Donating to the Breast Cancer Cause: Do Your Research

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is wrought with scams and wasteful organizations. Here are some tips so you can donate to the right places.

Donating to the Breast Cancer Cause: Do Your Research

By Victoria Candland Published at February 6 Views 3,018

A whopping six billion dollars is donated annually to the breast cancer cause—and for a good reason: breast cancer is the second leading cancer killer among women. Breast cancer donations dramatically outstrip donations for any other form of the disease. In October in particular, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the eye is bombarded with ad campaigns, corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales, races for the cure, and social media posts.

If you question any of these, if you question any of the seemingly well-meaning organizations that offer marked-up pink ribbons with the promise that you’re helping find the cure or ‘fight cancer,’ then you’re labeled a pessimist and a hater. “You know, breast cancer has been untouchable for a while. If you question anything, well then, you must hate women,” Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues tells Marie Claire. “That mentality makes it really hard to say, ‘What’s wrong? What’s not working?’ The goal is eradication. Isn’t that what we say we want?”

And yet, eradication isn’t close and not all organizations have the best intentions. Many breast cancer organizations only give a small amount of their donations to research, and many are just plain scams.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t donate to the breast cancer cause, as it is vital for research and helping patients in need, but do your homework beforehand. Here is some important information to digest so you can make informed and smart decisions about where to donate.

Beware of Scams

You’re a good-hearted person and find it hard to understand those who want to exploit Breast Cancer Awareness Month for their own personal gain. They are definitely scoundrels, but don’t be naïve and forget they exist. Avoid giving your credit card information away to people who call you in the name of curing breast cancer. Be especially aware of those that refuse to mail you material or provide you facts when asked. Assume that unsolicited emails from supposed charities asking for donations are a scam, unless you previously provided them with your email address. Vet all charities before donating. If you are met with a door-to-door solicitor, ask for leave-behind pamphlets or other literature you can authenticate.

There is no agency that regulates the sale of pink ribbons or any other breast cancer merchandise, so your purchased pink-hued cookies or socks or hair clips may not be linked to a breast cancer charity at all. “There is a lot of deception that goes on with breast cancer groups,” states Daniel Borochoff, founder of CharityWatch, a nonprofit that audits charities. “Any bozo can set up [a charity] and start soliciting.”

Beware of Waste

In October, the NFL dons pink. The players sport pink cleats, chin straps, and wristbands and throw pink footballs while the refs blow pink whistles. An estimated 650,000 pink ribbons are sold at their stadiums. This display of support lasts for one month, and then is abandoned for the masculine colors associated with the tackling athletes and beer-guzzling onlookers.

This pink fever doesn’t stop with the NFL. You can buy earbuds, special sandwiches, charm bracelets, limited-edition designer purses, coffee mugs, UGG boots, and even Snuggies all in the name of breast cancer awareness.

This would all be well and good if the donations received went to research. However, there is so much waste. The NFL donates a mere 8% of its pink merchandise proceeds to breast cancer research. According to Business Insider, the remaining money is either pocketed by the American Cancer Society or goes to the company that makes the merchandise and the company that sells the merchandise, which is often the NFL and its individual teams.

While the NFL certainly isn’t a charity, running one doesn’t require the prerequisite of a business degree. Often, well-meaning but inexperienced people easily blow too much of the donations on fundraisers, events, or telemarketing expenses. The Breast Cancer Society reportedly spent 90 cents out of every dollar made on telemarketers.

And many of the organization leaders pocket a significant—and perhaps alarming—amount of the proceeds. Lea Goldman, author of the award-winning story “The Big Business of Breast Cancer,” writes, “Breast cancer has made a lot of people very wealthy. The fact is, thousands of people earn a handsome living extending their proverbial pink tin cups, baiting their benefactors with the promise of a cure as if one were realistically in sight. They divert press, volunteers, and public interest away from other, more legitimate organizations, to say nothing of the money they raise, which, despite the best intentions of donors, doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to.”

There are small breast cancer charities that give themselves big names and manipulate their donation size to seem much higher, making the charity look more reputable and thus more likely for people to give further donations. Although these manipulations are legal, they are deceptive nonetheless.

Donate to the Right Places

There are around 1,400 tax-exempt charities in the U.S. claiming the breast cancer name. But, not all are equal in their ethics.

In a collaborative 2013 investigation between Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting, four breast cancer charities were listed in the top 100 worst charities. Ranked the fourth worst out of the 100 was the American Breast Cancer Foundation, which allegedly only donates 5.3% of its 80.8 million dollar donations to help women with breast cancer. Charity Navigator gives this organization its lowest rating at one star.

The report also exposed the Breast Cancer Relief Foundation, now merged with the National Cancer Coalition, which donated 2.2% of its 63.9 million dollar donations to helping the cause. It too is given a one-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Other charities that are wasteful, according to the investigation, include the Woman to Woman Breast Cancer Foundation and the United Breast Cancer Foundation.

So, where on earth should you donate your well-intentioned funds? The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation are known to be honest and give a large portion of their proceeds to research. Charity Navigator lists the top trusted breast cancer foundations that you can feel comfortable donating to.

And before you naively give any pink-wearing person your money, do a little research. You may find that they use your donations properly after all, or you may find that instead of funding research, you’re funding a miser’s vacation.

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