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General Ramblings: Stage One Is Denial

By Paul Clolery - September 4, 2012

Richard Nixon. Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg. Nancy Brinker. What do these three have in common?

The common element is denial and not realizing when it was time to leave to stem a mutiny. Somebody pass the strawberries, please.

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, needs to go. Now. Actually, now might be too late. She should have done it when an online editorial in The NonProfit Times called for it back on Feb. 13.

As founder and CEO, she is ultimately responsible for most of the events of the past few years. The events include but are not limited to the well-documented near catastrophic flap regarding funding, defunding and refunding of Planned Parenthood. It includes decisions ranging from saturation marketing to suing other charities to the sometimes questionable reimbursable expenses reported on the organization’s federal Form 990.

Komen announced that Brinker was stepping aside from day-to-day operations and will instead focus on fundraising, strategy and the running the board executive committee. An organization spokesman refuses to discuss if her compensation will be reduced, too. You’d assume that there would be a cut in pay. But assuming anything rational with Brinker and Komen would be a mistake.

If Brinker really cares about the mission and her sister’s legacy – the organization is named for a sister who died from breast cancer – then she needs to make a clean break. The organization’s president, Liz Thompson announced last month that she is leaving this month. Even the most incompetent executive recruiter would steer the best candidates away from Komen with Brinker still involved.

The organization’s board was stacked with loyalists and even family members. The chance of them forcing Brinker out is less than minimal. The concept that she’s no longer really in charge is a charade. She controls the board and thus the organization.

The longer she stays the more marketshare the organization will lose. For example, the Avon Foundation for Women started advertising its breast cancer walks, slated for the fall, almost immediately after the flap regarding Planned Parenthood hit the headlines. They’ll deny the ads had anything to do with Komen’s problems but still aired 6,000 ads in February for an event slated for October. Avon had aired zero ads in that timeframe last year.

Brinker needs to go. Even Ben & Jerry gave up control of Ben & Jerry’s. OK, so they got $326 million from Uni­lever to do it.

Brinker would receive the peace of mind that what she started in the name of her sister and built into a worldwide advocacy organization will renew and move forward.

If the Muscular Dystrophy Association can part ways with Jerry Lewis, Komen will be fine without Brinker.


Time is growing short to enter The NonProfit Times’ best places to work competition, now heading into its fourth year. Please go to www.bestnonprofits­ and start the process. It’s a great morale booster for staff and a recruitment tool for more great associates. Who wouldn’t want to be featured in a major story about a positive workplace environment? NPT

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