October is such a busy month for breast cancer fundraising that it's called Pinktober because of all the pink ribbon products and events that benefit breast cancer causes.
No other breast cancer organization is more wired to Pinktober than Komen for the Cure, which raises tens of millions of dollars from cause marketing promotions with such well known brands as General Mills, Old Navy, New Balance and Walgreens.
But the fact that Komen founder Nancy Brinker sits atop this pyramid is a disgrace, and we need to ratchet up our calls for her to quit Komen for good.
Here's how you can help.
- Sign a Change.org petition that calls for her resignation. It already has 2,000 signatures, but we will need a lot more before the Komen board will take us seriously. Sign it now.
- Don't support Komen in any way this month, especially at the register or with your purchases. There are plenty of other good breast cancer causes to support during October. My organization of choice here in Boston: The Ellie Fund.
- Let's help each other find and support other breast cancer causes. The best way to motivate the Komen board is to hit them where it hurts: in their bank account. I've created aPinterest board called No Pink for Brinker. I'll be pinning alternatives to supporting Komen and I need your help. Add your alternatives to supporting Komen to your own Pinterest boards with the hashtag#NoPink4Brinker and I'll repin them to my main board.
- You can also leave your suggestions in the comments section of this post and on Twitter. Again, use the hashtag #NoPink4Brinker.
Nancy Brinker must go. And Pinktober is a perfect time to send the Komen board a powerful message. Take the pledge NOW.
Nothing Komen for the Cure does surprises me anymore. They sell deep-fried chicken to raise money to cure breast cancer. They sue other nonprofits that use "for the cure" in any variation in their name. Now, they're flexing their muscle and shutting off the funding to Planned Parenthood.
For Komen, it's just another day being a big, arrogant SOB that has swallowed too much of its own public relations and is drunk with power and eager to show its fight.
Part of me grudgingly admires Komen. Heck, I tell nonprofits all the time they should operate more like businesses. And that's what Komen is doing. If they were a for-profit company instead of a nonprofit we'd be applauding their actions, or at least ignoring them. After all, we live in a country where success and money wash every sin clean. And Komen has plenty of soap to spare.
The challenge is that Komen is a nonprofit but their walking and talking like the Standard Oil of our time. I hope they're headed for a crash, or at least a painful breakup.
But that's not up to me. It's up to you. (I say you because I've never supported Komen and I never will. I don't even talk about their cause marketing much except to be critical of it. Yeah, I'm grinding my ax when I can.)
You gave them their swagger with your sweat, support and money. You created a monster. Not that you care. You'll turn a blind eye and find comfort in the stories of sadness, hope, womanhood, courage and success that define the Komen experience.
That's just what Komen wants. Come walk season, you'll still be wearing pink.
You need a new narrative that puts cause above Komen. A true supporter is someone who is willing to defend her cause from the people who would hurt it, even if they are within the cause. This new story needs to be about accountability and direction that speaks to the breast cancer organization you want.
If you're happy with deep fried cause marketing, brand witch hunts and punishing poor women, congratulations, you have the organization you want.
But if you want something else: wipe away your tears, dump the pink and find your angry voice and tell Komen to change their ways, or you'll change yours.
When I was a kid charity was for chumps.
Despite the fact that my family, and most of our neighbors, got all types of government and public charity, we saw how carelessly and unevenly it was spread to the deserving and not so deserving. After church, where everyone put a buck or two in the basket, charity was sporadic and sometimes exploited.
Every Labor Day weekend the neighborhood kids went door to door collecting money for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. But MDA never saw a dime. They kids kept it saying they were Jerry's Kids and needed it more.
The neighbors I grew up with in Brockton, Massachusetts were giving but not charitable. We looked out for each other. We helped each other. Even if we didn't like each other.
Old lady Burgess across the street rarely spoke to my mother. She might have had good reason. My father sometimes slept off a hard night on our picnic table in full view of her window. But when my twin brother and I were born and my mother was overburdened with newborns, five other kids and dad, she crossed the street and washed our clothes and hung them out to dry.
I don't remember her crossing the street again, or my mother reciprocating the kindness. But I knew my parents would have if the need or request had come.
Charity started at home. But no one called it charity. There was a visible web of caring in my neighborhood that made that word seem artificial and distant.
Most of the charity that happens these days still feels this way. It can be cause marketing or any other kind of giving. When giving is disconnected from caring and context, it's just charity, in the worst sense of the word.
Maybe that's how Steve Jobs - whose public giving was questioned last week - feels and has chosen instead to drive all his caring into building a first class company that showers its employees and customers with rewards and opportunity.
Jobs' giving is at home.
Jessica Gottlieb lectured us in "Your Cause Marketing Makes Me Hate Poor People" that
Charity matters. Giving of ones self is something that makes us better people. Biblically and traditionally the most cherished gifts, the ones seen as being the most pious are anonymous. When you donate two cents on every hundred dollars and then take out seventy three ads to tell me that you’re fighting breast cancer I don’t call that giving. I call that taking.
I call it give and take.
That's what I saw in my neighborhood. Maybe that's what Steve Jobs sees in his.
The sway between give and take played out this past weekend when the first Labor Day in decades came and went without Jerry Lewis as the frontman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's telethon. He gave a lot to people with muscular dystrophy. His caring brought an obscure disease to the public's attention and raised billions to fight it.
But Lewis feasted on the fame, especially when Telethon was the only act he had left. And it's hard not to conclude that his curtain calls have kept MDA from evolving and modernizing leaving its post-Lewis future in doubt.
Give and take. Good and bad. That's what real charity is all about.