Komen’s Folly: A Decline in Fundraiser Ranking Tells the Story in Numbers


October 29, 2015; Chronicle of Philanthropy

Breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen seems to continue to lose financial ground, ranking 127th in the new survey of top nonprofit fundraisers, sliding from 41st in 2011. Komen’s volunteer base and its fundraising took a severe hit in 2012 when it ran into the buzz saw of its own activist constituency, a good proportion of whom were angered by Komen’s defunding of the breast cancer–related work of Planned Parenthood clinics. At that time, we asked whether and how the organization would recover.

As the indicators of constituent disaffection mounted, and we saw fundraisers cancelled and be less fruitful, we wondered what the final cost would be to the organization. This year’s survey of top 400 fundraisers by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals part of the answer.

What is interesting about these numbers is that the organization apparently did just fine during the hard years of the recession, miraculously building its private support consistently year by year from $253,534,447 in 2008 to $349,960,000 in 2011. Who knows? It may have felt invincible, as if it were stronger than it was, or more capable of acting with independence from a good portion of its network. But, the strength of the reaction from that network—even after the decision was reversed—disabused the group of that notion, and with the exception of a bit of an upsurge in 2013, it was all downhill from there. Its ranking fell from 41st among the nation’s 400 top nonprofit fundraisers to 127th—or from a high take of $349 million in 2011 to $198 million in 2015.

Survey Year Rank Private Support Total revenue
2015 127 $198,060,503 $228,394,992
2014 98 $235,266,150 $263,673,268
2013 53 $310,213,165 $342,373,526
2012 63 $282,350,000 $282,350,000
2011 41 $349,960,000 $350,000,000
2010 63 $266,600,000 $304,000,000
2009 76 $235,996,275 $298,685,007
2008 66 $253,534,447 $334,377,244
2007 70 $228,487,824 $274,875,945
2006 71 $209,236,337 $207,528,723
2005 91 $156,437,315 $207,528,723

These figures above include the fundraising of the affiliate chapters, but when you look at the central organization by itself, the story becomes even a bit more dramatic, at least according to its 990 Reports as accessed through GuideStar. They list the contributions and grants to the central body as follows:

2014 $91,606,572
2013 $118,656,953
2012 $159,779,664
2011 $174,658,160

NPQ, as you know, has been following nonprofit stakeholder revolts, and Komen is a great cautionary tale in that regard. Komen is a fundraising machine, entirely dependent upon the energies of its volunteers, so the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was enormously risky at the least—and some might say right next to suicidal. Still, saying that when it happened and seeing the numbers a few years later are two different things.—Ruth McCambridge

  • abstract668

    Count me among the breast cancer survivors who will NEVER AGAIN sport a pink ribbon after the revelation that SGK is nothing but a front group for anti-abortion Republicans. The day after the scandal I packed up all the pink stuff in my home and office, including my beloved pink Dodger baseball bat that my sons gave me for Mothers Day, and drove over to the local SGK office, sobbing. The cowardly staff was not in the office, with the exception of the poor receptionist who had to listen to me cry about my disappointment with this organization. I work in the nonprofit sector and I am ashamed that SGK can maintain its 501(c)3 status when it does nothing about breast cancer except “raise awareness”. It is a political front group using us survivors, and it makes me sick. I’m so glad to see their support has declined. I’m giving my money to Planned Parenthood, which operates clinics that directly care for women’s health.

  • JackCade

    Sorry, but the exact opposite occurred: http://www.lifenews.com/2013/10/22/komen-still-sends-big-bucks-to-planned-parenthood-abortion-business/
    Komen reversed itself almost immediately. And Planned Parenthood (any of them) doesn’t have a mammogram machine, as it’s Executive Director recently testified. The perform abortions, let’s get that clear. That is their primary business. Why they dissimulate I don’t know. Give to local charities, where you can see where your money goes. Neither Komen nor PP need our dollars.

    • Johnjohn

      They do not and have never claimed they do mammograms:
      “Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses teach patients about breast care, connect patients to resources to help them get vital biopsies, ultrasounds, and mammograms, and follow up to make sure patients are cared for with the attention they need and deserve.”

      • JackCade

        So Planned Parenthood is merely in loco parentis? An educational agency perhaps? Just admit they do abortions. That is their business. Virtually their only business. I’m not opposed to this – I just want honesty in what people do. They do abortions because no one else will.