 million. A possibly related bit of information is that current CEO Steven Nardizzi started in 2009.
In fairness, according to charity-tracking site Charity Navigator, the Wounded Warrior Project’s revenue nearly quadrupled from $70 million in 2011 to $312 million in 2014. While that’s a substantially smaller growth percentage than its alleged events budget, it’s still not shabby. Of course, it also ended 2014 with a $94 million excess in the budget, which seems high.
According to Charity Navigator, the Wounded Warrior Project spends 60% of its revenue on its primary programs. The rest goes to Administrative Expenses (6%) and Fundraising Expenses (34%). As an aside, those are similar numbers to the USO (60%, 12% and 28%, respectively), according to Charity Navigator.
A spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project denies that the any money is “wasted” and says that the money is used for necessary team building. Millette counters that team building doesn’t require trips to five-star resorts in Colorado allegedly costing $3 million.
Whatever the truth of the matter ends up being, this is a good reminder to always check a charity out before you donate. The Charity Navigator site is a good place to start, and it reveals several military charities that give out more than 80% of donations, such as Hope for the Warriors (84.3%) or Fisher House Foundation (91%).