Small Vets’ Charity Changes Name

A Florida veterans’ charity has changed its name to avoid confusion with a larger, more well-known veterans’ organization.
Wounded Warriors of South Florida last week announced its new name, Wounded Veterans Relief Fund (WVRF), effectively immediately. The organization formally announced its new name during its fifth annual All Branches Military Ball and Gala, presented by the Military Officers Associations of America (MOAA) on Saturday.

The rebrand more accurately distinguishes the organization from others and reflects its mission and identity, and further removes brand confusion with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), ahead of Veterans Day.

“This is a pivotal time in our organization’s history. We’ve experienced tremendous growth yet struggled with name and organization confusion, having to clarify who we are, what we do and where we operate,” Executive Director Mike Durkee said in a press release. “Now, instead of starting conversations with ‘who we are not,’ we can start with the number of veterans and familiar members we help every day, and the relief we provide,” he said.

By the end of 2015, the organization had assisted more than 6,000 veterans and veterans’ family members to date, he said. The organization works with Florida VA facilities to screen and refer veterans to offer immediate, emergency relief.

The mission of the Lake Park, Fla.-based organization is to provide temporary financial assistance for post-Sept. 11 veterans who have served during conflicts in Iraq. Founded in 2009, Wounded Veterans Relief Fund is a fraction of the size of WWP, reporting total revenue of almost $700,000 in 2014, with total assets of $175,000.

WWP is among the largest and fastest-growing charities in the country, reporting total revenue of $400 million last year. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based organization has in the past threatened litigation or sued organizations with similar names. In 2009, a jury awarded $1.7 million to WWP and entered a permanent injunction against Omaha, Neb.-based Wounded Warrior Family Support (WWFS), which had changed its name from Wounded Warriors, Inc. The sum included $1.295 million for deceptive trade practices and $400,000 for unjust enrichment as a result of confusion. In 2011, an appeals court upheld the verdict.

More recently, Wounded Warrior Project replaced its top two executives and restructured, laying off more than 10 percent of its workforce, after a series of damaging news stories about its spending practices by CBS News and The New York Times.

Jackie Hart, fundraising and marketing director for Wounded Veterans Relief Fund, said there were no threats by Wounded Warrior Project over their name. “We decided to make the change because of the confusion that we were part of their organization,” Hart said. The new name more accurately reflects not only what we do but the area we cover as well,” she said.