Thursday, March 08, 2012

"ReThink The Pink": breast awareness industry runs amok

Pink is now a marketing titan.  In the cause of beating breast cancer, the color permeates all sorts of consumer products as well as events.   Even the NFL made the leap in a big way, devoting a whole weekend slate of games this year to a pink theme (even as pink trimmed equipment looked ridiculous on 350 lb linemen).

What's often left unsaid is what a rich and lucrative industry breast cancer awareness has become.  Six Billion Dollars a year.  To put it into perspective, fundraising  in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina topped a little over $7 Billion.  But that was a one-time event.  This is $6 billion year after year after year.

Naturally this type of money is like chum in the water for sharks.  One example is the Coalition Against Breast Cancer. CABC offers virtually nothing to the cause after taking in millions. This charity offers all the pitfalls of charitable giving. The New York Attorney General called the charity "a sham." Over a period in which they raised $15 million the leadership of CABC took home $9.1 million in salary and benefits. The telemarketing firm took $3.5 million for its services. You can do the math on the rest.

But The Big One....the one with the Top Of Mind brand name is the  Susan G. Komen Foundation.  The Komen brand can be found cross marketed with a wide array of consumer products ranging from yogurt to automobiles.   You've seen it.  In fact, recently you've seen it in a different light due to one of those occasional flare ups in America's Culture Wars.

While the debate raged around women, abortion, and whatever, a number of people began to comment on the internal operations of the Komen Foundation. According to financial documents Nancy Brinker (founder and sister of the late Susan Komen) took home $417,000 in salary in 2010. This is not an extraordinary salary for  an organization which grossed $420 million, but $3 million for travel and $28 million in office and consulting fees is.

While the problems at Komen are not exclusive to this type of nonprofit,  the Foundation suffers from what ails many other breast cancer charities.

Among the 1%
Nancy Brinker not only founded the effort in 1980, but presently serves as Komen’s Board Chair and its CEO.  This creates a  Founder's Syndrome , which can be a serious problem for a nonprofit, just ask The Second Mile.  The Board Chair must have an arms-length relationship with the management operations of the organization. In her dual leadership roles at Komen, Nancy Brinker is both recommender and decision-maker on all foundation matters.   Highly unethical....bordering on illegal. 

To exacerbate the problem Nancy Brinker is able to pack both the staff and board of Komen with those that are of similar mind. Members of family of leaders are on the board. This gives the appearance of an insiders club similar to the interlocking loyalties which have governed Wall Street.

So while the Susan Komen Foundation tries to repair it's image in the wake of the Planned Parenthood fiasco,  donors and supports should be asking much tougher questions about the ethics and values of its leadership....and whether it is time to withhold support until they ReThink The Pink 


Delvan said...

If you look closer at the Komen Foundation operations, you see all sorts of interlocking deals between various consultants and other nonprofits. Illegal?, probably not. But there is a lot of people making a lot money off all these sponsorships and events.

Anonymous said...

One good thing about the Planned Parenthood fiasco is that it is now OK to criticize the Breast Cancer Fundraising Industry