Michael's Dispatches

Soldiers' Angels is Dying


22 July 2012

On 17 July 2012, Soldiers' Angels announced that Executive Director Toby Nunn was leaving the organization.  Rumors of impropriety have surrounded Nunn.  Plenty of those landed in my inbox and in my ears.  I warned SA leadership and the public.

Moreover, a roadkill stench follows the Soldiers' Angels Trustees Matthew Burden and Mark  Seavey.  Both use their perches in various high-profile organizations to advance political agendas and personal vendettas, while consolidating influence.  Yet today, their reputations are sinking.

Seavey recently tried to bolster his flagging image by doing a short embed in Afghanistan as a journalist.  Seavey, a lawyer, in addition to being a Trustee at Soldiers' Angels, holds a leadership position as the new media director for the American Legion.

But embedding is not as easy as it sounds. It is expensive, dangerous work.  Seavey did not last long.  He lasted forty days, he says, but anyone with experience in that line of work knows the negative value of micro-embeds, and that forty-days is hardly enough to get there, unpack, get started, and leave.  This is not even enough time to complete basic military training, but is plenty of time for a photo op.  "There I was..."  Micro-embeds are about image, not substance.

Burden and Seavey are known for vicious attacks on those who do not agree with their politics and positions.  Why is this important?  Because despite the steady financial decline of Soldiers' Angels, the charity still brings in about $12 million in donations per year to support troops. It has become a fun-raiser (for having fun), a political vehicle, and a mallet to use against people who step beyond cult boundaries.  Intimidation is the norm.

The leadership of SA has become enamored with the spotlight and influence. They have flown too close to the sun.


Months ago, I publicly warned about Soldiers' Angels, and I was thoroughly pounded, experiencing the customary discrediting attacks.  Some demanded that I apologize. But when the flak gets that intense and personal, it often means that you are on target.  Open the doors and drop the load.

This month, Charity Navigator released their worst rating to date on Soldiers' Angels.  SA received 1 star out of 4 on the financial rating, with an overall score of 2 stars.  (SA ended with 2 stars because they received 4 stars on transparency, which is like a suspect voluntarily opening his trunk after a dog alerts and a warrant is forthcoming. 'Transparency' is hardly a factor when a heavy sack of crystal meth is found.)

The 1 star rating is a reflection of the organization’s 1 star leadership.

The leadership of a once fine organization—an organization that has done outstanding work and is still filled with a significant number of extraordinary people—has sailed the ship aground.  The SA situation is beginning to look like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, only instead of dumping poison crude into once-pristine waters, Soldiers' Angels is pouring money into oblivion.

Caring people who wish to help veterans must ask themselves: should I dump money into an organization with an increasingly bad reputation and a 1 star financial rating, or should I invest in a competent charity with a 4 star rating?  After all, donations are also investments in an organization's future, and SA's future looks increasingly bleak.

One might wonder why Toby Nunn, a former Soldier with no experience in non-profits, was made executive director of a complex organization pulling in nearly $12 million dollars a year.  He was a pilot who could not read the gauges in the cockpit or the dark clouds ahead.

Of course Nunn can be the face of veterans, because he himself is one, but the organization has drifted from its honorable wellsprings to become more about fundraising, funraising, access, and clout.  Nunn as Executive Director created the emotional base, and the face, to keep the cash flowing.

Now, just as the 1 star financial rating was issued, Nunn is out the door.  The odds are high that Nunn did not just up and walk away from that $85,625 salary and all of those perks.

The 1 star rating is a result of monkeys in the cockpit.  Nunn is gone.  Now Soldiers’ Angels must purge Burden and Seavey.  If they all stick together, they will all crash together.

You heard it here first, months ago, long before it became obvious.  Angry readers demanded proof.  I refused, saying stick around, you will see that Soldiers’ Angels is crashing.  The press still does not realize that Soldiers' Angels flew too close to the sun, and is plummeting down, down into the deep, dark seas of history.


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