Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - The Komen Foundation and How to Blow Your Own Credibility

Unless you lived under a rock this past week, you are aware of the fiasco that ensued last Tuesday when news broke that Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen) was no longer going to provide grants to Planned Parenthood  and then retracted that decision a few days later, under fire from those who opposed it.

However you view Komen's decision and subsequent retraction, I don't think anybody is happy with Komen today.

I've read conflicting reports about why the decision was made in the first place.  Some say it was because anti-abortion forces convinced Komen leadership to disassociate itself from the nation's largest abortion provider.  Some say it was a geniune move to streamline its grant-making procedures and give grants only to organizations that directly provide mammograms (Planned Parenthood provides initial breast cancer screening and then refers clients to other facilities for mammograms).  Other reports say that Komen simply wanted to be neutral on a hot-button political issue.

But there's clearly no neutrality, no Switzerland, when it comes to the politics of women's health.

What Komen now has is a pro-choice donor base that had two or three days to find lots of other reasons to not like Komen. In a "well, I didn't like them anyway" fashion,  social media sites last week were abuzz with criticisms of their extensive cause-related marketing campaign (think pink yogurt); questions about Komen grants to other institutions; and concerns about how their walks and runs in support of breast cancer awareness really do just that.  Komen reversed it's decision, but it has a lot cleanup to do to win back the confidence of their pro-choice donors.  

They have also now loudly announced themselves to abortion opponents, many of whom seek to defund Planned Parenthood, as clearly in support of the mission of [their]  Enemy #1.  If there was any anti-abortion donor who didn't know of Komen's association with Planned Parenthood, they do now.  Komen can't get these donors back.  Any move to appease them would be bring a repeat of last week's events.

In what was plausibly an effort to escape the culture wars, Komen landed right in the center.

The job for Komen now is to define it's place and build from there.  I have little doubt that it will do it.  This BBB accredited charity has power in its branding, name recognition, and mission.  It will bounce back. 

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