Pink ribbons adorn various places and items through the year to promote breast cancer awareness. The ribbons are a trademark of the Susan G. Komen foundation, which advocates breast self-awareness as a primary method for fighting breast cancer. Around 458,000 people die of breast cancer each year, it’s no puzzle that we need to raise awareness and money to fight this disease. The Komen foundation devotes millions of dollars to more than 100 research grants aimed at curing, and hopefully preventing, breast cancer. It also funds thousands of community health programs and helps establish new global programs that all help the cause of breast cancer awareness. The foundation has several ways in which it generates revenue to use towards its mission. The Susan G. Komen Race for the cure is the world’s largest fundraising event for breast cancer. The primary source of revenue for the event is donations collected by the participants in the race.
Nothing big comes without its fair share of controversy, the Komen foundation is no exception. In recent years the Komen foundation has faced criticism for how much of its raised money was being donated to cancer research. Should we be donating to this foundation?
The foundation was started when Nancy Goodman Brinker’s sister, Susan Goodman Komen, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and died of the disease at the age of 36 in 1980. Nancy Brinker, who believed that Susan’s outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, promised her sister that she would do everything she could to end breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen foundation was started in 1982 to fulfill that promise in her memory.
Controversy And Criticism
With each year that passed, the foundation grew with volunteers and supporters, and continued to raise more money. In December 2009, Brinker was appointed CEO of the organization. In recent years, Brinker’s organization has been criticized for how they spend the money that people entrust them with. Nancy Brinker’s salary has been a direct target, as in 2011 she was paid $417,712 as CEO, and is currently being paid $684,000 a year according to the charity’s latest available tax filing. This is a bit of a shock, considering not only has the foundation cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on research grants in recent years, but also only spent 15% of its donations from 2011 on research grants and awards. The organization also has a bad reputation for using a lot of its donor funds for legal fees that involve denying other fundraising efforts by other individuals.
The Komen foundation has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred small non-affiliated fundraising charities because of their use of the word “cure” in their charity name or the use of the color pink. According to Komen’s financial statements, the cost of these legal fees add up to almost a million dollars each year, lets not forget this is donated money being spent. Isn’t this supposed to be an organization whose mission is to raise money for a good cause? Why are they so worried that others will also raise money for that same cause? Obviously because it interferes with the business side of their organization, the part where they don’t generate enough money for profit.
The biggest controversy that the Komen foundation has had is that of their relationship with Planned Parenthood. In 2007, Komen granted money to pay for 170,000 clinical breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 2012, Komen stopped funding Planned Parenthood, citing a congressional investigation and a newly created internal rule about not funding organizations under any federal, state or local investigation. This move was applauded by conservative and religious groups but it was denounced by several editorials, women’s health advocacy groups, and politicians. Four days later, due to the public’s response, the foundation reversed the decision and announced it would amend the policy to “make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and no political”.
Komen benefits from corporate partnerships, receiving over $55 million a year from corporate sponsors. There has been a lot of criticism over its choices in partnerships. For the 2008 model year, the Ford Motor company built a branded limited edition of 2500 Ford Mustang motorcars with a “Warriors in Pink” package as part of their long-running association with Komen. A study found that women employed in the automotive plastics industry are almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer, prior to menopause, as women in a control group. In April 2012, Komen paired with KFC to offer “Buckets for the Cure”, a promotion in which fried and grilled chicken was sold in pink branded buckets. The collaboration garnered criticism because of the promotion of unhealthy eating habits and obesity, since obesity itself contributes to breast cancer. Now to be fair, all this criticisms over partnerships is ridiculous, the foundation is trying to raise money for breast cancer research, not obesity issues, that’s another problem in itself.
Would I donate money to this foundation? My answer is yes, and this is my personal reason as to why. Although this isn’t the only foundation out there for this particular cause, it is one that is doing a lot of work on a global scale to help its main mission, breast cancer awareness. I feel like it has done a great job at that, I don’t think there is a single person in the U.S that doesn’t associate a pink ribbon with breast cancer. Although the foundation, according to its own financial records, doesn’t do well in the use of its money, I think that once it realizes that not as many people want to invest in their organization because of their use of funds, they might reconsider some of their financial decisions.
Sources: Wikipedia, Komen.org, Huffington Post, Washington Post