Tom Garrity

The Cure for Komen

In Crisis Communication, Reputation on February 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I’ve been in those board meetings.  A policy change is presented, and in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order, a “second” is sought.  Like Ferris Buhler’s name being called for attendance, the words are uttered “does anyone want to second this motion?  Anyone… anyone…”

Reluctantly, a second comes and discussion moves forward… the rest takes its own unique course.

I am not sure if that is what happened with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but somewhere a policy was presented.  It was approved by the foundation board and in that moment, funding would be restricted or denied for organizations under federal investigation.

Properly define what constitutes an investigation and, on face value, that kind of approach makes sense.

But, in politically charged environments where accusations are made and investigations launched as common place, additional filters need to be in place to try and separate the rhetoric from reality.

Planned Parenthood was the subject of an investigation, launched in a political arena, and didn’t pass the litmus test established by the Komen Foundation.  As a result the pink ribbon was engulfed in its own political firestorm.

Its critics branded this as an issue over mammograms and abortion.  In reality, The Susan G. Komen Foundation is in a public quagmire over policy.

In the midst of intense media and public scrutiny, the local chapters initially felt the pressure.  Then, a chapter in Colorado was granted an “exemption” from the policy.

Within 24 hours the national organization cried uncle and rescinded the policy.  In its wake, the organization left its supporters questioning the national leadership and looking for new avenues of charitable giving.

The greatest harm to the Komen Foundation is not in the policy controversy.  It is in the fact that policy is the focus of media attention instead of the compassion for victims of breast cancer.

Can the “cure” recover?  Only time will tell.

The organization’s focus for the next six months needs to be on the basics.  Focus on showing compassion to the victims.  Continue to put different faces on this issue and sharing the human element.  Use success stories to show how the organization is meeting and exceeding the needs of those who are, or are potentially, impacted by cancer.

Good policy fosters good public relations.  And for nonprofit organizations, compassion is always good policy even when the board and its leadership get in the way.

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