In a not too surprising announcement, Wounded Warrior Project’s (“WWP“) Chief Executive Officer, Steven Nardizzi, and Chief Operating Officer, Al Giordano, were fired after a meeting Thursday afternoon in New York.
The firing stems from investigations into this charitable organization that led investigators and the Board to conclude that WWP’s administrators appeared to benefit more financially than the “wounded warriors” the organization was designed to support.
The New York Times reported yesterday that:
In reports by CBS News and The New York Times in January, current and former employees described the organization’s spending millions on employee retreats and first-class airfare while building programs for veterans that were useful for marketing but did little to serve veterans’ needs. The group spent 40 percent of donations on overhead, according to charity watchdog groups.
As scrutiny of the group’s spending grew in recent years, the Wounded Warrior Project spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations and lobbying campaigns to deflect criticism of its spending and to fight legislative efforts to restrict how much nonprofits spend on overhead.
Quoting from a press release issued by WWP, the New York Times reports that Board Chairman, Anthony Odierno, will temporarily take control of the charity. according to the release. “Mr. Odierno, a retired Army captain who was wounded in Iraq, is the son of Gen. Raymond Odierno, a former chief of staff of the Army.”
The crucial issue is this: Can the culture at WWP be changed from that of focus on PR-driven, feel-good events to one of support for live-changing therapies – expensive, long-term and with probable less-than-desired successes?
Based on the previous dismal record of WWP, and the reality that outside pressure was required to force firing the executive duo, what is the likelihood that truly meaningful change will happen? Can the same Board that finally did the right thing (and only after a huge spotlight forced their hand), be counted on to transform the organization?
We wish them every success, but history tells us that the odds are not good for such cultural change when the same Board was complicit for years of ongoing corporate misfeasance yet continues to control the organization.
Hopefully, new administrators will right the ship, but many other charitable organizations that genuinely want to help Veterans have greatly suffered over these years by the dreadful improprieties of WWP. Such a shame.