Charity Navigator, a leading charitable sector watchdog, put the veterans group Wounded Warrior Project on its donor “watchlist,” indicating to its audience that there are troubling allegations against the organization that contributors should be aware of.
The Daily Beast has been reporting on the excesses of the Wounded Warrior Project since September 2014, with a series of stories on its high overhead costs and its penchant for bullying smaller charities with the term “wounded warrior” in their name. Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steven Nardizzi has also been part of an effort to increase charitable sector executive salaries and have larger fundraising costs.
“Placing a charity on the Watchlist is a way of letting donors know that there is an issue of concern that they should take into account before they donate to that charity,” Sandra Miniutti, a vice president at Charity Navigator, told The Daily Beast. “We have a committee that meets each week. They review the information that has come to our attention about a particular charity and determine if it should be placed on the Watchlist, Donor Advisory list, or neither.”
The Charity Navigator decision comes another series of stories, this time by CBS News and The New York Times, in which dozens of former employees complained of lavish spending and waste. While the organization has grown dramatically in funds raised and staff employed, the Times reported it also featured extravagant administrative costs: Nardizzi, whose salary was close to a half a million dollars in 2014, rappelled from a 10-story building during a staff conference at a five-star hotel.
Donald Trump himself admitted that his foundation did not list the Wounded Warrior Project among the beneficiaries of his Thursday evening veterans event. “We saw some bad stories about them,” he told CBS reporter John Dickerson, “and until we find out what’s going on, we said, maybe we’d better take that one off the list.”