Breast Cancer Fundraising: Where Does All That Money Go?

    A pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on a white surfaceEvery year, the month of October is filled with pink ribbons, walks and marathons—even pink cleats in the NFL—all in the name of breast cancer awareness. Grocery store aisles are lined with familiar products in special-edition pink packages. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the breast cancer organization giant Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation reported approximately US $400 million in earnings.

    With so many different fundraising events and products bearing the symbolic pink ribbon, it’s hard for consumers to know just how much of their money is being donated to help find a cure for breast cancer and what is simply being pocketed by companies.

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    Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and CFO of Charity Navigator, says breast cancer is one cause that tends to not only unify, but also pulls at donors’ heartstrings, leading many to give blindly without doing due diligence on charities and products. In addition, watchdog groups, activists, and even survivors are calling for more research funding and less pink saturation in the market. And man

    “The ultimate reason to support a charity is its results,” Miniutti says. “Review their website to assess recent accomplishments and goals; this is an area where many donors run into trouble with breast cancer. They think they are supporting research, but it’s really advocacy or awareness.”

    The marketing force behind breast cancer month is astounding, with a variety of corporations and brands partnering with charities to spread awareness and push “pink-” theme products. However, these relationships have drawn more criticism over the years, according to Miniutti.

    “There is much more backlash and questioning of how much is authentic marketing. A lot of women who have been affected by the disease, the pink doesn’t resonate with them. They don’t like seeing it throughout the year, and there has been a lot more pushback.

    Researching different charities and products for a breakdown of how funds are allocated is time consuming and most charities and companies don’t make it accessible, according to Laurie Styron, charity analyst for watchdog group, the American Institute of Philanthropy.

    “Even if you want to do your homework, the public has no way of confirming,” says Styron. “Information isn’t available and companies don’t want to give it to you.”

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