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Could Komen have avoided the firestorm?

Saturday - 2/4/2012, 12:24pm  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - An expert on the non-profit industry says it's hard to tell if breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure could have avoided the backlash this week when it announced it would pull grants for breast cancer from Planned Parenthood, and later reversed that decision.

Lewis Faulk, Assistant Professor at American University's School of Public Affairs, says it's hard to tell if the firestorm involving this highly respected non-profit could have been avoided.

Tuesday we learned Komen had stopped offering breast screening grants to Planned Parenthood because that group is the subject of an abortion funding investigation in Congress. Following a huge public outcry, Komen abandoned its decision Friday and apologized.

Faulk thinks Komen's initial decision to halt breast screening grants to Planned Parenthood was made to protect donors, and to try to direct money where it can be most effective. He says it doesn't appear Komen's initial move was politically motivated.

However, he says Komen should have anticipated trouble.

"Because of their reliance on donations, they had to know that this kind of decision would go against many of their donors across the country and many of their affiliates," Faulk says.

For Planned Parenthood, the controversy has led to a windfall.

"They've experienced a huge influx in gifts in response to this decision by Komen. For Komen though, it is certainly a P.R. nightmare to say the least," says Faulk.

Looking to the future, Faulk thinks Komen's longstanding relationship with Planned Parenthood will continue.

"They do see eye to eye on many issues, and they're working together collaboratively towards a common mission," he says. "They're both aligned in this common interest to serve women, to defeat cancer, and to provide early screening."

Faulk says what happened this week proves one thing for nonprofits.

"Seemingly simple decisions can have huge impacts on their public perception and the trust that the donors give them."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)