Two years ago Komen Race for the Cure, a breast cancer awareness fundraising event in Indianapolis, drew nearly 37,000 participants. Last Saturday the charitable event saw a scant 21,380 registrations. Organizers suggest poor weather and competing events lowered both the numbers and total dollar amount of contributions, but critics claim the Planned Parent controversy and economic efficiency are the real reasons for the less than desirable turnout.
A January 2012 controversy in the group's national office has clearly eroded some of Komen's support. At that time the organization disclosed its decision to eliminate $680,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings and education programs. Seen by many as a statement against legal abortion (as Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider), the decision evoked heated criticism, including social media callouts for boycotts of the organization as well as its corporate sponsors. Acting quickly, Komen restored the grants, yet this pointed mea culpa failed to restore public favor. If anything, it politicized the previously acceptable non-profit even more.
On the heels of the Planned Parenthood debacle, expenditures created a smaller controversy. The non-profit reported total revenues of nearly $312 million in the fiscal year ended March 2010. Yet administrative and fundraising costs, combined, consumed 21.3 percent of total expenses while only 20.9 percent was expended for research. Although many people believe public health education (39.1 percent), health screening services (13.0 percent) and treatment (5.6 percent) to be worthwhile expenditures, others argue such costs remain outside the non-profit's central mission. Independent charity watchdog, CharityWatch, states that a top-rated charity is one that will "generally spend 75 percent or more of it budgets on programs ... $25 or less to raise $100 in public support." Komen, then, is well within their scheme for a top-rated charity.
Damage control has consisted of, in part, the resignation of Karen C. Handel, formerly the group's senior vice president for public policy who advocated cutting financing to Planned Parenthood. Author of "Planned Bullyhood: The Truth About the Planned Parenthood Funding Battle With Susan G. Komen for the Cure," Ms. Handel has stated that she expressed her views publicly before joining Komen.
To restore its brand, Komen now seizes every chance to remind critics of its good deeds. "What we are focused on now is mission," said Andrea Rader, Managing Director of Communications, in 2012. "All we can do is demonstrate that what we do is important, it matters, it saves lives, it gets us closer to cure."