Posted by Sheila Shayon on August 6, 2010 02:00 PM
The battle for brand identity has spilled over into the do-good-for-a-cause, not-for-profit world — and the territorial imperative is the same as in the for profit business world — fierce and defensive.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the leading U.S. breast-cancer awareness charity and synonymous with the phrase "for the cure" and with the pink ribbon. As fiercely as it's battling the disease that took its namesake's life, it's fighting to protect its tagline and color.
A number of organizations have tried to trademark names using the phrase: Juggling for a Cure, Bark for the Cure and Blondes for the Cure.
One group, “Kites for a Cure,” was asked by the organization, started by Susan's sister Nancy, to change their name and they refused. Komen retaliated with legal action against this group and several others, charging name poaching and color theft.
"It is startling to us that Komen thinks they own pink. We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied to no purpose," Mary Ann Tighe of Kites for a Cure, an organization focused on lung cancer, told the Wall Street Journal.
Jonathan Blum, Komen's general counsel, responded that "We see it as responsible stewardship of our donor's funds." Confusion among non-profits branding too often leads to mistaken donations.
A settlement was reached as Tighe agreed to limit use of the event name and stay away from pink. Blum called the negotiations “cordial and productive,” while Tighe felt, "It's just silly."
Case in point, two charities with similar missions — aid to injured veterans — have been legally embroiled for three years over $2.2 million in donations to the website woundedwarriors.org.
Wounded Warriors Inc., based in Omaha is the site owner. Wounded Warrior Project of Jacksonville, Fla., says their supporters mistakenly sent donations there instead of to the Florida charity.
A similar situation erupted with the Sunshine Kids Club of California and the Sunshine Kids Foundation of Texas. Faelin Klein, founder of the Sunshine Kids Club of California is now changing the name of her charity for children, like her daughter, with cerebral palsy to Sunshine Club.
"The days are probably over when nonprofits just said, 'We'll just get along with anybody who's a nonprofit because we're all trying to do good here,'" said Andrew Price, a trademark attorney at Venable LLP in Washington, told the WSJ.
As the business of charity becomes, well, less charitable, the proverbial adage "Charity begins at home" remains unchanged — and it’s not always so ‘pretty in pink.’