2012 Komen Austin Race for the Cure,” Komen Austin

September 30, 2020; San Antonio Business Journal

In San Antonio, the board of the local Susan G. Komen chapter, which has been active since 1997, has decided to cut ties with the national Susan G. Komen Foundation and end its operations altogether by early 2021.

This follows a decision by the national organization, announced in April, to consolidate its affiliate network under one corporate umbrella, eliminating 60 local affiliates in the process. That is when Elyse A. Bernal, the San Antonio executive director, learned that their operations eventually were slated to be integrated into the Dallas-based national organization.

“The San Antonio affiliate has always been very committed to making sure that the funds which are raised in San Antonio remain with the organizations that are providing services here,” Komen San Antonio Board President Cynthia Rosen told San Antonio Business Journal senior reporter W. Scott Bailey. “Even though this wasn’t an easy decision to make, it’s the decision that made the most sense.”

The plan to force mergers among affiliates predates the pandemic, though the national organization has said it has accelerated its plans to close local chapters in an attempt to stem losses that began eight years after the organization tried to see Planned Parenthood defunded. Indeed, the organization’s signature fundraising events and central budget have never recovered from the loss of constituency that followed. In a previous article, we called this a “pre-existing condition.”

A product of the consolidation, a regional affiliate now called Susan G. Komen Greater Austin & East Texas, has grown to include 58 counties and has a new executive director in Jeannine O’Deens. The new merged entity has put an end to the local Race for the Cure, replacing it with a walk.

“The revenue from our biggest fundraising had been dwindling for a while,” said Elizabeth Green, the Austin Komen marketing and communications manager. “We recognized that to turn this around, we’re going to have to band together and pull our resources. So, what we’ve done is not just mergers, but we’ve completely changed that event.”

These kinds of affiliate consolidations always run the risk of eroding the engaged base, which is built on local hubs and personal relationships. O’Deens acknowledges this as posing a challenge, saying, “We’re going to be returning to our grassroots strategy and invite community leaders across our region to join us in mission delivery and fundraising…as we evolve, we also have to be more efficient with our mission delivery and our operations.”—Ruth McCambridge