But here’s what Susan Love can do: use last week’s Komen controversy to lure donors to her own group, potentially lessening the group’s behemoth status in the breast cancer charity and research world.
“There certainly are a lot of people who are saying, ‘I’ll never give to Komen again,’ ” says Love. “We want them to realize there are alternatives. They don’t have to switch fields, because there are other people who are working very hard on these issues and who could benefit even more from their donations.”
Komen, founded in 1982, has long dominated the breast cancer charity landscape. Komen had $357 million in revenue last year and is the world’s largest cancer charity. But with a strong backlash last week to the group’s decision (since reversed) to defund Planned Parenthood, Love sees a perfect opportunity to make a pitch to donors looking to defect.
To that end, Love’s Army of Women network got an e-mail blast last Thursday, urging those who want to continue supporting breast cancer research to “redirect” funds to her group.
“Let’s redirect all the money that will be spent on investigating Planned Parenthood into funding studies looking to find the cause and prevent the disease once and for all,” the e-mail says. “Let’s redirect our anger to making mammograms unnecessary because we know how to prevent the disease.”
Love says that her supporters’ reaction to that e-mail has been mixed. She doesn’t yet have data on how the e-mail, or the Komen decision, has impacted her own group’s fundraising. “We had a majority who thought it was great, and agreed with us,” she says. “We had some people who were antiabortion and were mad about it.”
And then, there were some who were confused: “There were at least a few people who didn’t realize that we are not the Susan G. Komen Foundation.”
Whether breast cancer charities will see a funding boost remains to be seen. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a two-day walk to raise money for research, has field numerous inquiries on its Facebook wall from Komen donors seeking more information on its own relationship with Planned Parenthood. It’s put together a fact sheet that explains the group received one grant application from the group in the past five years. Avon did not fund that grant because of the “highly competitive” nature of the grant program, not any policy involving the group.
I reached out to Avon’s communications director, Karyn Margolis, who had heard some rumblings of Komen walkers switching groups, but said that “most of it is anecdotal.”
“It’s hard to know what interest is coming from Komen or word of mouth, since we have a great reputation,” she says. “Also, we’re two days, and the Komen walks are three days, so there’s an aspect that might appeal to those who don’t want to commit for as long.”
For her part, Love hopes that this past week has Komen’s donors taking a second look at what, exactly, their dollars support. She’s contends that the group spends too heavily on breast cancer awareness and is too light on research.
“Komen certainly has increased the visibility in this country and around the world, and it’s a great sense of community,” says Love. “That being said, once you have NFL players wearing pink ribbons, I think you’ve accomplished visibility and it’s time to move on to research.”
And, a fundraising bump for her own group would be nice, too.