Lessons Learned from the Komen Fiasco

February 5, 2012 at 4:04 am Leave a comment

For those of you who may be blissfully unaware of the events of the past week, let me bring you up to speed. Earlier this week the Susan G. Komen Foundation changed their grant guidelines prohibiting any organization under local, state or federal investigation from being eligible to receive funds. In so doing they pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood because of an investigation currently underway by a right to life Republican.

This created the perfect storm as many were outraged that an organization whose mission was women’s health was pulling funding from an organization that was dedicated to serving women who couldn’t afford health care.  High ranking Komen executives resigned in protest, local Komen chapters rebelled and social media users roared their outrage. By the end of the week it had been discovered that Planned Parenthood had been the only agency who was under investigation that was having their funding pulls as Penn state also received grant funding from Komen. And on Friday Komen clarified the “investigation” language to language that would allow agencies to be assumed innocent until proven guilty renewing the funding streams to Planned Parenthood.

So what are the lessons small nonprofits should learn from this mess?

  1. All policy decisions for an organization need to be made through the filter of the organizational mission. As you learn this lesson remember that sometimes mission critical projects may be loss leaders for your organization.
  2.  Make yourself available to stakeholders when they have questions or concerns about policy changes that will directly impact them. Planned Parenthood was notified in December of this change but the Komen board of directors was unresponsive to requests for a meeting to discuss the situation.
  3. Have a crisis communication plan in place if things go awry. Komen leadership could have mitigated the community outrage simply by highlighting those organizations that provided similar services as those provided through Planned Parenthood with Komen funding. Additionally Komen chose to remain silent as more and more people on social media became outraged. The result? Planned Parenthood raised 400K in two days from 6000 donors. Komen has probably lost a whole lot more supporters than 6000.
  4. Never Never Never allow a political agenda to impact your organization. When you become a 501(c)(3) you commit to not becoming involved in politics. Certain activities can even put your tax exempt status at risk. Just don’t go there.




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