Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure news cycle seems to be winding down just a bit, with the latest reports focusing on Nancy Brinker’s excessive expense reimbursements and calls for her resignation. As the story evolved, I was often asked my opinion. Those who have supported friends and/or walked in races or purchased any of the myriad of Komen-endorsed products want to know that they’ve done good. They want to know that with the re-funding of Planned Parenthood (which appears to mean that PPFA will again be eligible to apply for grants in the future, with no indication that they will be funded) and the resignation of Karen Handel that Komen is once again the venerable breast cancer charity of choice. They want everything to return to business as usual.

It’s only been the last few years that I have paid careful attention to how Komen does business, and it is my belief that spotlight that must continue to shine upon the Komen operation will reveal how far the organization has strayed from their “promise” (read mission). Komen’s “business as usual,” troubles me. While they espouse “for the Cure” language, their practice has meant over a million dollars spent on lawsuits against other non-profits to protect their “brand.” Business as usual has meant that the vast majority of Komen’s fundraising dollars are spent on everything BUT research. Business as usual is top Komen exces taking home six-figure salaries while the disparity in healthcare based on income continues grow, and poverty an ever-increasing risk factor in breast cancer. Business as usual appears to mean that Komen will continue to bow to pressure from the pro-life camp, despite its impact on their ability to fulfill their mission. Business as usual is women are being diagnosed at ever-increasing rates with no end in sight. Business as usual has meant a focus on Komen the Brand, rather than a cure

As a non-profit organization, Komen is a de facto beneficiary of our tax dollars. As such, Komen should be accountable to ALL of us, and yet many of their public statements suggest they believe they are free to do as they please with “their” money while deluding their donor base with “for the Cure” language that is hallow and misleading, at best.

While studying non-profit management in graduate school, I had a professor who routinely reminded us that if you want to know what an organization’s priorities are, look not at its mission statement, but rather at its budget. Only there will you see reflected the true focus of the organization.

Thanks to the thorough look at Komen’s budget {a lasting legacy of the deeply missed Rachel Moro (http://cancerculturenow.blogspot.com/)}, to be as kind as I can, their priorities are in no way aligned with my own. In the wake of the Planned Parenthood defunding, I eagerly made a gift to PPFA in direct protest of Komen’s decision. However, it is crucial to remember that, for all the good PPFA does, it is not a breast cancer charity.

Which begs the question: When it comes to breast cancer, where IS the best place for charitable giving?

As I see it, there are three primary areas to consider. Advocacy. Direct Service. Research. In the coming weeks I will share some stand-out organizations in each of these areas. I’d love to hear from you about your favorite breast cancer non-profits…where they are, what they do, and why they’re different. Tune in as this conversation continues!

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. elynjacobs
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 12:53:20

    Thank you Lori for another excellent post. Komen no longer seeks to serve women or to find the infamous cure they speak of. I find the salaries an issue, but nearly as grotesque as the legal activity of which you speak. This has been proof that they care not about breast cancer or of the cure, only of their bottom line. To be selfishly-unselfish, I would like to mention the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. The sole purpose of Emerald Heart is to help support women in integrative cancer care, as complementary and alternative treatments are not typically covered by insurance, but are so very helpful in the battle against cancer. It is our goal to help women afford mind-body treatments as well as nutritional therapies and supplements that help them heal
    during conventional treatments. While we do not have the funding to pay for extensive alternative treatments, we offer what assistance we can. We believe that no treatment plan is one-size-fits all…we all deserve to find the best treatment possible, for our cancer, our needs, our bodies. Enough of that…Lori, I could probably use your advice, should you have the time and be willing. Regardless, thank you for your wonderful account of this very sad situation. xo


    • Lori
      Feb 26, 2012 @ 12:58:39

      Elyn, if you have a link to Emerald Heart, please include it! If we are to leverage what has happened with Komen, we need to share as much as we can about the healthy organizations out there. As for my help, just let me know what I might be able to do!!


  2. BreastCancerSisterhood.com
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 14:30:52

    I whole heartedly suggest giving to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. She and Avon have the Love/Avon Army of Women, an innovative and exciting approach to finding the cause & prevention of breast cancer. Since every cancer can continue to mutate and change, finding a cure is beyond difficult, prevention is a more logical route. Here’s a link of interest to ALL women, researchers and those who want to donate money. http://bit.ly/xMo2l6



  3. elynjacobs
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 16:16:58

    Lori, here is the link to Emerald Heart: http://www.emeraldheart.org/

    And thank you Lori….will email you…xo


  4. Adena
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 17:18:43

    Lori, I’m so sorry we didn’t have a chance to talk when I was in CA (I’m Cheryl’s sister-in-law, Bill’s sister). I am very involved with great organization here in Mass., the Mass. Breast Cancer Coalition http://www.mbcc.org. Our focus is on prevention, and in particular, focusing on chemicals in the environment. In addition to us, we have a sister organization, the Silent Spring Institute, which does groundbreaking work on the causes of breast cancer. http://www.silentspring.org/ I am not writing as much as I used to, but I have a blog as well, MotherThoughts http://www.motherthoughts.com I wish you the best as you deal with this new challenge. –Adena


    • Lori
      Feb 26, 2012 @ 17:32:39

      Thank you so much for sharing! I’m familiar with Silent Spring, and I look forward to learning more about Breast Cancer Coalition! Environmental Working Group out here sounds like a similar organization. Looking forward to reading your blog, and sharing more time when you’re next in LA!


  5. Lori Port
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 19:57:22

    Hi Lori: Well, most non-profit execs make very nice salaries, and fund raising is a big job which eats up a lot of income. When you looked at Komen’s bottom line, what % of their expenses are devoted to management and fund-raising and what % to their mission-related activities? Best to you and yours, Lori


  6. Nancy's Point
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 11:29:08

    Excellent post, Lori. I agree that an organization’s budget says a whole lot more than its mission statement. I support METAvivor and Breast Cancer Action. I’m sure there are many other worthy places, but Komen is not one of them.


  7. Pink Ribbon Blues (@PinkRibbonBlues)
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 13:42:52

    Thank you for writing this. I too am troubled by Komen’s “business as usual” approach, and I agree with your college professor: “If you want to know what an organization’s priorities are, look not at its mission statement, but rather at its budget.” Many thanks to Rachel Cheetham Moro’s fine accounting skills at The Cancer Culture Chronicles for sharing Komen’s true mission: Solidifying the brand and increasing assets. – Gayle Sulik


  8. The Accidental Amazon
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 09:05:52

    Bravo, Lori. It is often difficult for people to see behind the public face of any charitable organization, large or small, to decide which deserve support. I tend to try to find some smaller local ones, but even then, the stated mission and the manifest activities of such groups are sometimes poles apart. We all need to contribute to this discussion, however, and help remind people how to develop some criteria for making our decisions on whom to support. I’m still inclined often just to put some cold, hard cash directly into the hands of someone who has cancer. Whether you have insurance or not, a job or not, a disability or not, cancer has a negative impact on one’s finances, too. It makes me insane how many people I know who’ve been driven into poverty by cancer, when groups Komen rake in so much money & Brinker hauls in a six-figure income. I count myself lucky I can still work (part-time) & that I have health insurance, and yet, I don’t know if my own bank account will ever fully recover from cancer’s impact.


  9. Jan Baird Hasak
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:16:00

    I’m so glad you keep the conversation alive. I’m hard-pressed to think of a breast cancer organization behind which I could stand unconditionally. I guess that’s a sad commentary on our cancer culture. I question the motives of so many of these non-profits, now that my eyes have been opened to their deceptive practices and underlying agendas. Thanks for the excellent post!


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