Charity Shakeup

Key Fundraiser Leaves Susan G. Komen

Julie Teer is the latest top executive to leave the cancer-fighting charity. The group says it is rebuilding. Abigail Pesta reports.

Julie Teer, the chief fundraiser for the cancer-fighting Susan G. Komen foundation, is leaving the organization, a spokeswoman confirmed Monday night. As vice president of development, Teer was responsible for recruiting major donors to the charity, which has seen a rocky year after it cut funding to Planned Parenthood amid pressure from Catholic bishops—then restored the funding amid a backlash.

Teer is leaving for a job as senior vice president of resource development at the Boys and Girls Clubs, according to Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader. Neither Teer nor the Boys and Girls Clubs were immediately available for comment. “We’re sorry to lose her, but it’s a great opportunity for her,” Rader said. “She has done a terrific job.” In an internal memo to employees, Teer, who has been with Komen for nearly four years, was described as “developing major donor events” and “building partnership initiatives” with companies such as General Electric and Caterpillar. Teer’s last day is June 29.

Komen has seen a string of high-level departures in recent months, including vice presidents Leslie Aun, Katrina McGhee, and Karen Handel. Last week a new hire arrived: Ellen Willmott, who will lead Komen’s legal team as general counsel, succeeding interim general counsel Mark Solls, according to Rader. Willmott came from Save the Children.

Komen also has faced sluggish turnout at many of its pink-ribbon fundraising races this year, with the charity attributing the decline both to the economy and the controversy. This month, the group’s signature race in Washington, D.C., drew around 27,000 participants, down from around 37,000 last year. The D.C. race also lost its top fundraising participant from the prior year, U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, who had raised more than $10,000 in 2011. In addition, Komen canceled its annual lobbying day, an event at which activists lobby for government programs, not Komen programs—raising concerns that the controversy could have far-reaching effects on women’s health.

However, Rader said she is beginning to see “signs that people are remembering what we do, supporting programs in their community.” Seventy-five percent of funds raised at a community race stays in the local community, going to screenings and treatment for women, according to Komen; the other 25 percent goes to research. Rader said the group is preparing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, and pointed to a well-attended race this past weekend in St. Louis. That race drew more than 50,000 participants, although the number was down from 64,000 last year. She also said Komen recently had provided $58 million in new research funding for 2012, including 154 grants to researchers in 22 states and seven countries.

The Komen foundation has raised some $1.9 billion to combat cancer in the 30 years since its launch. More than 100,000 volunteers work in a national network of affiliates. Nancy Brinker, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, launched the charity after her sister, Susan G. Komen, died of breast cancer in her 30s.

Brinker came under heavy scrutiny for her management and spending style after the Planned Parenthood debacle. Last week, she got some good news: Webster University in St. Louis said it was honoring her with a George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology Person of the Year Award, citing her “work and dedication” and her “promise to her dying sister.”