New Funding Model

An interesting shift in perception of non-profit funding took place these past few weeks, and no one seemed to notice.

Here’s what we all saw:

The Komen for the Cure Foundation (a non-profit group devoted to awareness and research for a cure for breast cancer) gave some funds to Planned Parenthood (a non-profit devoted to family planning and related women’s health issues) to underwrite cancer screenings. The Komen folk decided that in the next round of grants, they would only be giving Planned Parenthood a fraction of the money they gave last year.

Planned Parenthood, understandably, was not pleased to hear that there would be no automatic renewal of funds, and decided to take immediate action. They put their publicity machine into hyper-drive attacking Komen for no longer putting the needs of women in front of political interests, lumping them among those who operate in “threats, intimidation and bullying,” and calling on anyone within ear shot to distance themselves from Komen and come to the aid of PP.

Press interviews, releases, calls to donors, personal visits to in-office politicians to ask them to put pressure on Komen – Planned Parenthood has had a need in the past to protect themselves, and thus have created a powerful advocacy juggernaut, and they unleashed this force upon the offending funders.

Planned Parenthood’s dedication of their resources against Komen worked – not only did Komen back down and pledge to continue their funding, but within a few days of launching the attack, Planned Parenthood received additional donations five times over the amount of the Komen grant.

Planned Parenthood announced a victory, and congratulated all those who stood by them.

Komen for the Cure has not fared so well, turning overnight into what one outlet described as “the most reviled non-profit in the country” – not an easy thing to do in a country that includes those Westboro folks.

Patrons for Komen have already pulled pledged gifts, folks who often participate in their fundraising drives are dropping out, and the outlook for their upcoming walk events is predicted to be less than stellar.

So Planned Parenthood will get their Komen money, but many of Komen’s other areas of work – including research, awareness and breast exams being given by organizations other than PP – will not.

So that is the part we all know. Here’s what no one seems to have noticed.

Let’s strip the politics of the two organizations for a moment, and go generic:

A non-profit organization (lets call them NP) found out that they would not get a grant from a funding organization next year (let’s call them the FO). The response of the NP was to tell the FO that it was obligated to give them money – not “you should” or “we are worthy of it” or “please?” but rather obligated – and to not fund them was a breach of obligation.

The NP went on to tell the FO that if the money was given to another organization and not the NP, they would do everything they could to punish the FO.  The NP then acted on their threats until the FO gave in.

I come from the world of non-profits, and let me tell you – this is a huge shift in how things are done.

Imagine if the Seattle Symphony received a grant from the Washington Arts Alliance last year. This year, the WAA decided to give the money to the Queen Anne Hill Quartet instead.

Now, in the normal world, the Symphony would be bummed that they weren’t getting their grant again, and would try to find ways to make up the money. They might approach the WAA with an appeal, they might do a letter campaign to their donors asking for more money, they might try and sell more advertising in their programs.

But in this new world, they would do everything in their power to destroy the WAA, to prevent it from getting funding of its own, and prevent it from offering pikers like the QAHQ any funding at all.

See how upside down that is?

And the really perverse thing here is that Planned Parenthood and Komen for a Cure are on the same side. Both organizations are ostensibly devoted to women and women’s health. Yet Planned Parenthood’s tactics were targeted specifically to hurt Komen – and counted it as a victory when they succeeded in doing so.

How does an organization get so far away from its own mission that it sees damaging  an ally as a victory?

Happens all the time. Just look at the large family oriented Christian ministries that started decades ago, and are now political institutions rather than family oriented institutions.

You start out with a commendable goal; at some point you realize that with power you can achieve your goal better; you shift your focus toward getting power; and when your power is threatened you attack.

And all that good will and empathy and purity of purpose that you started with is debris abandoned on the battlefield.

For those that know the history of Planned Parenthood, imagine if when they were just starting out, someone walked in to their office and offered them a couple hundred thousand dollars in exchange for destroying another group devoted to finding a cure for breast cancer – in other words, take money in exchange for hurting women.

I would imagine those young idealists would be shocked by the offer and throw that guy out on his ear.

Just the other week they were made that offer, and without hesitation they said, “Hell yes!”

Just my thoughts,

Sean

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