Think Before You Give

When Susan G. Komen throws the spotlight on breast cancer research, and thousands are ready to “Race for Pink Ribbon 150x150 Think Before You Give the Cure”, consumers are encouraged to research a charity’s claims before making a purchase or donating money.  While most pink ribbon marketing campaigns are trustworthy, consumers should simply ask the right questions before they act solely on trust. 

In the current issue of Marie Claire magazine, “The Big Business of Breast Cancer” by Lea Goldman discusses the “scams” of pink business. Multiple companies use breast cancer research or awareness as their mission but misappropriate the funds to pay salaries, telemarketing, or on awareness campaigns.

The article specifically mentions Baltimore-based American Breast Cancer Foundation. The president of the company used her son’s marketing firm called Non Profit Promotions to promote the cause. After nine years, he billed his mother $18 million for his services.

Because a company puts a pink ribbon in its package doesn’t always mean an honest breast cancer charity is benefiting from your purchase.  If you are compelled to choose one product over another, BBB suggests the following:

  • Inspect the product for information about donations and how much of the sales go to charity. If the money distribution is not posted, visit the company’s website.
  • If you still can’t find the information but want to buy the product, you may have to contact the company directly or the specific charity.  Firms that use charity tie-ins to market their products should be transparent to consumers.
  • Consider giving directly to the charity if charitable giving to this cause is important to you. Yoplait donates 10 cents for every pink yogurt lid mailed back, but you would have to eat three yogurts a day during the entire four-month campaign to raise $36 for the cause!

 Here are a few additional tips to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate charity:

  •  Make sure the organization you are contributing to is a “charity”, which means the organization will have filed a 990 with the IRS. In Maryland, a charity is required to register with the Secretary of State to solicit.
  • Think “twice” before giving on the spot such as the “buckets” on the corner or the ones on the grocery store counter. There may be doubt that all the money will go to charity. If so, how much of that money is used for actual programs related to the cause?  In addition, Charity Navigator reports on the average of what is actually donated to the charity in response to phone solicitation. 
  • Fox Business News advises consumers to research big events like walks and dinner events.  They may serve as a morale booster and do indeed increase awareness, but they may also be inefficient.  Ask about the overhead costs associated with the entire event.

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