Deeper coverage of Wounded Warrior Project – 5/10

I’ve noticed a number of articles lately that dive deeper into the WWP issues that the first round of coverage. These articles are discussing substance.

4/24 – Wounded Warrior Project – Statement by interim COO Charlie Fletcher – Interim COO promised to continue mission to serve wounded warriors and make the changes need to move organization forward.

5/4 – Florida Times Union at jacksonvile.com – First Coast News: Wounded Warrior Project executive resigns – The WWP Chief Programs Officer resigned, citing personal reasons.

Article gives no more detail.

The webpage listing the executive staff shows the CPO position as second of nineteen. My paraphrase is this looks like a strategic planning position with additional emphasis on managing and directing programs. His most recent experience was in development. He is a ’93 West Point grad.

Following article gives some speculation of what might be behind the resignation.

5/9 – Ruth McCambridge at Nonprofit Quarterly – One More C Suite Exec Leaves Wounded Warrior Project – The departed chief program officer, Adam Silva, was previously the chief development officer and before that the director of people. The WWP website says he had a key role in developing the mission, vision, and values of the organization.

Article points out some of the strong comments the former CPO has made in public. If you have been on active duty you will recognize the rough language and blunt statements. If you’ve never been in that world, or any other field that routinely uses naughty words and direct conversations, the comments will seem to be over the top.

Looks to be like those are comments a military leader would make to the troops to rally them when the unit is in a tough spot. Interpret them in light of the military culture.

On the other hand…

Most valuable part of the discussion in this article is linking this resignation to the corporate culture. It is possible the issue of corporate culture, which has received exquisitely little discussion after the initial reports, is a major issue behind this resignation. Implied but not stated in the article is that the departure of this executive could be part of an effort to change the corporate culture.

There has been a question on that issue in the back of my mind all along. If one of the core issues is a dysfunctional corporate culture, then making changes to the culture will require a turnover in a number of senior staff.

If the culture is an issue, and if there is a need to change staffing, and if this resignation is a part of that effort, then it would make sense that exquisitely little of that activity is visible to the public. Those discussions and changes, whatever they may be, clearly need to take place in private. We will only see what was done as we look back in six months or a year.

It is possible there is a huge amount going on behind the scenes to change the culture. If so we won’t know that for a long time.

5/7 – Military Times – Overlooked in the Wounded Warrior Project scandal: families who rely on its handouts – Article describes several families receiving deep care that allows the injured vet to remain in his home with his family (all the wounded in the article are guys). Otherwise all the guys would be in a nursing home and some (I think) would be immobilized.

New tidbits I’ve not seen before:

Unattributed comments from internal sources attribute some of the complaints to disgruntled former staff who have scores to settle. If you’ve been in the military, you know what that is implying and can evaluate that vague comment for yourself. Those comments provide an avenue for followup by an enterprising reporter.

Another criticism in the background that I’ve not heard about until now is the independence project spending is going to too few vets. At a cost of ten thousand or fifty dollars a month per vet for intense care in the home, a bunch of money does not go very far.  The $10K amount is based on an article I saw a while back while the $50K amount is from a quote in this article.

WWP has set aside $20M for long-term care, which the article says the organization says will be enough to provide ongoing care for 40 families.

Irony of that new criticism is that WWP needs to accumulate a permanent fund of, oh, perhaps $500,000,000 to provide that in-depth, long-term care to a large number of vets.

By the way, accumulating a permanent fund of $500M is actually one of their long-term goals. Keep in mind that would require a sustained time of heavy fundraising with dollars that drop straight to the bottom line.

Article points out what others have observed (included Prof. Mark Mittendorf and me) in terms of who is publicly speaking out on WWP’s behalf: Interim COO Charlie Fletcher has made only a few outreaches to the media while former CEO seems to be everywhere defending the organization.

5/10 – Charity Defense Council – Who Will be the Next Wounded Warrior Project Article points out what I have observed, specifically that coverage of the WWP financial issues has dropped off. There hasn’t been much news lately.

Article mentions the danger to other charities if they step out of line with what are current expectations of what a charity may do. Article says this is a particular risk for any organization trying to scale up quickly in order to have a significant impact on a social problem.

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