Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Assault on Cancer Charities

by Gary Snyder

Cancer charities are taking a beating whether it is their public relations or their honesty.

Pinkwashing, as some breast cancer activists call it, has become an October rite, intended to “raise awareness” of breast cancer during what has for years been called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those who promote the pink campaigns say they raise millions of dollars to fight the disease, says the New York Times.

But many women with breast cancer hate the spectacle. 

Breast cancer awareness, critics charge, has become a sort of feel-good catchall, associated with screening and early detection, and the ubiquitous pink a marketing opportunity for companies of all types.

For all the awareness, they note, breast cancer incidence has been nearly flat and there still is no cure for women whose cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs, like the liver or bones.

“What do we have to show for the billions spent on pink ribbon products?” asked Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an activist group whose slogan is “Think before you pink.”

Some broader women’s health groups agree. “The pinkification of the month of October, from football cleats to coffee cups, isn’t helping women,” said Cindy Pearson, the executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, an advocacy organization.

Other groups are starting to refine their message. On Oct. 2, the start of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization representing breast cancer groups across the country, put out a news release calling for “action, not awareness,” and for channeling billions of dollars that pay for awareness campaigns toward research instead.

When it comes to pink, said Fran Visco, the coalition’s president, “we don’t want to be part of it.”

On the other hand, The cancer society’s Making Strides walks for breast cancer raise $60 million a year to support breast cancer research, programs and services, reported Elissa McCray, the group’s managing director for media relations.
In the last six years, she added, the National Football League’s “Crucial Catch” program contributed $8 million for screening, raising the money by selling pink merchandise.
At Avon, said Cheryl Heinonen, the president of the Avon Foundation, the money raised goes toward screenings for women who cannot afford them, and to providing care and support for women with breast cancer, including child care and transportation to medical appointments.
While Avon’s campaign has an awareness component, Ms. Heinonen said, “our biggest emphasis is on care.”
For almost a decade Nonprofit Imperative has warned its readers about the problems associated with cancer charities, particularly breast cancer. Many cancer charity frauds were uncovered by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Marie Claire Magazine.

Finally the regulators are starting to watch. The Federal Trade Commission and 58 law enforcement partners from every state and the District of Columbia have charged four sham cancer charities and their operators with bilking more than $187 million from consumers- a large portion of the funds going to personal use. The defendants told donors their money would help cancer patients, including children and women suffering from breast cancer, but the overwhelming majority of donations benefitted only the perpetrators, their families and friends, and fundraisers.

This is one of the largest actions brought to date by enforcers against charity fraud and it is the tip of the iceberg of a multitude of cancer charity frauds that are seemingly not investigated by regulators.

Just a sampling of other cancer charities that haven’t turned up honest:

  • ·    Christian relief charity World Help overstated its  revenues by 1,400 percent.
  •      Breast Cancer Society (BCS) claims it raised $50 million in contributions in tax filings but when pressed by Marie Claire Magazine the founder said that it raised just $15 million in cash donations in 2009. The other $35 million represented his estimate of medications.
  • ·      Cancer Fund of America is a controversial group. Both the Better Business Bureau and the nonprofit rating agency Charity Navigator have vilified it for giving less than a penny of every dollar raised to cancer patients.
  • ·      The United Cancer Council hired a fundraiser netting only $2 million out of the $28 million collected. 
  •          The Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation raised $1,159,654. Just under 12 percent, less than $137,000, went toward granting wishes for terminally ill breast cancer patients.
  •          The American Cancer Society actually lost money on a program (in 2010), because the telemarketing firm got to keep 100 percent of the $5.3 million in funds it raised, plus $113,006 in fees from the society, government filings showed. No apologies from the agency.
  •           The National Breast Cancer Foundation was a family affair. With collections of about $10 million, the founder takes home $200,000, her son $180,000, her husband and another son all share in the largess at the expense of those in need.
  •          The Coalition Against Breast Cancer offers virtually nothing to patients after taking in millions. The Coalition is called a sham by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
  •          The Breast Cancer Relief Foundation and the John Wayne Cancer Institute with just one star, poorly performing organizations. United Breast Cancer Foundation, Walker Cancer Research Institute and the American Breast Cancer Foundation have zero (0) stars.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Charity Navigator, Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio (NPR), Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), “Betrayal”, (a movie), NBC (on Charity Fraud…TBD), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Marie Claire, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, Charity Navigator, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, Board Room Insider, USA Today Topics, Accountants News, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times, Portfolio Magazine, The Virgin Islands Daily News, NANKAI (China) BUSINESS REVIEW, National Religious Broadcasters newsletter, The Charity Governance Blog, American Chronicle, Palm Beach Post, Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press, Nonprofit World, Socially Responsible Business Forum, PNNOnline, Ohio Nonprofit Resources, Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, Nonprofit Startup Guide, Nonprofit Blog, National Coalition of Homeless Newsletter, Finance and Administration Roundtable Newsletter, MichiganNonprofit.com, CORP! Magazine, Crain’s Michigan Nonprofit, ncrp.org, PhilanTopic, Nashville Free Press, Nonprofit Law Blog, Seniors World Chronicle, Carnegie Reporter, Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners Examiner, msnbc.com, Worchester (MA) Telegram and Gazette, Carnegie Corporation of America, EO Tax Journal, Wikipedia: Non-profit Organizations; Parent: Wise Austin, Accountants News, Veterans Today, Answers.com, Far-roundtable, #Nonprofit Report, nonprofithelpnews, nonprofit news; National Enquirer, Northwest Herald, The HelpWise Daily, The #Nonprofit Report, Wikipedia (Nonprofit Organization), Answers.com, Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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