Can a Leadership Shakeup Restore Faith in Komen?

Earlier this year, I wrote about the impact of the politically motivated move made by the Komen Foundation regarding Planned Parenthood in terms of a massive backlash. A couple of months later, I noted that the backlash was having a significant impact on the very important ‘Race for the Cure’ in terms of participants — and more importantly on the level of charitable giving.

Since then, there have been a number of high level departures, peaking last week with the exit of founder and CEO Nancy Brinker as well as other high level leaders (president Liz Thompson and board members Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law). These are all things called for by critics and many supporters of Komen alike, though notably, NOT by those who backed the politicization of policies.

The question remains: Is it enough?

Will these departures help Komen exit the political spotlight so they can return to being a major force for good in the fight against breast cancer specifically, as well as a champion for women’s general health issues?

Here are the sort of problems they are seeing:

the Planned Parenthood controversy has scared off donors, not only from Komen, but from other breast cancer charities. “Donors to other breast cancer organizations are requesting reassurances that they are not accepting money from Komen.”

And more specifically they have seen significant brand erosion:

A recent Harris Interactive poll found that Komen, which had long been ranked in first or second place in terms of its “brand equity,” fell to 56 out of 79 brands surveyed after the Planned Parenthood debacle.

While the leadership shakeup is reassuring to some, others see Brinker’s move to the position of chairwoman of the executive committee as making her stepping down moot. In effect, they say, she will remain in control of operations – making the change largely symbolic rather than substantive.

The controversy also brought back several things that have nagged Komen for years, such as this report, which ties back to an earlier report on Komen denying the BPA-breast cancer link in order to maintain corporate supporters.

But the foundation still continues its long-running practice of “pink washing” corporate sponsors who sell products with chemicals that may link to the kinds of cancer Komen is on a mission to end

Simply put, we cannot tell what the impact will be next year or beyond. But it is clear that Komen has gotten the message – or at least that the damage to their reputation and dwindling funding has demonstrated the wrongness of politicizing a charity.

What do you think? Will this be enough to turn around Komen, or has their brand suffered irreparable damage that will ultimately force cancer research and screening centers to look elsewhere for support? What do you think SHOULD happen?

Categories: Editorials, Health and Fitness

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