Should there be a leadership change at Susan G. Komen?

It all started out to be a great calling. Nancy Brinker watched her sister, Susan Komen, die of breast cancer. Susan Koman was only 33 when she died. Nancy Brinker started Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982. There isn’t anyone that doesn’t recognize the pink ribbon or the phrase “for the cure.” The Komen foundation is also known for “breast cancer awareness” and the marketing of awareness in the consumer market. Screening and education is a very large portion of Komen’s work. Finding a “cure” seems to be the paramount goal is Susan G. Komen.

But, things, in the past few years some issues have made it tough for Susan G. Komen.

There has been some bad publicity regarding using lawsuits against other charities that use the phrase “for the cure.”

So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure–and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.

Sue Prom, who started a small dog sledding fundraiser for breast cancer called “Mush for the Cure” in Grand Marais, Minn., said she was shocked to hear from Komen’s lawyers this summer asking that she change the name of her event or face legal proceedings.

I am sure the very small dog sledding and cup cake events were a true threat to the Komen brand.

Every October the “Pink” comes out. Aisles are filled with “Pink” merchandise. Even though the merchandise helps awareness efforts a great deal how much money from your purchase goes to research for “the cure?” No one really knows. Some “Pink” merchandise in the stores is not affiliated with any cancer charity. Some say to be sure write a check to Komen or your favorite cancer charity directly.

“It’s left up to shoppers to read the labels on pink-packaged products and determine whether their purchase will actually help a breast-cancer charity or foundation, they say.”If the label says, ‘Money will go to support breast cancer,’ well, what does that mean?” says Barbara Brenner, the executive director of advocacy group Breast Cancer Action. “If it says it will support breast cancer awareness without being specific, it’s not going anywhere.”

Merchandising for Komen is an important revenue source, but many companies give Komen a flat donation no matter what sales are of their “Pink” merchandise.

Some “Pink” merchandise has been questionable. A few years back Komen “pinked” KFC pairing cancer awareness with fast foods that cause obesity, a risk factor for cancer. Another little mistake was with fragrance “Promise Me.”

The fragrance contained Galaxolide, a synthetic musk that works as a hormone disruptor and has been detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns. Toluene  a potent neurotoxicant linked to a variety of demonstrated negative health effects and is widely known as one of the toxic trio. Toluene is banned by the International Fragrance Association.

Along with finding a cure, one of Komen biggest functions is screening. While Planned Parenthood does not have screening facilities, they used the $680,000 annually to help place low income women in screening facilities. In early 2012 the funding to Planned Parenthood ended.

Komen explained its decision by blaming new rules that prohibit it from giving money to groups under federal investigation. Planned Parenthood, which is the subject of congressional inquiry over whether it spent public money on abortions, falls into that category.

Komen went political. Planned Parenthood became a target.

Public outrage over the defunding, prompted Komen Senior Vice President for policy Karen Handel to resign. Karen Handel ran unsuccessfully for Georgia governor in 2010. She called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood in this campaign. Shortly after she resigned, she released a book criticizing Planned Parenthood. Nancy Brinker also announced she would be changing her role at Komen and would search for a new CEO.

Komen did resume funding to Planned Parenthood, but, Komen’s actions did have negative consequences for the charity. Many local affiliates saw donations going down and “Race for the Cure” applications go down as much as 30%.

Allocations to research for the cure have slipped, even before donations went down. In 2008, 29% of donations went to research. 17% in 2009 went to research and 15% in 2011 went to research. Nancy Brinker has also been given a 63% raise in pay from $417,000 in 2011 to $687,717 in 2012. The average nonprofit CEO salary is $132,739.  She still hasn’t given up her position as CEO.

The Komen Foundation has done wonderful work in the name of breast cancer awareness, screening and to some extent, research for a cure. One could ever deny this organization lead an incredible campaign that continues to have big, though some what diminished, support. I would never argue the impact this charity, the past 30 years, has had to the health of many women. I don’t think a single person exists in America that does not know at least one breast cancer survivor and one person that died from the disease. I am close to many survivors.

But, sometimes there is a need to shift to fresh leadership and to recommit and review goals in an organization to push for a renewed effectiveness. It is time for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Really.










4 thoughts on “Should there be a leadership change at Susan G. Komen?

  1. A 63% pay increase for fomenting a leadership crisis, damaging the brand, reducing donations and cutting research grants in half. It’s nice to see that the non-profit sector has learned the art of CEO compensation and the value of packing the “independent” Board.

  2. If they ever want any contributions from me again, they’ve got a lot of image to rebuild. Changing their leadership and making their leadership more transparent would only be a start. Looks to me like the Komen Foundation is just another Tea Party-like conservative front bilking the suckers.

  3. Nancy Brinker was an ambassador to Hungary, just going from memory. She is also married to the namesake of Brinker restaurants.

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