Friday, June 29, 2012

The Incredible Implosion of the Susan G. Komen Foundation

                  By Gary Snyder

Drip, Drip…

The current continuing drumbeat at the Susan G. Komen foundation would seem implausible just over one year ago. Few outsiders would have believed that their beloved foundation had so many systemic problems. But apparently insiders knew that that the organization was devoid of leadership, full of conflicts of interest, practices that were problematic and very questionable financial procedures.

Once the public got a peek at the organizational practices as a result of poor decision-making, the staff started to bail en masse. Virtually all of the staff in prominent positions has left, either voluntarily or otherwise. Many board members have vacated their roles as well.

The very latest loss is pivotal. The development vice president just left. This one is particularly damaging because the turnout at pink-ribbon fundraising is substantially down, some by as much as 40%. Sponsors also took flight with important stalwarts such as U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, who packaged up over $10,000 in contributions last year leaving. The amount is not consequential, but quite symbolic.

But the fading pulse of the organization remains in place and keeps her tight reign. Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen’s sister, continues to make most of the decisions from her perch as both the principal staff member and board member. According to insiders, little goes on without “madam Ambassador’s approval”. Under Brinker’s leadership a controversial decision was made to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Her personal response as the head of the organization to the public outcry enveloped the Komen foundation with even more bad publicly. She exacerbated the clamor by hiring a public relations firm that had a history of attacking Planned Parenthood. Since then, Brinker has not been heard from. There is no spokesperson for the agency.

The organization’s defense of conflicts of interest (the board was stacked with family and close confidantes), poor business practices (Brinker’s use of charity funds for her own personal use; boosters buying Brinker’s endorsement; paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance; huge travel expenses, office, and consulting fees), her leadership (the use of intimidation and firing those that did not follow her directives precisely) have never been addressed.

The stonewalling at Susan G. Komen is legendary. When Brinker was working full-time for the federal government, the agency paid $133,000 for her personal expenses. To date, there has not been a full explanation of the expenditures. There is a remarkable bunker mentality within the leadership as management continues to turn over rapidly.

The puzzling vacuous leadership at Susan G. Komen has lead to a catatonic state for the foundation. I was asked if there is any possibility of reversing the direction of the beloved and revered pink ribbon from what is now said to be pink slime? I am bewildered.

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,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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