With charities and consumer product companies raising as much as $6 billion a year for breast cancer research, consumers are faced with a dizzying array of pleas for direct donations and pitches for products decked out in pink ribbons.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges consumers to take the time to research the charities seeking their money and to understand claims by marketers of products that purport to benefit breast cancer research. BBB research has shown that some companies are vague about how much of the purchase price of their products benefits charity or which charity receives the money.
While many charities use donations wisely, questions have been raised about the amount of money other nonprofits actually spend on research or support for breast cancer victims. For example, the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, calling it a “sham charity.” The lawsuit accuses the charity’s founder, Andrew Smith, his girlfriend and their associates of pocketing nearly all of the $9.1 million the charity raised over the last five years.
Some charities also have been accused of fudging their reports to the Internal Revenue Service by calling telemarketing efforts “education” if the phrase, “Don’t forget a mammogram” is stamped on their stationery. Roughly 1,400 tax-exempt charities nationwide are breast cancer-related.
With National Football League players sporting pink chin straps and cleats, it’s clear that breast cancer awareness is at an all-time high. But a product has to do more than turn itself pink to do good for charity, and a charity needs more than a name to make a difference.
Consumers can find reports on charities at the BBB website. The BBB’s Charity Information Service examines the percentage money a charity spends on programs, its governance, fund-raising, informational materials and effectiveness. Charities who meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability can become BBB Accredited Charities.
Some tips for avoiding charity scams include: