Komen Foundation Leaders Step Down Amid Turbulent Year for Organization

The founder and president join exodus from leading breast cancer nonprofit following controversy over abortion funding.


Women protest outside the Susan G. Komen for the Cure headquarters in Dallas. Several high-ranking executives with have resigned in the aftermath of a controversy involving its funding for Planned Parenthood.


Months after the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure made national headlines for halting then reinstating funding to Planned Parenthood, the organization's two top executives, its founder and president, will step down.

[Komen Brand Tainted in Women's Health Fight]

The step down by Nancy Brinker, who founded the organization in 1982, and resignations of president Liz Thompson and two board members bring the total high-level personnel changes since January's Planned Parenthood controversy to at least five. Brinker, who was the organization's CEO, will remain with Komen as chair of its executive committee and manager of global fundraising strategy.The press release announcing the shake-up did not mention whether the changes were related to the controversy nor the resulting decline in participation at the group's signature Race For The Cure events.

"Our mission is clear and consistent, and will never change, regardless of the controversy earlier this year," Brinker said in the the statement. "We are doing everything in our power to ensure women have access to quality cancer care and the support they need."

The national Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is a behemoth nonprofit with state affiliates nationwide. In 2011, it reported more nearly $175 million in revenue, only a fraction of which came from state affiliates.

One-fourth of the revenue generated by affiliates' Race For The Cure events is sent to the national organization, which amounted to $34 million in 2011. If affiliate fundraising is any guide, this year's revenue figures are expected to be considerably less.

"Our fundraising is down from previous years, we've seen about a 30 percent decrease in fundraising altogether," says Brad Young, communications manager at Komen's North Carolina affiliate.

The fundraising and participation declines are likely due to January's controversy, in which the group announced it would eliminate funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood was under investigation by Congress and is considered a more politically controversial organization because of its role in birth control and abortion issues. Komen later recanted the statement after it generated uproar, but the fallout continued at the national and state levels, where several executives stepped down in protest.

[Susan G. Komen Backs Down from Planned Parenthood Funding-Cease]

Young said the state affiliates are mostly self-sufficient organizations that issue local grants, but work with national on branding and promotional issues. Most of the national organization's revenue goes towards larger institutional grants and research, which amounted to about $72 million last year. But it also spends significant amounts on organization expenses such as advertising, which cost it $20 million, and consulting, which cost it $14 million.

Since Brinker founded the organization after her sister died of breast cancer, it has grown to be the preeminent advocate for breast cancer. The global organization has invested $750 million in breast cancer research, more than any other nonprofit, according to its statement. The group also invests heavily in preventative care, such as breast cancer screenings and educational efforts.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.