Although prevention, research, and treatment have made tremendous strides over the past two decades, breast cancer continues to be a major threat to women worldwide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter their race or ethnicity. Although breast cancer receives the most attention during Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October, there are organizations working throughout the year to support patients and their families in treatment and recovery, while searching for a cure.
My family is no stranger to breast cancer, in fact most of the women I’m related to on my Mother’s side have had some type brush with it. I am always looking at ways that I can help, as I know so many others do too.
With thousands of breast cancer charities competing for donations, it can be difficult to know which one will make the greatest impact. I’m writing this hoping that it will help you.
Be Aware Before You Donate
The first thing you should do when considering donating is to check with charity watchdog groups that evaluate how well each organization spends the money it receives from contributors-this may be eye opening to you.
Two of the biggest charity watchdogs are Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. Both groups evaluate thousands of charities and non-profit organizations by looking at financial statements, tax reports, program expenses and fundraising costs.
When giving to a charity it’s important to know your motivation for giving and focus on where you want to make an impact. Once you know this, you can check the financial health and accountability of the organization.
In terms of breast cancer, decide whether you want your money to go for research and finding a cure, support services for cancer patients, helping support families or education and public awareness.
Charity Watch: Top breast cancer charities
The American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch cites 12 organizations as the top-rated cancer charities and of those there are three on the list that focus specifically on breast cancer prevention and research.
- Mission: To prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research.
- Rating: A
- Program percentage: 88% (percentage of its cash budget it spends on programs relative to overhead)
- Cost to raise $100: $9 (How many dollars a charity spends on fundraising to raise each $100 of contributions)
- Mission: To end breast cancer; has set a deadline to know how to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020.
- Rating: A
- Program percentage: 83%
- Cost to raise $100: $15
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly Breast Cancer Fund)
- Mission: Working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.
- Rating: A-
- Program percentage: 77%
- Cost to raise $100: $13
Charity Watch also gives top ratings to these broader cancer organizations on the list that are also involved in breast cancer research, treatment and education: Cancer Research Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation‘s Stand Up To Cancer.
Charity Navigator: Top breast cancer charities
Charity Navigator uses a star rating system when evaluating how efficiently a charity uses your donations.
Of the three charities highly recommended by Charity Watch, the Breast Cancer Foundation received Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars. The National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund and the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners both received three stars.
Other national charities devoted to breast cancer research and medical services that received four stars from Charity Navigator:
- The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) focus on providing early detection, support, and education. They offer free mammograms to people across the U.S.
- Score (out of 100): 90.27
- Program expenses (Percent of charity’s total expenses spent on programs, services): 80.8%
- Unlike many other breast cancer charities, the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation almost exclusively fund research exploring the causes of the condition.
- Score: 91.90
- Program expenses: 81.7%
- Mission: Funding life-changing breakthroughs in breast cancer.
- Score (out of 100): 92.92
- Program expenses: 89.1%
Charity Navigator also gave four stars to these charities that provide breast cancer support services and education: Bay Area Cancer Connections, It’s the Journey, Casting for Recovery, Sharsheret, Prevent Cancer Foundation, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and American Italian Cancer Foundation.
Susan G. Komen
One of the largest and most well-known charities devoted to the cause is the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization. The charity was founded in 1982 and was one of the first to devote itself to the cause of breast cancer research and has raised millions.
The organization’s reputation was damaged slightly after a decision in 2012 to cut its grants that funded breast cancer screening and outreach programs at Planned Parenthood erupted into controversy. The group quickly reversed its decision.
The organization also has received criticism for what some deemed excessive executive compensation and for “pinkwashing,” cause marketing with pink ribbons that allow companies to exploit the disease for profit.
The charity received mixed scores from the watchdogs. Charity Navigator gives Susan G. Komen for the Cure a 3-star rating (out of four) and lists the percent of its expenses spent on programs and services at 77.4%.
Charity Watch gives the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation a C+ rating with program percentage of 62%-77% and the cost to raise $100 of $12-$27.
Beware: Low-rated charities
Charity Navigator also cites these organizations as being low-rated and states: “We caution you to look carefully before supporting one of these charities.”
Other organizations rate lower because they scored lower on financial support and are spending more on fundraising than devoting funds to the issues.
These organizations received zero or one star:
- National Cancer Center
- Walker Cancer Research Institute
- Cancer Survivor’s Fund
- American Institute For Cancer Research
The Pink Ribbon
Many companies sell products containing the now iconic emblem of a pink ribbon, pledging to donate the proceeds to a breast cancer charity.
Breast cancer activist and survivor Charlotte Hayley inspired the design of the pink ribbon, which is still in use today.
Hayley initially made peach ribbons herself and gave them out with a card stating: “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5% goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”
These ribbons did not become famous until 1992, when Estee Lauder cosmetic counters changed their color to pink and gave them out across the nation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place in October every year.
In 1993, Avon released a $2 enamel and gold-cast pink ribbon broach. In its first 2 years, the pin raised $10 million, encouraging many other companies and charities to create pink ribbon products.
Since then, countless organizations have used the pink ribbon in their fundraising efforts.
However, some companies exploit the pink ribbon for corporate profit, with very little money from a product marked with a pink ribbon actually going toward breast cancer research or prevention.
In addition, some companies use the pink ribbon for corporate profit even though their policies or products actually increase the risk of breast cancer.
Regardless, the pink ribbon has come to symbolize the world’s effort to overcome breast cancer.
And, before you buy that pink ribbon item, check out Charity Navigator’s tips on charity-affiliated products to understand how much of your purchase will actually go to the cause.
Questions to ask when donating
The easiest way to be sure that all donations go directly to a breast cancer charity is to give directly to the organization. Donating in person, by mail, or online is also the only way to receive a tax credit for the donation.
With pink ribbon products, the portion of the proceeds that goes directly to breast cancer charities varies. Some companies have faced criticism for using the pink ribbon as a marketing tool while donating very little to the cause itself.
Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign recommends asking several important questions before purchasing pink ribbon products.
How much, if any, of the product’s proceeds go to a breast cancer charity?
Questions to ask before buying pink include:
- Which organization gets the money?
- Does the organization receiving the proceeds run programs or sponsor research that will help overcome breast cancer?
- Does the company selling the pink ribbon product also support, sell, or manufacture products tied to breast cancer, such as cosmetics containing carcinogenic chemicals?
- Is there a maximum amount that the company have set on their donations to breast cancer charities? Will they notify customers upon reaching this amount?
Bearing these questions in mind will help a person make the most effective decision when buying pink to support a breast cancer charity.
Charity Donating Tips
With about 1.7 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S., competition for donations has become intense. As charities face budget cuts and increasing public demand for their services, they turn to you for more donations. Many charities stuff your mailbox with fundraising appeals, hire high pressure telephone solicitors, and use aggressive tactics to get your money. All of this can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused about which charities are most deserving of your contributions. CharityWatch has put together some pointers to help avoid the bad and give more effectively. See them HERE