I just returned from an errand to the bank where I saw a huge cardboard advertisement for a pink-ribboned Susan G. Komen credit card. That reminded me that October (or Pinktober) is all about Think Pink and breast cancer awareness.
But be aware that there are less-than-worthy charities and lots of for-profit merchandising, too. This post from last October has excellent links to help you know if a charity deserves your money. FN
Profiting from breast cancer?
I know October is all about the color pink and supporting breast cancer, but don’t be too hasty giving your money away, even if you think it’s going to a “good” cause.
I am not a supporter of pink. I hate it and what it represents. It is nothing more than corporations and foundations scrambling to fill their coffers. Buying pink is not necessarily a good thing. First of all, many of the products with the pink ribbon are not healthy. Junk food, detergents and cleaning products filled with carcinogens. What is going on? How did we get here?
How did we get here? Because of a marketing culture that unabashedly exploits an emotional subject to make money.
Know where the money goes
Before buying a product or donating to a breast cancer charity—or any charity—do some research.
- Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?
- What organizations will get the money? What will they do with the funds?
- Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has the maximum donation already been met? How can you tell?
- Does this purchase put you or others at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer?
Rather than buying stuff you don’t need when only a fraction of your money goes to the intended charity, consider a direct donation. But again, do some research first.
This site gives you access to a huge database of IRS-approved charities and nonprofits, and offers this advice:
- Do a charity check to make sure you are supporting exactly the group you think. There are more than 1.4 million organizations recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS. Their names are often similar. Similar names produce confusion. More than 16,000 organizations have “Veteran” in their names. More than 1,600 have “Habitat for Humanity.” More than 80 have “American Cancer.”
- Do a charity check to make sure the group is truly a charity. Not every group that looks, sounds or feels like a charity is truly a charity. Scam “charities” often adopt names similar to legitimate charities, siphoning off dollars needed for good works. They’re specially active around crises, natural disasters and other big news items and causes.
- Do a charity check to find the organization’s tax status. Before you give, you should know the answers to these two questions – Is the organization recognized as a charity or nonprofit by the IRS? Will a donation be deductible as a charitable contribution?
With the information (such as tax ID number) you gather from Charity Check, you can use one or more of the available charity search sites that rank or grade an organization’s mandatory financial disclosures. For example, plug a name into Charity Navigator and you will get a star (up to 5 star) rating for the organization.
I put in American Cancer Society. Oh, oh! ACS only got 2 stars!
You can read the analysis for more information, but a low rating generally means that a low percentage of monies raised is going toward program services, and is being used for administrative expenses (rent, salaries, bonuses, travel, advertising, etc.) instead.
Groups are also rated on accountability and transparency.
Charities with less than $1 million in revenue are not rated.
This site is specific to my home state, Washington. Charities and nonprofits that operate in a state, even if they are national or international organizations, must register with that state.
Once again, I plugged in American Cancer Society. Based on revenue and expenses, the ACS spends only 68% toward program services. That’s not very high, and concurs with the 2-star rating from Charity Navigator.
Even worse is the American Breast Cancer Foundation with a miserly 54%! (and only 1 star on Charity Navigator 🙁 )
I like the state-run site because it also rates smaller (less than $1 million in revenue) groups.
Check out your own state’s government website to see if it has a similar tool for helping you find more information on a charity, nonprofit or fundraising event.
As always, I want to encourage everyone to be informed so we can make smarter, more cost-savvy decisions.