Monday, February 6, 2012

To Give....Or Not To Give, That Is the Question

Before the great Susan G. Komen debacle fades into the sunset, I have a few things to say about charities and foundations. I’m sure not all of it will be popular, but this is my blog so I don’t care one way or the other.

People with agendas start charities. 

Charities are made up of people with like minds donating time and money to that cause. For example, I am a member of Hadassah. There are lots of reasons why I am a Hadassah member, but the overwhelming reason is because I strongly support their advocacy for women, women's and children's heath,  and women’s socioeconomic issues.  I also happen to be an active supporter of Planned Parenthood. 

Susan Komen's sister, Nancy Brinker, started her foundation as a way to raise money for breast cancer research after her sister succumbed to the disease. She started with a fine premise, and grew it into one very large organization whose popularity is reflected by the huge pink ribbon movement. Somewhere along the line, I started having concerns about some of their policies and actions. When the Susan G. Komen Foundation board withdrew funding for Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, I was not in the least surprised.

Nor was I surprised by the decibel level of the uproar. It was remarkably loud….and incredibly bright. It shone a long overdue light on the make-up of that foundation’s board and its less than well-known leanings on specific women’s health issues. To be very honest, I was relieved that some of this stuff was coming into the public view. I will not denigrate the significant fundraising for cancer that Komen et al has done. It has raised a lot of money and funded a lot of stuff. But there is more to a woman's life than her breasts.

The SGK board’s conservative bent in the area of women’s reproductive health is at odds with many women’s organizations who take the position that breasts are a part of the reproductive system, and reproductive rights are, for better or worse, part of the package.  The addition of Karen Handel, an anti-reproductive rights advocate, as a major player on the board raised eyebrows. Her own political agenda preceded her and many questioned the wisdom of her appointment as senior VP for public policy. Her long time commitment of a total de-funding of Planned Parenthood was of particular concern to many Komen supporters.

Donors, unless they are serving on the board, are actively involved, or are throwing pot-loads of money at an organization, rarely get a significant voice in how a charity operates. You certainly get to have an opinion, but there’s no guarantee your opinion will be even be discussed, much less implemented. Participating in their events, by wearing their pink ribbons, by putting your name on their petitions is an endorsement of the Komen Foundation and its policies. You’ve made a conscious choice to support their cause and you are donating your hard earned dollars to do that. You own that choice, and if it works for you, it’s a good one.

That said, I stopped giving Susan G. Komen Foundation money a while ago. For me, the disconnect came when I heard about a friend being harassed by the foundation because a pink ribbon was handed out at a non-Komen organized breast cancer fundraising event. Komen Foundation insisted that if they were to use pink ribbons there needed to be an agreement signed, lest it be trademark infringement. I was outraged. I asked if Tony Orlando and Dawn had agreements for all those POW yellow ribbons that grew out of the song written for them by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown. 

50 cents for each pink bucket sold.
[KFC web site]
But what really put me over the edge were the tie-ins for stuff that was clearly NOT healthy. Was this just about the money, or was there a moral imperative that needed to be considered?

The SGK Foundation seems to have lost its way. It has become is a corporation with a direction and agenda set by the board…as well it should. They pay their CEO and CFO handsomely for running this megalith. That is their choice. I've heard lots of statistics on how much money is spent on overhead, programs, research and the like, but nothing conclusive. Honestly, it doesn't matter. It's a private foundation and what they do with their money is their business.

So here's the bottom line: giving to charity is a choice; you get to vote with your chequebook. If you support their total agenda, support Race for the Cure and the other Komen events. If you feel women's health issues encompass more than breasts, find another foundation, like Planned Parenthood or Hadassah, who treat the whole of a woman's body. 

It's your dollar. 

It's your choice. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Keep a moist towelette handy whilst dog walking.
It comes in handy if a doody gets stuck under her tail.


  1. BRAVO Susan. Very well spoken and it raises my awareness of who are we really giving money to and the importance of really knowing the charity which receives our funds. SKF is another issue for me now. Trademarks, admonishment as to when to use the pink ribbon, breasts and reproduction....major food for thought.

  2. Since I'm a guy, I admit I haven't paid close attention to the SGK Foundation and its policies. When someone asks me to support their walk or run for the cure, I have gladly supported her. That all stopped for me a week or two ago.

    When SGK advised they were withdrawing Planned Parenthood funding, suddenly I was no longer a supporter of SGK. The damage is done... they had laid themselves out for exactly who they are and it ain't pretty. The next time I am asked to support a friend's race for the cure, I will politely decline and let them know why.

    TWP's Brother

  3. RE: tip of the week.


    That is all.

  4. I agree with you that this whole SGK affair has awoken millions of women to what these foundations (we so generously have supported) have as their political agenda. The SGK brand has been irreversibly damaged because of the political agendas of those who directed its business. The conservative right of this country has misread the political landscape and direction of history of this nation. Since the 1960's, American women have taken control of their bodies and will not go backwards. All the Talibanism of the Christian Right will not make us give up control over our own reproductive systems.

  5. Thank you for the great and useful tip, my dog will thank you too

  6. What a great tip I shall be forever relieved whilst walking my cat!!

  7. I've added emphasis to what will hopefully be the dumbest thing I will read in 2012:

    "The SGK board’s conservative bent in the area of women’s reproductive health is at odds with many women’s organizations who take the position that BREASTS ARE PART OF THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM, and reproductive rights are, for better or worse, part of the package."

    Let's conduct a thought experiment to clear up the inconceivable controversy:

    -- Woman A gets a rockin' hot makeover and a double radical mastectomy.

    -- Woman B gets a hysterectomy, of any variety, but keeps her ample and well-proportioned breasts.

    -- Woman C gets her face mauled by a neighbor's monkey, but keeps her ample and well-proportioned breasts.

    -- Woman D gets a rockin' hot makeover, and keeps her tiny and unimpressive breasts.

    Woman A and Woman D would seem to have roughly equal chances of reproducing, although we'll give a slight edge to Woman D.

    Arguably, Woman C is less likely to reproduce than either Woman A or Woman D.

    Only Woman B is unable to reproduce, all other things being equal before the changes are made. All other Women can reproduce.

    Therefore, because breasts have no effect on the ability to reproduce, whether present or absent, they cannot be a part of the reproductive system.

    Breast's function in the reproductive system are comparable to the functions of facial attraction and body mass. Nothing more.

    And, once the child is born, reproduction has already occurred, and therefore, feeding and raising the child is not reproduction. This can be proven by Woman E, who gets a hysterectomy of any variety after childbirth.

    Now, how about a post on what in the world causes a woman to think this way?

    1. Clearly, you have neither breasts nor a uterus. You are not talking about the vast majority of women who avail themselves of medical services at Planned Parenthood.

      Your obsession with breast size is better suited for a different discussion, one that that is not about the reproductive health of women.

  8. So my wife and I have been watching the rise of the SGK phenomena for awhile now. At first we were supportive of it's efforts to prevent/eradicate breast cancer. Who wouldn't be? But after watching it steadily get chopped up and served to us ad nauseum on a corporate platter, we started getting the creeps. We think it has become a perfect blinder to what is one of the biggest issues in our country's history, that of affordable, quality healthcare for all people. How about a pink-ribbon movement to demand Universal Health Care? What would THAT do for womens' health? Yeah, yeah, I know, time to put down the crack pipe. Thanks for the blog, SJ.

    1. What a brilliant idea! If you can figure out how to start it, I'll help plug it!

    2. It appears that it is well underway in many forms. Here's one I liked :-)

    3. I just posted the link on "The Wifely Person" page on FB as well. Thank you; much appreciated.

  9. I found your article to be a thoughtful response to the Komen Foundation debacle. This could be a blessing in disguise for Planned Parenthood. Donating to PP directly is the way to go. If you assume that Komen takes 20% as overhead and the charity that gets their grant takes 20% only 64 cents of your dollar actually goes to helping those in need.

    FYI: I found your website from a response you gave to an article in the NY Times (yes, people do read them). I was born and raised in St. Paul, MN and so I felt an immediate connection. I now live in Texas, talk about culture shock.

    1. Thank you...that was very nice of you to say. You can also periodically find me on MPR's commentary web page.