I was involved in fund-raising for several charities when I lived in Arkansas. My primary, of course, was the Diamond State Rodeo Association: a gay rodeo that raised money for HIV/AID awareness and research. Along with this I would walk in the annual AIDS walk held by the Arkansas AIDS Foundation… which was often known as the “Walk by the River” in Little Rock. I never actually confirmed that these organizations had chosen not to have “gay” or “AIDS” in their names because of cultural pressure, but it would not surprise me. Some things you just don’t talk about in the South.
But the other event I would participate in was the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s “Walk for the Cure”, which similarly raised money for awareness and research regarding breast cancer. It was a lot less controversial (at the time). This was a much bigger organization than the others I was involved with: and I was sad to hear today that they’ve gotten a bit big for their britches. I’m not sure many Canadians have even heard of the Foundation: and it’s unfortunate they’re hearing about them in this context.
The Foundation has announced that they are not going to be continuing to fund certain groups (National Post): in particular those that “are under investigation by the government” (Globe and Mail). In specific, they will not be renewing a $700K/5 year grant to Planned Parenthood (KHBS) for providing breast exams to the poor.
Much though the Komen Foundation has tried to claim that this is “not political”: I really don’t understand how they expect us to believe this. Considering the current poisonous climate of American politics, I can hardly imagine any group being “under investigation by the government” that has not pissed of some person in Congress or the Senate. That rhetoric, in itself, is an indicator of political wrangling at the highest edge. It is a tragedy that in these fights at the top levels of politics and business, the ones who end up suffering are the poor and the disenfranchised (Arkansas Times).
I listened to a video the Founder and CEO try to justify the changes in their policies (YouTube). Of course the first half of the video was about how wonderful the foundation is and how they use their donations to fund millions of dollars in community grants. “We are working to eliminate duplicative grants,” she said. If she thinks that Planned Parenthood doesn’t need the money, or that there isn’t need for their work among the very people they’re working with, I would say that Ms. Brinker has fallen a bit out of touch with needs of women in the last 30 years. She spoke about people “giving them more than just their money, they’ve given their trust.” Exactly. When I raised money for their work, it was with the expectation that they were working in the community, responding to needs. This new policy is a retraction of those responses, and a breaking of my trust. “We take that very seriously.” Well, they apparently take some of their donors more seriously than others.
“The accusations being hurled at this organization are profoundly hurtful to so many of us…” Thanks, Nancy. But I’m sure they’re not nearly as hurtful as the experience of a young woman finding no-one there to help when she needs it. Glad you feel comfortable with your choices of who to help and who to let find her own way.
One thing I’d never seen before on YouTube: almost 20% of the thousands of those who had watched the video and “voted” had said they disliked its content. I had to agree with one of the first comments when I read them: much though I’m sad to read about the Foundation’s decision and have wished them all the best in the past, they’ve completely brought this on themselves.