Each year, it starts earlier and earlier. The color pink starts creeping into every piece of marketing material you receive. It fills your social media feeds, your local markets and TV commercials. It's not hard to tell when Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us. Every October, we are bombarded with donation requests by everyone in every form, from yogurt brands to tank tops to cashiers asking if you'd like to add a dollar to your purchase to go to some large-scale breast cancer fund. You're made to feel like by buying these products, you're actually helping to cure cancer.
But is that really the case?
This month, before shelling out for that $50 tank top with the tiny pink ribbon on the strap, take a minute to familiarize yourself with these organizations. The more you know about where your hard-earned dollars are going, the better you will feel about spending.
Do your research
There are number of watchdog websites that have been designed to evaluate and grade organizations based on the group’s financial health, accountability and transparency. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are two sites that do exactly that. Both are easy to use, and it will take all of two minutes for you to learn all you need to know about each organization.
Some of the more respected organizations may be ones you’ve never heard of, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t doing great work to assist those with breast cancer and to further advancements in the understanding of this disease.
It's more than marketing
All of us know about the Susan G. Komen organization, but how much of that is just because they’ve done an amazing job at marketing? Before deciding who gets your money, consider an organization that may not have the pink market cornered. For example, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation received a top rating from charity watchdogs. Their main goal is to provide funding for cancer research across the globe with the intention of making strides in understanding the genetics behind breast cancer as well as treatment, prevention and survivorship.
While many national organizations are working toward fundraising for research, some work to identify the risks associated with breast cancer and the everyday toxins we're exposed to. The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners provides the public with tips for prevention and what changes you can make in your day-to-day to help reduce your risk for breast (and other) cancers.
If donating nationally isn’t your thing, rather than hitting that “Donate $5” when checking out at the grocery store or drugstore, try looking a little closer to home. Most cities across the country will provide you with a number of smaller organizations that were designed to help those in your neighborhood with the tools and support needed when going through an illness.
A quick online search will show organizations that help with everything from support to meal delivery. For example, in Washington, D.C., The Smith Center for Healing and the Arts* was designed to provide those living in D.C. with patient navigation and offers healing classes in yoga, nutrition and stress reduction.
Volunteering is an option
It’s also important to remember, that donating doesn’t have to be monetary. If money is tight, consider volunteering your time. Nonprofit organizations like the American Cancer Society are always looking for people across the country to assist with a number of activities, including driving patients to their treatments, working in their retail shops or simply sharing your experience with cancer with those who have been newly diagnosed.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here, whether we like it or not. This year, why not arm yourself with an understanding of the organizations that are asking you for a donation before you end up with yet another pink ribbon pin that will sit in your desk drawer without you knowing who you’ve actually helped.
*The author is a member of the board of this organization.