Unless you have been away from just about every possible media source the last 3 days, you have probably heard about the utter public relations fail of the Susan G Komen foundation. At best, they have naively applied an entirely NEW criteria for grant funding to various Planned Parenthood clinics around the country essentially blocking PP from any further money. At worst, their pro-life heavy executive group conspired to take advantage of the recent GOP Congressional attacks on PP and pull funding because they disagree with 3% of what PP does in their clinics.
What made it such a PR debacle is that, the worst case scenario seems the most likely given the steps taken in the past year which were easily exposed. They didn’t even control the messaging here – the press release about the withdrawal of funding was made by PP, not SGK. And just like that a non-profit organization that enjoyed fairly close to universal support lost a large chunk of it’s reputation. Even with rumblings in the past about their aggressive lawsuits against ANYONE who uses the words “for the cure”, and being criticized for not seeming to care about environmental factors that contribute to increased cancer rates, the majority of the public viewed them with warm and fuzzy feelings. I’ve walked in two of their 3-day walk events (the 1st one I did was actually an Avon 3-day) and I’ve donated to walkers every year when I couldn’t participate myself.
Now? Many people I know who were signed up to walk in 2012 canceled. People funneled donations directly to PP effectively erasing the lost funds. Employees of SGK resigned. Regional SGK chapters (every single one in California for instance) rebuked the home office decision.
Yes, they are a private non-profit that can take political stands if they choose. BUT – they spent 30 years NOT doing that. Their mission was to fund breast cancer research, detection, treatment and awareness ESPECIALLY to segments of the population who didn’t have easy access to medical assistance. Thanks to SGK, people were literally kind of up to HERE with pink ribbons! Which is a GOOD thing because lordy – were we ALL totally aware! But they flushed all that away by taken was so obviously a political position on a very polarizing topic – abortion rights and access. In 24 hours they jumped into one of the hottest pots of oil you could choose! So dumb. When you rely on donations and volunteers you want to INCREASE your pool of potential donors, not DECREASE it drastically.
3 days later now – as of earlier this morning – they have reversed their decision. But, not before inviting scrutiny on themselves that they really couldn’t pass IMHO. The earlier complaints I mentioned are back in the news. A not so flattering documentary is being released this weekend about them and it was filmed BEFORE any of this happened. The main brain trust of the group has had their political agenda exposed. Even if that whole group (including the founder) stepped away, I am not sure the organization could recover. Only 17% of money donated goes to actual research? The President is drawing a $500k salary? They granted $7.5 million to Penn State and never thought of pulling THAT money away after the child rape charges yet they pulled $650k from PP due to a NON CRIMINAL congressional investigation?
So much they have to overcome. I have the strong feeling that even after backing away from this, more stories will surface about their questionable activities and they will be tainted for the long haul.
Anyhow – here are some of my favorite articles I read this week that I shared on my Facebook page and which sparked some great discussions.
Top Susan G Komen official resigned over Planned Parenthood cave in (The Atlantic – focus on background motivations))
How Komen Flushed Their brand in 24 Hours (Winning The Internet – marketing angle)
The Race for Respect - (Margaret and Helen – because everything they post on politics is brilliant and funny)
Komen’s Choice - (New Yorker Commentary)
And – my two favorite quotes from those stories that pretty much sums up the whole issue here:
“Maybe we should stop Walking for a Cure and start Walking for Respect. I mean it. Really.”
“In American politics, women’s bodies are not bodies, but parts. People like to talk about some parts more than others.” – Jill Lepore