Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation (WQW) is committed to transparency and accountability to the public, our donors and most importantly, the warriors we serve.

In 2007, WQW was founded in Bozeman, MT to bring hope, camaraderie, trust and serenity to post-9/11 combat-wounded veterans through fly fishing; considered by some in the military medical community as “the gold standard.” Although we serve the nation’s wounded and are supported by volunteers and donors from throughout the country, WQW’s operations are based solely in Montana and we function as an independent organization with no chapters or formal affiliates. Some of our warrior participants have learned out about our program through other veteran service organizations, but we have never sought or received funding from other veteran service groups, public or private.

WQW has served 326 unique combat-wounded veterans through our Fishing Experiences (FX) and 79 of their spouses through our Couples FXs. In addition, we have brought 65 returning warriors back, mostly through a Couples or Alumni FX. WQW is a small program with a focus on quality over quantity. Critical to our success is our commitment to follow up services that actively engage alumni, not only to serve as mentors to new warriors who are reaching out for help, but to advance their own healing by giving back to others (greater self-efficacy).

 

Accountable Growth

Initially, WQW was an all-volunteer run organization from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, the Board of Directors decided to professionalize the organization with the goal of ultimately serving more of the men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat-related wounds, both seen and unseen.

WQW follows up with most of our participants after their participation in a six-day FX with us in a variety of ways. Many relationships between warriors and the staff, volunteers and guides are created organically and they continue those relationships after the FX through email, social media, and even personal visits. WQW volunteers often receive wedding, baby and graduation announcements from warriors years after their FX with us. WQW also employs a Director of Warrior Services to follow up with participants between 4 and 12 times a year to see how they are doing in their individualized journey of recovery. Last year, WQW launched an “alumni-only” Facebook group page for participants to continue the camaraderie they experienced here. Also last year, WQW formally launched an Alumni Companion FX model in which former participants serve as the volunteer companion to new warriors to the program. That, in conjunction with our long-running Couples FX, are two of the additional ways we continue our relationship with participants past their initial experience with WQW.

WQW continues to research and expand our services for alumni of the program and others in order to improve upon each participant’s short and long-term outcomes.

 

Outcomes/Impact

Throughout the years, WQW has witnessed the following outcomes as a result of warrior’s completion of our programs.

Short-term outcomes:

  • Improved mood (decreased feelings of hopelessness and symptoms of depression)
  • Enhanced sense of camaraderie (decreased feelings of isolation, improved social capital, greater feelings of connectedness, realization of a support network)
  • Greater trust (particularly for those in the civilian world)
  • Deeper desire for change (plan to achieve personal goals, greater confidence to do so)
  • Improved management of physical limitation (improved ability to take on challenges)

Long-term outcomes:

  • Better Mental Health
  • Healthier Relationships
  • Greater Self-Efficacy

Plans are underway to launch a new measurement system for these outcomes this year as well as an updated strategic plan.

To learn how WQW warrior participants feel about our program, please peruse our website for a number of moving testimonials and visit the “Impact” section of our website to see videos that capture their feelings. In addition, the WQW office has a multi-page collection of responses that we would be happy to share upon request.

 

Program vs. Administration/Fundraising Costs

In 2012, our program expenses attributed for 80% of all our expenses, meaning 80% of all money raised went directly to the warriors. Twenty percent went to the administrative and fundraising functions that enable our program.

In 2013, it was 69% because for the first time in the organization’s seven-year history, professional staff was hired and an official office was established. Concurrently, we served more wounded warriors in 2013 than ever before.

In 2014, it was 72%. Again, we served more warriors in 2014 than ever before.

Our IRS Form 990 for 2015 is not yet finalized but the figures in our Annual Report outline program expenses at 80% of all annual operating expenses. In 2015, WQW also launched the “Home for Healing” Capital Campaign. With capital campaign figures included, we project program expenses will represent 75% of our total budget.

Our IRS Form 990s and Annual Reports can be found on our website for more detail. Reviewed Financial Statements can be requested from our office.

 

Spending Philosophy

The annual “Compensation Report: An Analysis for Montana Nonprofits” is used as a guideline for all staff salaries. The Board of Directors adopted an Executive Director Compensation Policy last year to assist in providing a fair yet reasonable and not excessive compensation for the Executive Director.

Per WQW’s Personnel Policy, employee spending for business related travel, lodging, and meals shall be limited to the lesser of the actual cost or the applicable rates set by the U.S. General Services Administration (“GSA”). When travel is necessary, employees do not fly first class or business class (we used donated miles when possible), we stay with friends if possible and if not, we stay at “Holiday Inn” style hotels, etc. Most of the furniture in our office has been donated or is used.

In its history, WQW has had one “staff development/bonding” activity that was a half-day, local outdoor activity. WQW’s board of directors will be conducting its first, two-day strategic planning board retreat in 2016. Funding for that local outing will be covered by a grant received for strategic planning expenses.

For any additional information or questions, please contact Faye Nelson, Executive Director, at faye@warriorsandquietwaters.org or (406) 585-9793.