07 February 2012

Treating the Donors as Stupid and Other Errors

I suppose every public resignation letter is a self-serving exercise in spin, but Ms. Handel may have set new lows. As I really do not like being treated like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed manure, I found Ms. Handel and the Komen board's efforts to lie about their actions particularly offensive.

I am not defending Planned Parenthood here. Think whatever you wish about that organization.

I do favor some simple truth telling. Ms. Handel has been a candidate for public office. She ran on a program of "de-funding" Planned Parenthood. She lost. As an employee of Komen, she as she affirms below, she was a proponent of changing the charity's grant rules so as to do exactly that to one and only one organization. When the manure hit the fan, she and the board members tried to lie their way out of the controversy. When that failed, they backed off and now she has resigned.

It won't wash. Komen has squandered a great deal of good will. A lot of donors now will look to organizations that are not making politically driven flip flops. They have earned that by their conduct. End of the day, that is what happens.

Dishonesty is almost never the right policy. I am sure there is an exception, I just cannot think of it off hand. Treating your donors as stupid is almost never going to advance your cause. And twice now, in enunciating the policy change and in reversing it, Komen has made that error. They will reap the whirlwind.

Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization.
At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.1

1Karen Handel's public resignation letter as quoted by Marie Diamond on the "Thinkprogress Health" web site on 7 February 2012.

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