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April 23, 2018; Florida Times-Union

Losing the public’s trust is no small matter, as can clearly be seen in these stories of donor disengagement with two very high-profile nonprofits: Susan G. Komen and the Wounded Warrior Project.

As NPQ readers will recall, the Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) ran into a media storm about its spending and fundraising practices at the beginning of 2016. As had happened with Susan G. Komen before it, there was an extended period of denial, followed by high level staff departures, then precipitous fundraising losses. Komen, in fact, slipped from its high rank of 21st among the nation’s fundraisers to 127th, or from a high take of nearly $350 million in 2011 pre-scandal to $198 million in 2015.

Similarly, the Wounded Warrior Project raised almost $373 million in donations for the 2015 fiscal year, but the next two years’ financials show the effects of the public scandal on public support. In 2016, the new executive director announced the organization had lost between $90 and $100 million in donations as a result of the scandal. Its latest Form 990 shows those revenues continued to drop; it raised only $211 million in donations in 2017.

CEO Mike Linnington stresses that the organization isn’t mired in financial trouble. He’s undertaken a radical overhaul of the organization, which projects a $25 million uptick for 2018. But even if that occurs, it will be a few years before they see donations return to previous levels—if they ever do. The last 990 filed for Komen, which is now further away in time from its incident, showed a deficit of nearly $29 million and only $70 million in revenue, down $50 million from the prior year.—Ruth McCambridge