The Wounded Warrior Project was created to help veterans. However, a recent report by Tim Mak of The Daily Beast shows that the non-profit has been using their funds to sue or threaten to sue small non-profits; money they could be putting toward helping vets.
To these smaller organizations, Wounded Warrior has evolved into something of a “bully,” and more concerned with their image and expanding the organization rather than providing services to their namesakes. Apparently, the organization has become “particularly litigious” over the phrase “wounded warrior” or logos that depict silhouetted soldiers.
“They do try to bully smaller organizations like ourselves… They get really territorial about fundraising,” said the president of another charity with the name “wounded warrior” in their title.
The president of this group chose to remain anonymous out of fear that his group would receive legal action from Wounded Warrior Project. He said his group hasn’t been sued yet, but they have received pressure from WWP to change their name.
“They’re so huge. We don’t have the staying power if they come after us—you just can’t fight them.”
The Keystone Wounded Warriors, small charity in Pennsylvania made up of completely volunteers, is the latest victim of Wounded Warrior Project’s wrath. In 2013, the total annual revenue of Keystone Wounded Warriors was $200,000. Because of legal actions brought against them by Wounded Warrior Project, who makes close to $235 million according to their most recent tax forms, Keystone spent more than two years and near $72,000 to defend themselves.
“That’s money that we could have used to pick up some homes in foreclosure, remodel them, and give them back to warriors. We spent that money on defending ourselves instead,” said Keystone Wounded Warriors executive director Paul Spurgin, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran.
“The lawsuit was just the coup de grâce,” he added. “They want us gone.”
Wounded Warrior Project’s issue is that their logo and names were identical, claiming the similarities would force the company to “suffer irreparable damage to its business, goodwill, reputation and profits.”
Wounded Warrior Project has denied multiple requests for a comment, but Wounded Warrior Project executive director Steven Nardizzi, who personally made $375,000 in 2013, said most organizations change their names when asked.
Despite the term “wounded warrior” being a generic term in the military for service member that has sustained an injury, Wounded Warrior Project is well known for taking legal actions against those they believe are “infringing on their brand.”
Many members of the veteran community have complained about Wounded Warrior Project and the fact they do not effectively spend the millions they earn to help veterans. The charity watchdog Charity Watch gave the organization a C+ after giving them a D the two previous years.
“Have you seen their 990 [tax form]? We often get confused with them—they’re not looked upon very highly by [the veterans community],” said David Brog, executive director of the Air Warrior Courage Foundation.
A small charity based in Colorado called Wounded Warrior USA claim a Wounded Warrior Project lawyer demanded they change the free clipart they were using as part of a fundraiser involving coffee packages.
“They got really nasty with us,” said Wounded Warrior USA founder Dave Bryant.
“They’ve tried to go after every organization with ‘wounded warrior’ and bully them,” said the head of one veterans charity, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want his group to be targeted. “We’re not going to spend a dime or a moment confronting the bully in the neighborhood. We’re going to focus on the actual wounded warriors.”