The current sluggish economy makes support for cancer patients all the more important, as patients struggle to cope with cancer in their lives. Charities fill important roles in connecting patients with financial, emotional, and practical resources to help patients cope with the disease. The economy of recent years has also been challenging for cancer charities. Further, 2012 was a particularly tumultuous year for two prominent groups that support cancer patients: Susan G. Komen for the Cure and LIVESTRONG. We’ve contacted several organizations that support cancer patients to ask about their future outlook.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Susan G. Komen for the Cure focuses on breast cancer, which accounted for 29% of new cases of cancer among women and 14% of cancer deaths among women, according to the American Cancer Society. Komen describes its mission spending as divided between research spending (23% of its total budget) and community health (16% of its total budget goes to screening and 37% goes to education). In 2011, Komen paid for 700,000 breast screenings, reached millions of people with breast health education and information, and provided financial and social support for 100,000 women and their families. This was done by providing funding to more than 2,000 community partner organizations in the fiscal year of 2011.
In February 2012, Komen defunded their grants to Planned Parenthood, which has been a community partner organization. They reversed course 4 days later by renewing funding for Planned Parenthood, but the decisions impacted their image. Additionally, after these decisions, the founder and CEO Nancy Brinker resigned, though she remains with Komen in the position of chair of the board’s executive committee. Two board members also resigned later in 2012.
The public face of Komen involves their race series, which is the largest series of 5K and 1K walks in the world. Andrea Rader, Managing Director of Communications at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said, “We had more than 1.7 million participants in 2011. It is very meaningful for people to raise money for community programs and also for research.”
However, these races were impacted by the Planned Parenthood controversy. Rader explained, “Going into our fall race season, we’ve seen about 15-20% drop in participation in our races, though our books aren’t closed for the fall season yet. Clearly, the controversy had an impact. We’re seeing people coming back. We think we’re in a better position, certainly, than we were in February.”
Rader explained that their strategy is the keep the emphasis on their mission by doing a better job of reminding people who they are and what they do. She emphasized that all of Komen’s corporate sponsors stayed with them and that the corporate sponsors understand how important Komen’s work is and how much value it creates for a woman who is facing breast cancer.