By Angela Benander, Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Responsibility
Last evening, my Twitter feed blew up with news that one of the nation’s leading breast cancer research charities, The Susan G. Komen Foundationhad pulled hundreds of thousands in annual grant funding to Planned Parenthood. The grants had paid for breast cancer screenings and education for low income women at Planned Parenthood clinics across the US.
The Komen Foundation announced the grants would be rescinded in compliance with their new policy to not financially support any organization under investigation by federal, state or local government. The US House Oversight and Investigations Committee launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s funding last fall.
Politics aside, it will be fascinating and instructive to see how the Komen Foundation weathers this PR storm. The fact that there had not been any word on their official Twitter, Facebook or website for a full eight hours after the news broke makes me wonder if they had fully considered the potential impact this news would have.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards immediately spread the word to the organization’s email and Facebook network of supporters (full disclosure, I have donated to Planned Parenthood and I am on this list) expressing her disappointment at Komen’s decision and urging supporters to make an “emergency donation.” Planned Parenthood supporters took to social media to express their displeasure – both to the Komen Foundation itself and to the charity’s corporate sponsors directly.
This firestorm promises to be a PR case study in the future. Up until this point, the Komen Foundation had successfully built a brand almost as American as mom and apple pie with their pink ribbons, pink-hued sponsor products and their wildly popular Race for the Cure and Walk for the Cure. Will this controversy be quick and uncomfortable for Komen or will it haunt their brand for years to come? Did Komen have a communications strategy in place to deal with the inevitable backlash? Will anti-Planned Parenthood consumers rally equal support for Komen in the weeks to come?
Regardless of how it plays out in the end, charities and non-profit organizations need to watch and learn.