The Russell Wilson Foundation, doing business as the Why Not You Foundation, is facing questions for seemingly raising millions but only giving about a quarter of total funds raised to people in need.
A USA Today investigation found that the Denver Broncos QB’s organization reported it spent just 24.3 cents of every dollar on charitable activities in 2020 and 2021 combined and nearly twice as much, $1.1 million, on salaries and benefits during that time, according to IRS record.
Report: Investigation has found that #Broncos QB Russell Wilson’s foundation has spent just 24.3 cents of every dollar on charitable activities in 2020 and 2021 combined.
The foundation has raised millions, but only a quarter of it goes to charity.https://t.co/147pKFu5C2 pic.twitter.com/xMm2I7uaET
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 9, 2023
Did Russell Wilson Know About Shady Dealings By His Charity?
Wilson and his R&B singer wife, Ciara, are known to be extremely charitable and have used their celebrity to battle food insecurity, expand educational opportunities and promote social justice and racial equality.
“Doing good deeds and showing care and compassion for other people is something we should all do,” said Laurie Styron, the executive director of CharityWatch, the only independent charity watchdog group in the U.S. “It doesn’t require founding a charity. An important part of how a nonprofit justifies its existence is by quantifying what it is accomplishing relative to the resources it receives.”
All nonprofit 501(c)(3) entities must file 990 forms with the IRS that detail the organization’s entire annual financial situation. The USA Today report described what its review of years of Wilson’s charity’s 990 returns showed:
Form 990 federal tax returns from the nonprofit’s inception through 2021 show it reported $7.5 million in revenue and $7 million in expenses during its first eight years of existence.
Less than half of the money — $2.8 million, or 39.6 cents of every dollar spent — has gone to charitable activities, all as grants to other nonprofits.
The remaining $4.2 million has paid for fundraising, administrative and management expenses, including the salaries of three employees, who have received $1.9 million combined.
In 2020 Wilson was named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award that recognizes an NFL player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
“Russell Wilson has always prioritized serving his community, but this year, he met the challenge and more when it was needed most,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when Wilson was given the award. “He has shown continued excellence on the field for nine seasons, but the work he has done to help youth and fight food insecurity through his Why Not You Foundation bolsters his lasting legacy.”
Regardless of Wilson’s reputation as someone that does well in his community and for others. This situation with his nonprofit entity is not a good look.
In 2020, the Why Not You Foundation reported $838,000 in revenue and $1.2 million in expenses, including $257,000 on program services, meaning just 21.3 cents of every dollar spent went to charitable activities.
Where Did The Rest Of The Money Go?
The nonprofit spent more than twice as much — $548,000 — on salaries and employee benefits. Three of its employees were paid $441,000 combined. Ryan Tarpley was paid $209,000 to serve as chief strategy officer and Carly Young earned $166,000 as executive director, both full-time positions. Scott Pickett received $66,000 for 15 hours of work per week, according to the nonprofit’s 2020 federal tax return.
Making matters even murkier, Tarpley was paid more than double the median for a CEO the size of the Why Not You Foundation.
“The nonprofit space is governed by fair market value,” Morton said to USA Today. “You can say, ‘Oh, they’re super talented.’ That’s fine. In the for-profit space, the sky is the limit. Pay them whatever you want. But in the nonprofit space, no matter how talented you are, no matter how qualified you are, you are subject to those limits for comparable compensation.”
Tarpley also served as chief strategy officer for the Wilson family office which is a relationship that needed to be disclosed and wasn’t.
This is a bad look for Wilson as it is his foundation. Whether or not he was aware of what was going on is irrelevant. He’s the figurehead and the famous athlete attached to this. If anything untoward occurred he will have to answer for it.