Film Suggests Komen Foundation is Guilty of “Pink Washing”

Lea Pool, director of the new documentary “Pink Ribbon, Inc.” shared this bit of wise advice with Reuters in a recent interview about her film

“It’s not about raising money it’s asking the question about where that money is going,” said Pool.

It’s advice all of us who give our time and money should consider and something everyone who works in fundraising should always keep in mind. The story should not be about the process of raising the money, but about the change the money raised will bring about.

“Pink Ribbon, Inc.” is a film that suggests the Susan G. Komen foundation and other similar organizations are engaged in “pink washing.” According to the film’s trailer, the organization has slipped from its focus on raising money to fight breast cancer. In the trailer, the assertion is made that cancer-causing companies are profiting from “for the cure” events and, overall, Komen has become a marketing machine dedicated more to their pink brand than stopping breast cancer.

I haven’t seen “Pink Ribbon, Inc.” so I can’t begin to form an opinion on it or the accusations made about the Race for the Cure events and other breast cancer awareness campaigns. I do know the Susan G. Komen foundation has filed lawsuits against smaller nonprofits who use the phrase “_____ for the cure.” That is a decidedly unphilanthropic move by an organization that should be supportive of anything that helps battle the disease. That aside, the most important message here is the increasing need for transparency, honesty and accuracy in every step of a nonprofit’s operations.

Fundraising organizations are always centered around an important, usually ethical mission. That mission should always be at the core of what your organization does and the messages it communicates to supporters. If either aspect of that main strategy deviates – if your mission becomes more about raising money than solving the problem, or if your messages don’t accurately communicate the work you’re doing – it’s time for a change.

Perhaps the Komen campaign is at a stage where it needs to step back and ask the question “what have we become?” There is little doubt the VAST majority of those who work for or with the Komen foundation have the singular goal of preventing and curing breast cancer. If the accusations in “Pink Ribbon, Inc.” are even close to legitimate, Komen should honor its supporters and return to a mission that is soley about defeating breast cancer.

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