The following post was originally posted on December 9, 2010. Almost 2 years ago. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I've pulled this post from the archives to share with you. We still have a great deal of work to do - the Pink Ribbon has fractured the breast cancer community. It's time to work as a collaborative community, ditch the cause marketing campaigns, and refocus on our energies on the real meaning of the pink ribbon: Hope.
As a breast cancer survivor, nothing's more infuriating than reading a story on how the Susan G. Komen Foundation actively pursues lawsuits against smaller foundations and individuals using the term "for the cure" in events or promotional materials. "Kites for the Cure". "Dancing for the Cure," "Dog Parade for the Cure." Komen's got them on their radar. Honestly, don't we ALL have better things to do... like find a CURE for cancer instead of chasing after small time charities?
You can read all about the lawsuits and actions of Susan G. Komen in the following articles:
Charity Brawl: Nonprofits aren't so generous when a name's at stake
Susan G. Komen For the Cure Wages Turf War over Trademark Slogan
Komen Lawsuit points out charity branding issues
The point that I take exception with in all these articles is how Komen defends these lawsuits. Komen's lawyers state that: "The charity views the lawsuits as responsible stewardship of our donor's funds.” Oh really? I haven't donated to Komen in a long time. However, if I was to donate again, I'd certainly hope that my funds were directed to more research, not lawsuits. That got me thinking about the total cost of the lawsuits that Komen's currently involved in. I dug a little deeper and pulled out Komen's annual report from 2009 [pdf]. I was hoping to find a line item in their annual report called "lawsuits" or "lawyer's fees". No such luck. However, I found some other interesting points.
Here's a quick review for 2009:
Komen took in $331,328,414 in donations and revenues.
Komen's General Administration costs, in 2009, were $37,148,000.
Their total fundraising costs across all programs were $29,496,000.
In the same year, the total amount given out, or allocated to:
- Research was $70,147,000
- Educational programs were $135,529,000
- Screening was $39,653,000, and
- Treatment assistance was $22,330,000.
Let's stop right here for a moment and reflect.
A organization that is actively pursuing other small charities over the use of the term "for the cure" does NOT spend the majority of their own funds towards RESEARCH FOR A CURE.
In 2009, according to Komen's Audited Financial Statements[links to PDF], the organization awarded $59,179,051 in research grants out of the total $70,147,000 that makes up the reseach figure. The remaining amount went to fees, travel, salaries, and other costs of business.
So, out of the $331,328,414 raised by public support and revenues, only $59,179,051 went to RESEARCH FOR A CURE. Only 17% of the donations received and revenue earned by Komen in 2009 went to "finding a cure." I find it very hard to believe that Komen's lawyers can justify their lawsuits by claiming they are acting as stewards for their donors' monies. For Komen to lay claim to the term "for the cure" or any variation of "the cure," shouldn't they need to show a greater effort towards funding the research required to find "THE CURE?"
135 million dollars for educational programs will certainly help educate men and women about breast cancer and treatment options, but will not help "cure" cancer.
39 million dollars for screening programs will certainly help men and women receive valuable services and help detect cancers much sooner, but will not help "cure" cancer.
22 million dollars for treatment assistance will certainly help many men and women receive badly needed treatment, medication, surgeries, and support, but will not help "cure" cancer.
Komen needs to reevaluate its mission and branding to be more in line with "curing cancer." It needs to establish its core functions to promote and facilitate efforts "for the cure" if they want to continue to chase down small charities that dare to use that phrase. For the cure, not for the lawsuits.
Health Activists: Are lawsuits like the ones Komen brings about good for the non-profit community? Are we doing enough as donors to make sure our monies are used in the best way? Is a cure for cancer just a dream? Are you surprised by this information? Let's talk!
p.s. Check out page 5 of the audited financial reports. Postage, Bank Fees, and Telephone accounted for $10,233,833 in expenses. I hope they at least bought the breast cancer stamps.