October is officially here which means pumpkins, changing leaves and lots of pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What started out two decades ago as a few pink ribbons has now turned into a full-fledged bubblegum pink frenzy, thanks to the untiring devotion of charitable organizations, like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who have been dedicated to raising awareness about this devastating disease. According to the American Cancer Society, a little less than 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. This means that more likely than not, you have a friend, mother, sister, grandmother or cousin who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
As you stroll the aisles of the grocery store, you would be hard-pressed to find a product which has not been kissed with pink. From ice cream cartons and yogurt lids to bandaids and Swiffer Dusters, it seems that everyone has made a commitment to “Think Pink.” Even the big, bad athletes of the NFL suit up in pink jerseys to support the cause. With so much pink to be had, it’s easy to catch the fever and donate to any charity which associates itself with breast cancer.
Sadly, there are many organizations out there which take advantage of your good will, especially during times of heightened awareness about a charity. Some organizations, while well-intentioned, allegedly spend more money on their employees’ salaries than they actually donate to breast cancer research, as recently discovered in an article here. Others, like the organization recently uncovered in New York are purely scams.
So what is a well-intentioned soul to do? Similar to the types of methods employed by scammers during major natural disasters (as discussed on the Scambook blog here), there are a few tried and true ways you can ensure your money is going where you intend it to.
Tips to Avoid Fraudulent Charities
1. Do not respond to unsolicited (SPAM) e-mail.
2. Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.
3. Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
4. Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
5. To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf. A non-exhaustive list of reputable breast cancer organizations can be found on this website, which rates the credibility of charitable organizations.
1. Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
2. Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization. One especially useful free resource is GuideStar (http://www2.guidestar.org/), which allows you to peruse a nonprofit’s tax returns to see exactly how they have been allocating their money.
3. Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Always Read the Fine Print
If you decide to purchase products which support breast cancer research rather than donating directly to a charity, make sure to read the fine print. Many companies put a cap on how much of the proceeds of the product will be donated. For example, Yoplait Pink Lids will donate two cents for every lid returned, up to $2 million dollars . However, other products may put a much smaller cap on proceeds donated to breast cancer charity so your well-placed intention to buy a pink mixing bowl may just make a wealthy company even wealthier.
Attending a fundraising event or a walk-a-thon? Participating in activities like these can be a great way to help spread awareness. However, you should be aware that charity dinners, galas and walks are not effective fundraisers in and of themselves because of high overhead costs. So keep in mind that if you want your money to make the biggest impact possible, you should donate directly to a reputable breast cancer charity.
For more information on making an informed breast cancer donation this month, check out this Fox Business Report article here.
And, as always, if you want to investigate a charity that you think might be a scam, or if you have heard about or been the victim of a charity scam, check with Scambook.com to research and report in order to protect yourself and others from putting your good intentions into the wrong hands.