Breast cancer survivors hold up roses at the 2009 Susan G. Komen Orange County… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
As breast cancer charities go, Coalition Against Breast Cancer may not have the name recognition of, say, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but its name is no doubt familiar to many earnest consumers who want their purchasing power to benefit the greater good. Alas, in a case that may offer lessons for those same consumers, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer is being accused by the state of New York of using almost none of the funds it collected for the cause.
The Coalition Against Breast Cancer, based in Long Island, told donors their money would go toward research and mammogram screenings, but spent most of the $9.1 million it collected over five years on fundraising fees, salaries and benefits and personal goods, the state attorney general alleges. This Reuters article explains the details of the case; note that the attorney general uses the word “scam” and neither the group nor its for-profit fundraiser was available for comment.
The charity’s website http://www.cabcli.com didn't appear to be functioning properly by midday Wednesday.
But if the charity is indeed a bad apple and the donations haven’t been used for the greater good, the lesson is not: “Don’t give.” Rather, the lesson is: “Give carefully.”
Watchdog websites can help separate the wheat from the chaff. Charity Navigator, for example, recently gave the charity in question zero out of four stars (and now alerts potential donors to the New York lawsuit). It helpfully offers a comparison to other breast-cancer-related charities, which, we should point out, get four stars.
The site points out that such problems aren’t new. In a 2006 analysis of the largest breast-cancer charities, Charity Navigator found that fewer than half of the top 22 were operating efficiently.
The site currently gives nine breast-cancer charities its highest rating of four stars, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Rose.
Charity Watch, offered by the American Institute of Philanthropy, gives letter grades to the charities it rates (though you need to buy a membership to receive its full guide). And its assessment of some breast cancer charities is quite harsh:
"Look-a-like charities abound in the cancer area, some with opposite grades. National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund receives an A rating from AIP, yet the similarly named National Cancer Coalition and Coalition Against Breast Cancer receive F’s. In fiscal 2006, the A rated Breast Cancer Research Foundation granted nearly $25 million or 87% of its budget to medical research, whereas the closely named F rated American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) spent nearly 87% of its budget on solicitations that included an educational message and only $357,500 or 2.4% on research grants."
Consumers should display the same skepticism when it comes to cute pink items. As this Chicago Tribune article points out, it’s best to read the fine print -- sometimes proceeds are donated only for a limited time.
Just because something's pink doesn't mean it's doing good.
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