The 2011 Komen Race for the Cure (KRFTC) attracted 40,000 participants in Washington, D.C. Only 25,000 have registered for this year’s event, which is now less than a week away.
Most news stories have blamed the declines—and corresponding drops in donor pledges—to Komen’s controversial decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. (A decision it reversed only days later.)
That may be true, but there’s more to it. Komen used to be a common cause that brought together people of divergent beliefs. The group’s ardent supporters have been racing for “togetherness” as much as they have for “the cure.” As former KRFTC participant Jenn McKee eloquently wrote last week in The Detroit News:
“Yes, Komen will always work to fight breast cancer, regardless of whether or not it provides grants to Planned Parenthood. I understand that. But from now on, for those who disagree with Komen’s current (or future) policy, this basic goal won’t really matter; the organization has now permanently politicized itself as yet another divisive, Red State/Blue State issue in our lives.”
McKee’s closing is particularly on point: “The number of things that bring us together, rather than pull us apart, is growing smaller by the day.” That’s both an opportunity and a warning for all organizations—charitable and otherwise.