New CEO aims to diversify Komen fundraising

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — After attracting 25,000 participants and raising $1.85 million in 2011, making it the largest foot race in the Carolinas, the Komen Triangle Race for the Cure saw attendance and revenue fall in 2012 in the wake of a controversy sparked earlier in the year after Dallas-based Komen for the Cure announced it no longer would fund Planned Parenthood, a  decision it quickly reversed.

On the heels of that drop, Komen’s Raleigh-based North Carolina Triangle to the Coast affiliate has a new executive director and big plans to diversify its fundraising to support its recent expansion in southeastern North Carolina.

“We’ve been extremely successful with our events,” says Pam Kohl, a nonprofit veteran who joined Komen in August after serving for nine years as district director for U.S. Rep. Brad Miller. “Just like any nonprofit, we know we can never depend on any particular revenue stream.”

Formed in 1997, the affiliate operates with an annual budget of $2.2 million and a staff of 13 people and serves 29  counties, including 13 southeastern counties it added this year that include some of the state’s poorest communities.

An estimated 6,000 women in North Carolina are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and over 1,000 of them die, with the incidence of breast cancer and the mortality rate from disease in eastern North Carolina 11 percent and 20 percent higher, respectively, than in the rest of the state, says Kohl.

“Poverty affects breast cancer rates because of a lack of education on breast health and breast screening,” she says.

The affiliate, one of four in North Carolina, aims to ensure that “no women’s life should be dependent on her geography,” says Kohl, former executive director of the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education and former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Capital and Coast, both in Raleigh.

Kohl says the affiliate will be launching an annual fund drive and an effort to secure major gifts, and will begin a new race in Wilmington on March 2.

The affiliate, which makes its own funding  decisions, gives 75 percent of what it raises to local groups that provide education, screening, treatment, transportation and other services, investing $1.1 million this year through 19 grants to benefit women in 20 counties.

It gives the remaining 25 percent to Komen for breast cancer research, or $400,000 last year, when Komen in turn invested $2.4 million in research at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Kohl says she looks forward to bringing people together to raise money to help find a cure for breast cancer and that it was mistake for Komen to get involved in political controversy.

“I’m a breast cancer survivor,” she says. “When I went to meet with my surgeon, I did not care whether she was a Democrat or Republican or what she felt about any issue. I wanted to know she was technically proficient and that she care about me. That’s what Komen has been. We don’t care about politics. We care about the cure.”

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