Thursday, May 9, 2013

Decade-long Ruse @ the Susan G. Komen Foundation

by Gary Snyder

For those financial and emotional supporters of Susan G. Komen for the Cure've been duped. 

There is overwhelming evidence that Nancy Brinker wants to promote herself, in many ways, at the expense of furthering the mission of the Foundation. 

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is currently the nation’s leading anti-breast cancer charity in terms of total revenue; but it has shown the depths to which an organization's trust can fall.

Komen had a precipitous fall from a number two ranking in a 2011 survey to a number 56 ranking in 2012 between Jan. 31 and Feb. 20, 2012. “Since it was first surveyed in EquiTrend, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has in many ways represented the 'gold standard' among non-profits measured in our study, consistently reporting high scores for quality, the willingness to recommend and, most importantly, trust. Komen finds itself near the bottom of the pack on all of these items.”

Its contributions, program revenue and total revenue are falling while salaries and other compensation as well as professional fundraising is rising. Komen's leader, Brinker's, total compensation has taken a 64% jump to $684,717 as has the president's salary by 26% to $375,000.

Brinker's compensation is particularly noteworthy. Nine months ago, in an attempt to stem the negative press, the Komen Foundation splashed press releases throughout the media that Brinker was stepping down from her CEO position. It noted that she would be chairwoman of the Komen Board Executive Committee. Her stratospheric compensation is most likely the highest paid board member in the charitable sector. She is also in an elite group. Less than 2% of nonprofit board members take any compensation at all.

Some have suggested that the reason for Komen’s poor performance is, in part, because its lack of commitment to finding a cure. Last year, under Brinker’s leadership, Komen was cast in a harsh light after revelations that it spent only 15 percent of its donations on research and nixed funding for breast-cancer screenings and services for Planned Parenthood. Many fellow breast-cancer organizations feel that the Komen self-adoration has overtaken any interest in cure research with its research funding being cut in half in the past couple of years.

The Komen brand image has plummeted. Turnout at pink-ribbon fundraising events is substantially down, some by as much as 40%.

There are an abundant reasons for the fall. 

Nancy Brinker has had a list of conflicts-of-interest. Over vehement objections by other breast cancer groups, Komen (Brinker) endorsed a cancer treatment with troubling links to uterine cancer. Its maker had been a long supporter of Komen. In another instance of bad judgment, Brinker caused controversy by sitting on the board of a for-profit chain of cancer treatment centers. In yet another example, she had Susan G. Komen invest over $150,000 in her husband’s company.  Much of her financial transactions and cozy political relations have never made it in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure literature, Web site and public statements.  

In the past, there were charges that Brinker used agency funds to defray personal expenses that she has incurred while employed elsewhere. Brinker was working full-time for the federal government; the Susan G. Komen ended up paying $133,000 for her personal expenses.   This is a thorn that she has declined to address but continues to surface as outsiders monitor the operations of the organization. Her flying only first class at the agency’s expense became a perk that received considerable attention.

In addition to the conflicts-of-interests, internal conflicts proliferate at Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Brinker has had her fingerprints on every decision at the agency. There has been virtually a total turnover of staff in prominent positions with over $1 million (of donor’s dollars) paid as a result of personnel transitioning out of the agency. Many board members have also vacated their roles, Her son left after a year on the board, in the midst of agency turmoil. 

This formerly exceptional agency is in chaos… neither the administration, nor the board seems to care. While the agency’s mission languishes. its leadership prospers.

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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