The Susan G. Komen foundation canceled its signature 3-Day walk in Washington and six other cities next year, slashing the number of the fundraising events by half, as participation continues to drop more than a year after a funding controversy involving Planned Parenthood.
Komen called its decision to pull out of the event one that “was not made lightly, as this bold and empowering event has touched the lives of thousands of participants.”
Spokeswoman Andrea Rader cited economic uncertainty and competition from other charities as factors in the decision — the same reasons Komen has cited for the drop in fundraising since founder Nancy Brinker sparked national headlines in February 2012 when she unsuccessfully attempted to deny funds to Planned Parenthood.
“Many participants have reported that enthusiasm for the series remains very high, but it is more difficult for people to donate at levels they had in the past,” the statement said. It said participation in the past four years has made it difficult to sustain the event in 14 cities. “We hope to one day return to a larger number of markets, but believe strongly that this adjustment will allow us to return the greatest amount of dollars to the cause at this time.”
The announcement does not affect the 3-Day events scheduled for this year or other Komen events or services. Komen’s Washington 3-Day walk for this year will take place beginning Oct. 11.
Komen will continue to host the 3-Day events in 2014 in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Michigan, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
But next year, in addition to dropping Washington, Komen will not host 3-Day events in Arizona, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, the Tampa Bay area and San Francisco.
The 3-Day events, which require participants to raise at least $2,300, are top revenue sources but expensive to organize, according to people familiar with Komen’s fundraising. Participants walk about 20 miles each of three days.
The events also tend to attract the most dedicated supporters, many of whom also support Planned Parenthood and were among those most upset by the controversy, according to sources familiar with Komen’s fundraising.
By comparison, next year’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer will take place in the same eight cities as the group’s 2013 events — Houston, Washington, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Charlotte and Santa Barbara, Calif., an Avon spokeswoman said.
“Our participation levels are on par with last year,” she said. Avon’s walk in Washington, which took place this past May, raised $4.5 million, compared to $5 million in 2012.
Komen’s annual Race for the Cure in Washington took place a week later. It had fewer participants than in previous years — about 21,000 people, down from 27,000 last year and nearly 40,000 in 2011. The race raised $5 million in 2011, $2 million last year and about $1.5 million this year, although this year’s tally is not final.
The dip in fundraising forced Komen to tap its reserves last year to fund research and other grants, angering some affiliates, according to a source familiar with fundraising.
Rader denied that affiliates were concerned. “I don’t think anybody was particularly upset,” she said. “We have fairly substantial reserves and we had to tap them to help with our mission.”
Several senior executives who were well regarded at Komen’s Dallas headquarters have left or announced their departures in recent months. They are British Robinson, who oversaw Komen’s global operations; Lynn Erdman, who oversaw community health; and Carol Corcoran, senior vice president for Komen’s 120 affiliates.
Rader said Robinson’s and Corcoran’s departures were for personal reasons, while Erdman’s was the result of a restructuring.
While many of senior executives and board members have left, founder Brinker remains in place. Her $684,717 salary in fiscal 2012 continues to draw criticism.