Report: Practices of Russell Wilson’s foundation in question

Russell Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation raises millions of dollars, but according to a six-month USA Today investigation, less than half goes to charity.

Wilson’s organization reported it spent almost $600,000 benefiting charities in 2020 and 2021. But, spent nearly twice as much, $1.1 million, on salaries and employee benefits, according to the report citing federal tax records.

The foundation also reportedly exaggerated how much money it was responsible for bringing in.

“The Why Not You Foundation donated $78,000 to Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2019, according to tax records, a fraction of the $2.6 million check presented. It has donated $836,000 to Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation since its inception, according to tax records.”

Why Not You spent more than $200,000 for an executive who also worked for the family’s office, raising possible legal questions, according to non-profit experts.

In an email to USA Today, “Millions of dollars in funds raised by the Why Not You Foundation go through our partners who can deliver that money where it is needed more directly,” Scott Pickett, CFO of the foundation, wrote. “Those funds were raised, in large part, through the work of the foundation, but you would not see all of those dollars in the foundation’s tax documents.”

The Why Not You group said partnerships it’s involved with make an indirect impact on charities.

However, less than half of all money raised by the foundation, $2.8 million, goes to charitable activities. The remaining $4.2 million go towards fundraising, administrative, and management activities.

In 2021, the most recent year for which federal tax records are available, Why Not You reported $1.2 million in revenue and $1.2 million in expenses, including $340,000 spent on program services.

The top three executives in Why Not You account for $441,000 in expenses.

“I think that they were paid appropriately based on their talent, experience, and the knowledge they were bringing to us,” said Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s attorney and sports agent, to USA Today.

CharityWatch, the only independent charity watchdog group in the country, said top executives’ salaries do not align with how much Why Not You generates. “An important part of how a nonprofit justifies its existence is by quantifying what it is accomplishing relative to the resources it receives,” Laurie Styron, the executive director said.

The charity’s federal tax returns list only three voting members of its governing body, including Wilson, the president, who is unpaid. Zero is independent of family or outside financial ties to Wilson.

Russell Wilson has not commented on the story or addressed the issue on his Twitter feed.

The Russell Wilson Foundation, doing business as the Why Not You Foundation, was established in 2014.

This story was originally published on MyNorthwest.com.