Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are Breast Cancer Charities Worthy of Your Support?

By Gary Snyder

Aside from all of the front-page news about the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood fiasco, there are other more significant issues that should be addressed. This storm will eventually blow over, but the conduct of the breast cancer charities may not.
The Incredible Mix up
As anyone on earth knows, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation's leading anti-breast-cancer charity pulled the plug on funding Planned Parenthood grants for cancer screenings and mammogram referrals. The Komen foundation had several reasons none of which were coordinated with interviews or corporate public relation statements from the president and chairman. It was a chaotic nightmare. After a firestorm of criticism for four days, Komen reversed it its decision.
Many issues seemed to swirled around Karen Handel, Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy. Insiders suggest that she was the main force behind the decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood but the public relations experts tried to attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical. Ari Fleischer’s involvement did not help matters. The one time Bush Press Secretary and Planned Parenthood detester, and confidant of Nancy Brinker, played a part in orchestrating the debacle. As a result, some key insiders resigned.
The Organizational Conflicts
The attention to the Planned Parenthood conflict brought interest in the internal operations of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. According to financial documents Nancy Brinker took home $417,000 in salary in 2010. This is not an extraordinary salary for the size of the charity, but $3 million for travel and $28 million in office and consulting fees is. As I write this article, I realized that Karen Handel has resigned. I wonder what the payout is going to be. According to its 2010 federal tax submission the organization paid former CEO and President Hala Moddelmog almost $300,000 for not working one hour.

The charity’s decision-making reflects many breast cancer charities that have received recent unfavorable expose. Brinker is founder and both the chairman of Komen’s board of directors and its CEO. This dual role causes many problems. The chairmanship is supposed to be at arm-length relationship with the operation arm of the organization. In her two roles she is both recommender and decision-maker on all foundation matters. As staff she is able to distill all information that goes before the board. As board chair, she is able to influence the outcomes of all matters she, as staff, recommend. This is toxic relationship.

To exacerbate the problem she is able to pack both the staff and board with those that are of similar mind. Members of family of leaders are on the board. This entire set up gives the appearance of a fiefdom.

Some Breast Cancer Charities Are Dubious 

Breast Cancer is huge business. About $6 billion a year is committed to breast cancer research and awareness campaigns. As a Marie Claire magazine report noted, all is not well in the breast care industry. (public declaration: I assisted on this article) Thousands are making handsome salaries and some are not even legit.

The Coalition Against Breast Cancer offers virtually nothing to patient after taking in millions. This charity offers all the pitfalls of charitable giving. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the charity a sham. Over a period of 15 years the principal associates stole $9.1 million. The telemarketing firm took $3.5 million for its services.

The United Cancer Council hired Watson & Hughey Company (W & H) as its only fundraiser. During the term of the contract, of its net charitable proceeds of $28-odd, $26-plus million went right back out, to W & H.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation was a family affair. With collections of about $10 million, the founder takes home $200,000, her son $180,000, her husband and another son all share in the largess at the expense of those in need. It even endorses misleading jewelry. About 40% of its revenues were not spent toward its mission.

Cancer Fund of America is a controversial group. Both the Better Business Bureau and the nonprofit rating agency Charity Navigator have blasted it for giving less than a penny of every dollar raised to cancer patients. Charity Navigator once listed the Cancer Fund of America Support Services, as one of "10 Non-Profits That Make Ebenezer Proud." In 2007, the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs accused that group of making false and misleading claims in its mail solicitations, allegations that the Cancer Fund of America ultimately settled for $50,000

Breast Cancer Society (BCS) claims it raised $50 million in contributions in tax filings but when pressed by Marie Claire magazine the founder said that it raised just $15 million in cash donations in 2009. The other $35 million represented his estimate of medications that the BCS accepted as gifts or bought at a major discount but then listed on its books as having much higher values. He says he gets the meds from other organizations, including the Ontario-based Universal Aide Society, which saw its Canadian charitable status revoked two years ago for malfeasance. In 2009, the leader collected a $223,276 salary.

With incredible fraud and virtually no check on governance, breast cancer charities should be under assault.  Exerting its leadership, Susan G. Komen has a unique opportunity to make changes that will instill the confidence that has been sorely eroded.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, , Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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