It’s been six months since the news broke about Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s changes to its grants policy, resulting in a loss of funding eligibility for Planned Parenthood. Three days later, after a public relations maelstrom and outrage from many of its affiliates, the organization reversed its decision.
Impacts to individual Komen affiliates since then has varied greatly, with the Puget Sound Affiliate hit especially hard. The annual gala auction on March 3rd raised more than expected, but June’s Race for the Cure came in $700K below goal. As the Affiliate’s largest fundraiser, this shortfall will most certainly reduce the availability of free mammograms and patient assistance funds for women in Western Washington.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet Komen President Elizabeth Thompson, who shared her perspective on the conversations leading up to the Planned Parenthood announcement. As with any polarizing news story, it can be challenging to ensure the accuracy of information shared in the media.
Liz didn’t offer excuses.
Rather, she accepted responsibility for the mistakes of the organization’s leadership, fully acknowledged the gravity of the situation, and spoke to the lessons Komen continues to learn from this crisis. She believes the foundation has a responsibility to continue to tell the breast cancer story, but in “a better and different way.”
Liz also talked about some significant changes being made at the national level:
- A strategic communications firm has been retained to help with immediate and long-term communication plans, something that was painfully missing during the days following the announcements. Efforts will also be made to increase transparency into the organization’s decision making process.
- Komen’s Board of Directors has traditionally held one of its nine positions for an affiliate representative. This is being increased to two positions.
- Among other leadership changes, the organization has hired a new General Counsel and is in the process of hiring a Chief Operating Officer.
- Seven Regional Vice President positions have been created to serve “as a two-way communications conduit between Headquarters and Affiliates, ensuring Affiliates stay informed of and aligned with Headquarters initiatives, and that Affiliate perspectives and needs are heard and responded to at Headquarters.”
Komen is currently focused on addressing ongoing impacts to local communities, where the anger and disenchantment of supporters is having a direct, negative effect on fundraising efforts. Here in the Puget Sound region, the decrease in funds will result in fewer breast health services for underserved women. With the year’s remaining major fundraising events scheduled for October, the Puget Sound Affiliate has its work cut out.
This has been a challenging time for everyone involved with Komen, but I stand firm in my commitment to the organization’s efforts.
How about you? Six months later, how do you feel?