Susan G. Komen for the Cure
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|Founder||Nancy Goodman Brinker|
|Founded at||Dallas, Texas|
|Headquarters||5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 526|
Dallas, Texas 75244
Chief Scientific Adviser
|George W. Sledge Jr.|
Chief Scientific Officer
|Peter D. Brundage|
Susan G. Komen, formerly known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and originally as The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, often referred to as simply Komen, is the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the United States.
According to the Harris Interactive 2010 EquiTrend annual brand equity poll, Komen was once one of the most trusted non-profit organizations in America. Komen's 2012 decision to discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood was controversial and brief, attracting widespread media attention and a significant decline in donations and participation at fundraising events. Komen almost immediately reversed its decision and resumed its funding of breast cancer screening and other programs at various Planned Parenthood locations. The organization has also been criticized for executive pay raises, administrative costs, affiliations with certain sponsors and claims that it used misleading statistics in advertising. In six years from 2011 to 2017 revenue declined by about 80% and a number of Affiliates merged or dissolved.
In March 2013, Komen's ranking on Charity Navigator dropped from four stars (the highest rating) to three stars, going to two stars in 2014. As of June 2016, Komen was back to three stars, with a score of 81 out of 100.
Susan Goodman, later Susan Goodman Komen, was born on October 31, 1943 in Peoria, Illinois. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. She died of the disease at age 36 on August 4, 1980. Komen's younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, who believed that Susan's outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, promised her sister that she would do everything she could to end breast cancer. To fulfill that promise, Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Komen's memory in 1982.
In 2008, the 25th anniversary of the organization, the name was changed to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and trademarked a new logo in support of its promise "to end breast cancer forever." The new logo is a pink ribbon that resembles a runner in motion and is meant to reflect the importance of Komen's signature Race for the Cure event, which is currently the world's largest fund raising event for breast cancer education and research. The logo symbolically associates the organization with the values of breast cancer awareness ("pink ribbon culture"): fear of breast cancer, hope, and the charitable goodness of people and businesses who publicly support the breast cancer movement.
In December 2009, Brinker was appointed CEO of the organization. Judy Salerno became CEO of the organization in 2012. In November 2016, the organization announced that Salerno would step down as CEO the following month.
In 2017, former fashion executive and breast cancer survivor Paula Schneider took over as CEO.
Komen's Mission Statement: Save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer.
Komen's Bold Goal: In 2016, Susan G. Komen announced their Bold Goal "Reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026."
Komen's philosophy mixes education, action, research, and community involvement. To date, Komen has funded more than $800 million in breast cancer research. Patient navigation is a main focal point for Komen, especially in recent years. Most recently they were in D.C. to advocate to reduce insurance barriers to breast cancer treatment. In line with their Bold Goal, Susan G. Komen partnered with BreastCancerTrials.org to create a new tool to help people living with metastatic breast cancer find clinical trials.
Many scientific reviews have criticized Komen for overpromoting mammography. They concluded that indiscriminate screening mammography for all middle-aged and older women, regardless of each woman's risk of developing breast cancer, results in overtreatment of some women whose cancer would never harm them. For every one woman whose life is saved by screening mammography, 250 to 500 women will be told that they might have breast cancer when they don't (false positives), 125 to 250 will have biopsies performed, and between two and ten women will receive unnecessary treatment.
Other organizations like the National Breast Cancer Coalition follow a "medical consumerism" model in which individual women are educated by their physicians about their options and encouraged to make individualized, evidence-based decisions about their health care. Other organizations advocate more research into the environmental causes of breast cancer and cancer prevention.
Use of funds
In the 2009–2010 fiscal year, ending March 31, 2010, Komen reported approximately US$400 million in earnings. Of this, $365 million (91.3%) came from contributions from the public, including donations, sponsorships, race entry fees, and contributed goods and services. Approximately $35 million (8.8%) came from interest and dividends and gains on investments.
That same fiscal year, Komen reported approximately US$360 million in expenses. $283.2 million of this went towards program services: $75.4 million (20.9% of total expenditure) went to research, $140.8 million (39.1%) went to public health education, $46.9 million (13%) went to health screening services, and $20.1 million (5.6%) went to treatment services. The other $76.8 million went to supporting services, including $36.1 million (10% of total expenditure) toward fund-raising costs and $40.6 million (11.3%) toward general and administrative costs.
The Komen CEO salary in 2010 was $459,406 a year. Komen paid founder and CEO Nancy Brinker $417,712 in 2011. After the Planned Parenthood controversy, donations dropped and the foundation canceled half of its fundraising 'Race for the Cure' events, but Brinker received a 64% increase to $684,000 annually, which drew fire and was considered "extremely high" according to Charity Navigator's CEO.
The organization reported that its CEO earned $565,048 of compensation from the Foundation and related organizations during 2016 on its annual return to the Internal Revenue Service. The organization also reported 14 other employees who each earned more than $175,000 of compensation, bonuses, retirement benefits, and other benefits during 2016.
Grants and awards
Since its foundation in 1982, Komen has provided funding for basic, clinical, and translational breast cancer research and for innovative projects in the areas of breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment. The organization has awarded more than 1,000 breast cancer research grants totaling more than $180 million.
Komen awards three-year postdoctoral fellowships to individuals working under the guidance of experienced cancer researchers to recruit and retain young scientists in the field of breast cancer research. In addition to funding research, Komen and its affiliates fund non-duplicative, community-based breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment projects for the medically under-served.
Since 1992, Komen has also annually awarded work in the field of cancer research with the Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction.
In recent years, Komen has cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on research grants, according to a 2012 Reuters analysis. In 2011, the foundation spent $63 million (15%) of its donations on research grants and awards.
In 2006, Susan G. Komen joined the US-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research, a Middle East Partnership Initiative program. Komen has programs in Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
On October 28, 2010, Jerusalem held its first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, with over 5,000 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish participants. Before the race, the Old City's walls were illuminated pink by Komen's founder Nancy G. Brinker, Jerusalem's Israeli Mayor Nir Barkat, and the Prime Minister of Israel's wife Sara Netanyahu.
The Organization raises over $36 million a year from over 60 cause marketing partnerships. These include prominent campaigns, such as those with Yoplait, which runs the Save Lids to Save Lives program, and a partnership with Delta Air Lines.
Cause marketing allows Komen to associate breast cancer brand with its organization. By promoting the "fear, hope and goodness" associated with the breast cancer brand, Komen can promote itself, breast cancer awareness, its sponsoring corporations, and conscientious consumption.
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is the world's largest fundraising event for breast cancer. It consists of a series of 5K runs and fitness walks to raise money for breast cancer, to raise awareness of the disease, to celebrate those who have survived breast cancer, and memorialize those who have not.
The first race was run in Dallas, Texas in 1983, with 800 participants. The 25th Anniversary of the Race was celebrated in 2008. In 2009, it was renamed as Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. In 2010, there were about 130 races worldwide. Additionally in 2010, over 1.6 million people participated in the race, which utilized over 100,000 volunteers.
The primary source of revenue for the event is donations collected by the participants in the race. In 2011, Komen said that three-quarters of the net proceeds from the event were being used locally to pay for community outreach programs, breast health education, and breast cancer screening and treatment projects run by the Komen affiliate, and the remaining quarter was being sent to the central organization.
Komen's other nationwide events include:
- Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure – a 60-mile (97 km) walk for women and men: participants walk 60 miles (97 km) in three days to help raise millions of dollars for breast cancer research and patient support programs
- Susan G. Komen Marathon for the Cure – a grassroots fundraising program offering fitness enthusiasts the chance to join in the fight against breast cancer by running or walking a full (42.2 km or 26.2 mi) or half (21.1 km or 13.1 mi) marathon.
- Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure – a year-round fundraising and education program allowing participants to choose any date, invite friends, wear pink, have fun and raise money for the cause.
- Susan G. Komen Bowl for the Cure – a year-round fund-raising and breast cancer awareness initiative founded in 2000 and sponsored by USBC and The Bowling Foundation.
Top organizations include:
- American Airlines
- Avcor Healthcare Products, Inc.
- Baker Hughes
- Bank of America
- Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (Eggland's Best)
- Caterpillar Foundation
- Clemens Food Group
- Ford Motor Company
- General Mills
- Hopkins Manufacturing
- FUZE and Honest Tea
- L Brands
- Mohawk Industries
- New Balance
Controversy and criticism
Komen is a key entity in the controversy over pinkwashing. The term "pinkwashing" has been used to describe two different situations; 1) organizations getting disproportionately large amounts of publicity for donating very little, and 2) organizations that use the pink ribbon to promote products that may be carcinogenic.
Komen benefits from corporate partnerships, receiving over $55 million a year from 216 corporate sponsors. However, critics say many of these promotions are deceptive to consumers, benefit the companies more than the charity, and promote products that may even cause cancer.
Some campaigns require that consumers mail proof of purchase for a promoted item before the manufacturer donates a few cents per purchase to charity; some have a cap on the maximum amount donated, with all sales beyond this fixed limit benefiting only the company, not the promoted cause. Since their Save Lids to Save Lives campaign began in 1998, Yoplait has donated more than $25 million to Komen. In 2010, their annual maximum commitment was raised to $1.6 million. In return, a major sponsor such as Yoplait obtains an exclusive contract; no other yogurt manufacturer (such as Dreyer's, who inquired in 2000) has the opportunity to use the branding. In 2002, credit card operator American Express launched a "Charge for a Cure" campaign which claimed that "in the search for a cure, every dollar counts." The amount donated per qualifying transaction, regardless of the purchase amount, was one penny.
In 2006, Major League Baseball partnered with Komen by selling and donating amounts from pink MLB Louisville Slugger bats, pink baseballs, and necklaces sold. On Mother's Day, breast cancer survivors were eligible to be used as bat girls in games where pink bats were used. MLB, a $1.2 billion industry, donates around $100,000 a year.
Several water bottle retailers have partnered with the Komen Foundation. Water cooler bottles made of polycarbonate may contain BPA, which has been linked to breast cancer tumor growth. For the 2008 model year, Ford Motor Company built a branded limited edition of 2500 Ford Mustang motorcars with a "Warriors in Pink" package as part of their long-running association with Komen; an additional 1000 were offered for 2009's model year. A longitudinal study found that women employed in the automotive plastics industry are almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer prior to menopause, compared to women in a control group.
In April 2010, Komen paired with fast food restaurant chain KFC to offer "Buckets for the Cure," a promotion in which fried and grilled chicken was sold in pink branded buckets. The collaboration garnered criticism from media outlets, including The Colbert Report and Bitch magazine, and raised criticisms about the promotion of unhealthy eating habits, as KFC chicken is known to contain carcinogenic chemicals. KFC contributed over $4.2 million to Komen, the largest single contribution in the organization's history. The partnership with KFC, which has since ended, allowed Komen "to reach many millions of women that they had been unable to reach before," said Brinker.
In April 2011, Komen introduced its own perfume brand, "Promise Me", promoted by Komen CEO Nancy Brinker on the Home Shopping Network, only to encounter opposition due to coumarin, oxybenzone, toluene and galaxolide as potentially harmful ingredients. Komen stated its intention to have the product reformulated but failed to withdraw existing stocks of the "Promise Me" product from distribution.
In October 2014, the Houston-based oil field services company Baker Hughes was reported to have produced 1,000 pink drill bits to raise breast cancer awareness. The land drill bits are used to break up geologic formations in oil patches for hydraulic fracturing. These ties have been criticized, because of the more than 700 chemicals used in fracking more than one third are endocrine disruptors and at least one-quarter increase the risk of cancer.
Legal battles over trademarking
In 2007, the organization changed its name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and trademarked the running ribbon as part of its new branding strategy. Komen has come under fire for legal action against other non-profits or organizations using the phrase "for the cure" within their names. An August 2010 article in The Wall Street Journal detailed a case in which the organization Uniting Against Lung Cancer was told in a letter from Komen that they should no longer use the name "Kites for the Cure" for their annual fund-raising event. Komen also wrote to the organization to warn them "against any use of pink in conjunction with 'cure.'" More than 100 small charities have received legal opposition from Komen regarding various uses of the words "for the cure" in their names. Among the offending charitable organizations and events were "Par for the Cure", "Surfing for a Cure", "Cupcakes for a Cure" and "Mush for the Cure".
Komen says that the organization protects its trademarks as a matter of financial stewardship to prevent confusion among donors.
Others suggest that the trademark issue is more about dominating the pink ribbon market.
Critics have also asserted that the slogan itself implies the majority of Komen's funds go to research, specifically research to find a means to cure (and not merely treat or detect) the disease. By Komen's own figures, however, 21% of the total budget goes to research. In the words of cancer survivor Alicia Staley, "an 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."
Relationship with Planned Parenthood
Beginning in 2007, Komen granted money to pay for 170,000 clinical breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and affiliates. Komen had said its affiliates provide funds for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities in which Planned Parenthood is the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services.
On January 31, 2012, Komen stopped funding exams provided by Planned Parenthood, citing a congressional investigation by Rep. Cliff Stearns and a newly created internal rule about not funding organizations under any federal, state or local investigation. While the move was applauded by conservative religious and anti-abortion groups, it was denounced by several editorials, women's health advocacy groups, and politicians.
In the 24 hours after the news broke, Planned Parenthood received more than $400,000 from 6,000 donors, followed by pledges of a $250,000 matching grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a $250,000 gift from a foundation run by the CEO of Bonanza Oil Co. in Dallas to replace the lost funding.
Four days later, Komen's Board of Directors reversed the decision and announced that it would amend the policy to "make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political". Several top-level staff members resigned from Komen during the controversy. In August, Brinker announced she would leave her CEO role. The number of participants at various Komen fundraising events dropped 15–30% in 2012, compared to the previous year. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure fundraising walks were scaled back to seven US cities in 2013, from a former 14 cities, due to a 37 percent drop in participation over the preceding four years. In January 2014 it was reported that the foundation saw a decline of 22% in contributions in the year following their decision to cease (and then continue) funding for Planned Parenthood.
Karen Handel, the Brinker protégée whose opposition to abortion was at the center of the Planned Parenthood controversy, resigned and has published a book on the controversy titled Planned Bullyhood.
Embryonic stem cell research
In 2006, Komen wrote in its newsletter that embryonic stem cell research had promise for curing breast cancer. One such grant recipient was Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D. through Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. In 2011, the anti-abortion Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer said that Komen gave $12 million to institutions such as Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, that funded stem cell research, which the Coalition considered to be abortion. In 2012, Komen said that it did not fund stem cell research and never has. LifeNews.com then published an article saying that Komen had stopped funding stem cell research. According to Science magazine, Christopher Umbricht got nearly $600,000 from Komen for molecular marker research at Johns Hopkins that includes stem cells.
According to Komen's 2011–2012 IRS Form 990 declarations, then-CEO Nancy Brinker made $684,717 in that fiscal year, a 64 percent raise. Komen stated the last CEO salary hike had taken place in November 2010. While Charity Navigator continued to give Komen very favorable overall ratings on the basis of figures Komen had declared to the IRS, Charity Navigator president and CEO Ken Berger described this remuneration as "extremely high".
This pay package is way outside the norm. It's about a quarter of a million dollars more than what we see for charities of this size. This is more than the head of the Red Cross is making for an organization that is one-tenth the size of the Red Cross.
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