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What Can We Learn from Komen and Planned Parenthood?
My mother, a long time supporter of Susan B. Komen, called me early this morning... "You're the philanthroper (sic)," she said, "what do you think about this mess? When I walk or golf for the cure, I want to know that the money goes where it's supposed to go." I told mommy that I had a busy day yesterday and that I would dedicate this morning to reading the newspapers and drawing an opinion. After doing so, my opinion is: What a mess!
The clearest statement I read was a quote in today's Wall Street Journal by my friend and colleague, Marian Stern:
"Once an organization exists in the public trust, they are answerable to many stakeholders," said Marian Z. Stern, a philanthropy consultant and adjunct professor at New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.
Ms. Stern said that "donor intent" is among the highest priorities. Organizations are required legally, but also "morally and ethically," to follow a donor's wishes, she said. In the case of Komen, Ms. Stern believes that many donors, including small donors, felt that was an "issue of transparency" with the organization. When the organization "changed practice in a way that seemed oblique or inconsistent, donors were angry," she said.
As Marian implies, it's not about the politics, it's about transparency. It's not a question of the moral issues -- thank goodness we have supporters on all sides of the debates - they keep life balanced. Rather, this incident is about the responsibility of the donor to ASK and LEARN where his/her dollars will be going. For those who firmly believe that all things pink and all dollars to Komen go to research or cancer screening, look closer. I really like this xtranormal robotic youtube video I discovered this morning in my research. It lays out a lot of facts -- a donor to either Komen or Planned Parenthood should take the time to confirm those facts before writing a check.
The needs are great in our communities and the money is in short supply. Let's hope this fiasco will lead to donors taking the time to research, ask questions and understand before contributing valuable charitable dollars.
Komen and Planned Parenthood --- your work is important and I wish you both well as you enter an era of greater transparency in your own governance and also in honest partnership with your donors.
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