BIG Fundraising Oops: The Susan B. Komen Debacle

For a foundation that seemed to have so much marketing savvy, the Susan B. Komen foundation can be awfully tone deaf — and send a message that it’s more interested in raising cash than in spending it charitably.

Their current colossal oops, having stopped funding Planned Parenthood despite that agency’s importance in providing mammograms to low-income women, is only the latest example. As I described in January of last year, the Komen Foundation alienated plenty of nonprofit watchers with its hypervigilant efforts to protect its brand: See “Fundraising Oops: The Susan B. Komen Foundation Uses Donor Dollars to Sue Smaller Groups.” (I was going to illustrate this post with something pink, but decided not to take the risk. Did I say “pink?” I meant “that color that is a mix of red and white.”)

And then there was the foundation’s odd choice in 2010 to put its branding on buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Given that junk food and grilled food have been linked to cancer, this inspired plenty of commentary, and one “What the Cluck?” headline by the group Think Before You Pink (“a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the number of pink ribbon products on the market.”)

Clearly there are people who were already shying away from pink products, not to mention supporting anything else but the Komen foundation, before the latest misstep. But at this point — based on all the media attention, not to mention the fact that my Facebook friends seem to be talking of nothing else — I’d say we may start seeing some pink products on the remainder tables. And an increase in donations to Planned Parenthood.

For an excellent summary of the current pink meltdown, analyzed in terms of nonprofit marketing best practices, see Kivi Leroux Miller’s “The Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Cure.”