Registration is down nearly 40 percent for this year’s Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure in Washington after the controversy in February over the breast cancer charity’s unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Across the country, numerous affiliates have reported a downturn in donations and registration for Komen for the Cure events in the aftermath of the funding flap.
With three days to go before Saturday’s D.C. race, about 25,000 people have registered, compared with just under 40,000 who took part last year, Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader said Wednesday. Last year, the charity event raised $5 million. Rader declined to say how much has been raised so far this year. Fundraising typically continues for about 30 days after an event, she said.
“I think this is a trend we’re seeing,” she said. Organizers have said participation is down in part because of the poor economy. But the controversy has obviously taken a toll as well, Rader said.
“Clearly we are seeing that some people may still be staying away because of this issue we had earlier this year,” Rader said. “But we really hope people won’t look at 30 years of good work and let that be harmed by a few weeks of controversy. We’ve apologized for this, and we still need to take care of women in D.C. who need us.”
The race in the nation’s capital is one of the largest in the country. Registration reached a peak in the mid-2000s with 60,000 participants, Rader said. Three years ago, the D.C. event was renamed the Global Race for the Cure to highlight the breast cancer fight worldwide, and to reach out to embassies and international organizations. But participation has fallen in recent years, in part because of competition from the dozens of other charity events in the city.
Komen officials declined to say how much the Planned Parenthood controversy has affected overall fundraising this year.
“It’s a very fluid situation,” Rader said. In some places, such as Detroit, while registration dropped, fundraising held steady, she said. The overall fundraising figure “is not a number that will hold steady throughout the year,” she added.
Elsewhere, the drop in donations has already hurt affiliates’ ability to fund community organizations. Because registration and donations for its March 25 race fell short of goals, the Southern Arizona affiliate was not able to give out as many grants this year despite a record number of applications, according to its executive director, Jaimie Leopold.
The controversy erupted when Komen national officials said the organization would withhold funds from Planned Parenthood because of a congressional investigation into whether the group was using federal money to pay for abortions. Komen reversed course after overwhelming public reaction.
Since then, Komen has granted about $600,000 to 16 Planned Parenthood affiliates, less than the amount given last year. Planned Parenthood has said its Komen grants totaled about $680,000 in 2011 and went to at least 19 of its 79 affiliates. Some additional grants may be awarded this year because not all affiliates are on the same budget cycle.