The Ugly Truth About Where Breast Cancer Charity Money Really Goes

Don’t be duped into thinking you’re supporting a good cause.

It’s October, and that means you’re about to drown in pink ribbons. In America the go-to foundation for raising breast cancer awareness is the Komen Foundation, often labeled as Komen for the Cure. Throughout Australia, bottles of water and razors tout pink ribbons, letting us know they’re donating a portion of their proceeds to support breast cancer research.

It feels good to help. We like helping, and we especially like helping when it requires no work whatsoever. It’s nice to know that by buying things we’re already buying and just switching up the brand, we’re helping contribute to curing cancer. Work is hard and cancer is awful – it’s a win-win.

Or it would be, if these pink ribbons weren’t scams.

A couple years ago Komen splashed front pages across America when it was revealed that none of their money actually goes to breast cancer research. Not a single dollar. Around twenty per cent of their funds go to cancer screenings and treatment of current symptoms, and the remaining amount goes to salaries and public education. Essentially, the majority of the money donated to their causes goes to creating a business that allows their employees to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They create a business where they get to profit off of America’s fave passtime of looking like great people while making a profit and doing the bare minimum. But not even one per cent of the money Komen makes goes to actually finding that cure Komen likes to dedicate itself to in name. And that’s assuming that the money even gets to companies like Komen in the first place.

In Australia, the breast cancer research leaders are the McGrath Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Those pink ribbons on your pack of yogurt may promise to donate money to one of these groups, but have you ever noticed how often they fail to mention how much money they actually donate? Novo Foods Pink Pack Eggs will cost you around $5.49, but only 3.6 Per cent of that – 20 cents – makes it anywhere at all. And Pink Pilot Pens only donate a paltry two per cent to the NBCF, and they’re certainly not the most pathetic contributors.

You may be surprised to hear that there is no standard as to how much of those proceeds each company donates. The companies self-regulate. They get to slap a pretty pink ribbon on their label makers as a sales tactic. You need a label maker, and sure, this one may cost a little more, but when the profits go to breast cancer research, you can mentally account for the difference. You have no way of knowing that your yogurt brand is only going to donate 1.6 per cent of what you pay to any kind of breast cancer related group, and you have no idea that the brand themselves get to decide how much of their pink profits will be pried from the clenched fists of greedy company officers.

So what’s a budding philanthropist to do?

Donate directly to your local research center. It’s not the answer anyone wants to hear because it requires us to do something we hate: go out of our way to research. Even when it’s for a good cause we’d rather not the majority of the time, but when it comes to breast cancer research, it’s our only real option.

Find your local Planned Parenthood and donate directly. Figure out who’s heading research in your neck of the woods and ask them how you can help. Many of their websites will provide you with the information you need right there. They may even let you donate online.

It’s not quite as easy as buying pinkwashed M&M’s, but it’s darn close. And for a much, much better cause.

Comment: Do you buy products if they bear the pink breast cancer packaging?