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As the Wounded Warrior Project suffers fallout following the ousting of two top executive in the wake of a spending scandal, other charities that work with American veterans were left wondering whether the high-flying non-profit's fall from grace would affect them.
“We have no idea. I think that’s the question every organization in the military and veteran support space is asking today,” said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Families Association. “We would certainly hope that the American public says we still need to support military families and vets through nonprofits, because there’s so much need. But nobody knows how this is going to affect donor behavior at this point.”
Raezer, whose organization has a sponsorship from the Wounded Warrior Project, said she hoped that the removal of chief executive Steve Nardizzi and chief operating office Al Giordano would send a reassuring message to donors.
“Having Wounded Warrior Project’s board take this strong response … is a huge step,” she said.
Some suggested that ire towards the Wounded Warrior Project could benefit other charities that work with veterans. In an outpouring of anger on the group’s Facebook page, many users said they would shift their donation dollars to other charities, with some trading suggestions and websites of other charities to support.
“It will absolutely have a spillover effect,” said Rich Maiore, vice president at cause marketing agency For Momentum.
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Maiore said other military and veterans’ charities could benefit if former Wounded Warrior Project donors defect — but the flip side would be increased donor questions about their operations and financial statements.
“I think the bigger ones probably will come under greater scrutiny,” he said.
For charities already practicing good management, Maiore said, the good news is that they’re in a good position to pick up disgruntled Wounded Warrior Project donors.
“For organizations who are already doing this, it’s almost validation of what they’ve been doing and why they’ve been investing in transparency,” he said.
“Thus far, it hasn’t had an impact on the VFW, other than callers calling to inquire about donating,” said Randi Law, a spokeswoman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “We’re happy to accept any new donors.”
Law said that in addition to calls about donating, the group was also fielding queries from donors with fresh questions about the VFW’s finances and operations in light of the Wounded Warrior Project scandal.
“We’ve had a few calls,” she said. “We happily tell them that about 5 percent of overall donations raised are going towards administrative costs. We try to be very transparent in our efforts.”
Other veterans’ groups had similar responses.
Aaron Taylor, spokesman for Operation Homefront, pointed to his organization’s top ratings from charity watchdog groups.
“We feel that we’re in a good position as good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to us,” he said. “Folks that are looking to support military families ... we’re an organization they can give to.”