Susan G. Komen Controversy: Critics Target CEO Pay As Races Canceled, Donations Drop

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is in the midst of a controversy after announced that half of its 3-Day races for next year were canceled, putting a sharp focus on the high pay of CEO Nancy Brinker.

The charity blamed the economy for the canceled races, but also acknowledged that the decision to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood played a role. Early last year the organization announced it was pulling breast-cancer screening funding from Planned Parenthood, a decision that was reversed within days by Brinker after a strong blowback.

In the wake of the controversy, Brinker announced that she planned to step down as CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but would remain on as chair of its executive committee.

“I was asked by the Board in 2009 to assume the CEO role,” Brinker said in a statement last year. “Three years into that role, and 32 years after my promise to my sister to end breast cancer, I want to focus on Susan G. Komen’s global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world.”

But nearly a year later, Brinker has yet to leave her position and tax documents showed that she actually received a 64 percent pay increase, giving her $684,000 a year. Susan G. Komen official said the pay increase was put in place in November 2010, before the controversy over Planned Parenthood erupted.

Nancy Brinker’s pay does not seem to be in line with other similar non-profit leaders, said Ken Berger, president and CEO of the non-profit evaluator Charity Navigator. He termed her salary “extremely high.”

“This pay package is way outside the norm,” he said. “It’s about a quarter of a million dollars more than what we see for charities of this size. … This is more than the head of the Red Cross is making for an organization that is one-tenth the size of the Red Cross.”

For example, the Susan G. Komen Foundation generated $340 million in revenue last year. The American Red Cross, which had total revenue of $3.4 billion, paid CEO Gail McGovern $500,000.

Komen Foundation spokeswoman Andrea Rader tried to head off the controversy, saying the organization has accomplished much under Brinker.

“Our CEO pay reflects the comprehensive and global nature of our work,” she said. “We fund research; we grant to thousands of community health and breast cancer patient support programs; we advocate for access to cancer care through our public policy programs, and we’re active in breast cancer programs in 30 countries, with an emphasis on serving women in low- and middle-resources nations.”

Do you think the Susan G. Komen Foundation pays too much to its CEO?