Business/Finance

Komen Foundation circling the drain? Good riddance, and good news for cancer research

CATEGORY: KomenThe Susan Komen Foundation announced this past week that it’s slashing the number of cancer walks it stages in half.

In a decision “not made lightly,” the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure announced Wednesday that it was canceling seven of its signature three-day fundraising walks next year.

The decision comes about 18 months after the organization stoked considerable rage from some supporters when then-Komen Vice President Karen Handel pushed the organization to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Komen eventually reversed the decision, angering some other supporters.

Leaving aside for a second that the last sentence there is fundamentally incorrect – Komen did not reverse the decision and everyone, including the usually on-the-spot Ragan.com staff and, I don’t know, seemingly every news organization in America, fell for the PR misdirection – this is dire news for the foundation and good news for everybody else, including those who lives depend on finding a cure for breast cancer.

If you recall, S&R was brutally critical of Komen’s decision to put social conservative ideology ahead of women’s health, and until such time as the organization is fully rid of those responsible for the Planned Parenthood decision (primarily founder/CEO Nancy Brinker and, one assumes, all of her close associates), the conviction here remains the same: burn it to the ground, scrape the lot and dedicate our resources to those whose commitment to curing breast cancer has as its top and only priority, you know, curing breast cancer.

In this light, Komen shutting down half its events strikes us as good news, but the job is only half done. And don’t be fooled by the foundation’s slickly-crafted official statement, which is, not surprisingly, more PR smoke and mirrors:

“Many participants have reported that enthusiasm for the series remains very high, but it is more difficult for people to donate at levels they had in the past,” she said in a statement.

Yes, it’s more difficult because millions of former supporters are now done with Komen because of its conservative religious agenda.

But wait – it gets worse. Komen has been dinged a couple other times in recent months, as the Ragan article notes.

First, Komen has cut the proportion of its revenue that goes to actual research by half, with only 15% of the cash it rakes in finding its way into actual cancer research programs. That may not get them on the 50 Worst Charities list, but it has them closer to the neighborhood than a prospective donor might like.

Second, many potential supporters couldn’t have been happy to learn that Brinker’s salary jumped. Boy howdy, did it jump.

The embattled former CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure made $684,717 in 2012, Dallas News reported.

That’s 64 percent more in 2012 than she earned from April 2010 to April 2011.

Maybe this, plus the decision to hire a high-profile PR firm, helps explain why they had to trim their proportional commitment to research funding.

As I say, this is all potentially very good news for cancer research. There are a lot of very good cancer charities out there, and 11 of them earned an A- grade or better from CharityWatch.org. At least three of their top-rated organizations are explicitly dedicated to breast cancer, including the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (A) and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (A+). The latter says it dedicates more than 90 cents of every dollar it collects to research and awareness programs, and while I’d like to see the details on the “awareness” component, which might well include the in-house marketing and development budget, the available evidence suggests that their on-point expenditures come in well north of Komen’s.

Let’s do a little math here. The Reuters article says that Komen spent $63M on research in 2011, and that this represented 15% of the donations they received. Which means their total donations were roughly $420M, right? Let’s be extremely generous and take Komen at their word about their expenditures. If we do, and if we attempt to parallel them with what BCRF’s “research and awareness” probably entails, then we get to around 75% of Komen’s total spend on education, research awards and grants, screening and treatment.

Now, say that instead of all that money going to Komen, it went to the BCRF. And let’s suppose that the BCRF managed those funds the way they manage the ones they already take in. Komen’s theoretical 75 cents on the dollar vs. BCRF’s 91 cents on the dollar adds up to a difference of $67M and change, if my calculations are accurate. Again, this is being as generous to Komen as we can possibly be.

So let’s not lament the Komen Foundation’s self-inflicted downfall. Their demise doesn’t hurt our search for a cure in the least – in fact, if all that energy and enthusiasm that Komen so effectively harnessed is simply redirected toward better organizations, it should actually be a good thing.

Seven down, seven to go.

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