Interestingly, Nancy Brinker doesn’t address the issue Komen originally referenced when pulling funding: the fact that Planned Parenthood is under investigation. I am curious to see the lasting effects from funders and the country. I thought the Kentucky Fried Chicken partnership would hurt them more than it did. I also was surprised that ‘Pink Ribbons Inc.’ (a 2011 documentary about their fundraising) didn’t get more of a backlash.

Throughout the day, a number of my Facebook friends shared this cartoon. I can see this story quickly evolving into an overall condemnation of corporate partnerships… a nonprofit “sells its soul” for sponsorship and/or to make a political statement.

It raises a question that ALL development directors constantly wrestle with and that is “what is the line” between securing a partnership that will fund your program and endorsing a product that may not perfectly align with your mission. The issue is mission drift and the answers are often very subjective.

My personal opinion, biased of course, is that the pink campaign (and ‘Race for a Cure’) are brilliant and have done more good than people realize. However, as a nonprofit grows, it must “hold the line.” If your mission is to prevent breast cancer, how can you justify taking money away from doctors that provide examinations? I am kind of amazed actually that Komen seems completely unprepared to deal with the criticism they are receiving. Did they really think they were going to sneak this by their constituents?

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Komen has become the most iconic symbol of nonprofit and corporate partnership in this country. While corporations have literally raised billions of dollars for the fight to cure breast cancer, Komen has also acted as a platform for those same brands to solicit positive sentiment from Komen supporters. When a nonprofit abuses the trust of their constituents it can negate a lot of the good they have done with the funds raised from these partnerships.

Komen has clearly crossed the line in this case and only time will tell if the discussion will broaden to include a further examination of all corporate-ngo partnership and the protocol for engagement. My prediction is that “the thin line” that all development directors internally battle with will be in the spotlight for the foreseeable future, as ¬†constituents look to assure that their trusted organization is maintaining the values they hold dear.

I think that is a good thing.

– Cal Zarin, CEO