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When you buy or think pink, know where your green is going.
June 30, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

New York Attorney General: Coalition Against Breast Cancer - "Scam". 'The state of New York sued a breast cancer charity on Tuesday, accusing it of soliciting more than $9 million and spending virtually none of it on 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.' But what about all those "pink" products that tout a donation to a charity when you buy?

Well, 'read the fine print and look to a charity's finances before buying products touting donation.'

'The makers of some pink products donate proceeds only for a limited time, or they have a cap on the total amount donated, said Daniel Borochoff, of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a nonprofit organization that helps donors make informed giving decisions. Often the breast-cancer-related item will continue to sell after the donation period ends — even at a higher price. And while some manufacturers promise to give a percentage of profits, in a poor economy, profits may be scarce.'

American Institute of Philanthropy's Charity Watch: '"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."'
posted by VikingSword (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bust-ed.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:23 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow. Scumbags preying on the sick and emotionally weak.

I *HATE* white collar criminals.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is why I don't bother with all the foofy pink-is-for-girls kind of things. The "buy pink" shit is for people who don't otherwise donate and want to feel like they are, to my mind.

Well, the other reason I don't bother with it is that I'm not too wild about pink housewares and shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


and all the actual work was probably done by unpaid interns.

How gross.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2011


Another helpful site for investigating charities is www.bbb.org. They rank charities by various metrics and let you see where the money goes. I note that the Coalition Against Breast Cancer did not provide the requested financial information. I guess we know why.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next I want them to go after the Keep a Breast Foundation (the purveyor of the I Heart Boobies bracelets, among other "fashionable" items). They won't even provide information about their charity to the BBB.
posted by jz at 11:54 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


See also: Paper Moon and the Kansas Bible Company therein.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:54 AM on June 30, 2011


The Summons from NY Attorney General, detailing the peccadilloes of the Accused, makes for delightful bedtime reading.
posted by Schadenfreude at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh god yes. I hate all of this "BUY PINK BECAUSE WE'RE SAVING THE TITTIES" marketing bs. Nice to see one of the scammers in all that being taken down, though.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is why I buy brown for colon cancer.
posted by dr_dank at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


A good friend of mine works for a state-level cancer-support organization and is herself a cancer survivor, and you will never meet a person as skeptical and critical of breast cancer charities as she is. It's not that she's unsympathetic, it's because she's had to deal with these groups on a professional level and is disgusted at the amount of waste and fraud involved.
posted by lekvar at 12:12 PM on June 30, 2011


Well, at least I can be confident that those yellow ribbon magnets on my suv are helping to support the troops.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


My favorite SUV-magnetic-ribbon was the red one with a bright yellow star where the ribbon crossed that said, "Support Chinese Magnetic Ribbon Manufacturers."

An old friend works with a breast cancer support group in Philadelphia, and I've made donations in honor of her mom, who's a survivor of multiple bouts with cancer. It's a small organization, but I can see clearly the work they're doing, and I feel like my money is well spent. It's really too bad that shitty organizations like this color the perception of the work that charities do...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 12:28 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's Never Lurgi: “Another helpful site for investigating charities is www.bbb.org. They rank charities by various metrics and let you see where the money goes. I note that the Coalition Against Breast Cancer did not provide the requested financial information. I guess we know why.”

Probably because they weren't willing to pay the exorbitant "service fee" that the BBB charges. Make no mistake – what you're pointing to is one scam versus another. The so-called "Better Business Bureau" itself is a business, and a pretty shoddy one at that: it's a business dedicated to soaking its "members" of huge fees in order to guarantee that they're given a high "rating."

It's basically the pre-internet version of Yelp. Why anybody ever trusts the "Better Business Bureau" is beyond me.
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


The Summons is kind of slow until about page 18.

At which point it gets really sleazy. ( And not is a good way... )
posted by mikelieman at 12:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


jz: “Next I want them to go after the Keep a Breast Foundation (the purveyor of the I Heart Boobies bracelets, among other "fashionable" items). They won't even provide information about their charity to the BBB.”

For what it's worth, people should know that it costs a lot of money in "fees" to "provide information" to the BBB.

Meanwhile, there's no reason for the BBB to ask for them to "provide information," because – information about non-profits is a matter of public record. So if the BBB really wanted to provide actual ratings based on fact, they would look it up themselves, since it's already publicly available.

Again, the BBB is a scam.
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 PM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Again, the BBB is a scam.

I'm really surprized at how many people still believe in the BBB. "Reporting" a business to them is like telling the golf pro at the whites-only country club that somebody on the fairway was saying racist things.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:56 PM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well, at least I can be confident that those yellow ribbon magnets on my suv are helping to support the troops.

I wear a pink ribbon on my leather jacket and although I cannot be certain where the money goes, I am certain that this simple show of support means something. I have lost count of the number of women who have seen the ribbon and asked me about why I wear it. This usually leads to a conversation about personal experiences and ends with a hug and mutual expressions of solidarity and thanks.

Sometimes showing you understand and give a shit is as important as the money you donate.
posted by three blind mice at 12:56 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess CABC's contributors didn't Give Well.
posted by orthogonality at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes showing you understand and give a shit is as important as the money you donate.

Sure, but I'm not sure how slapping a Chinese-made magnet you got down at the gulp-n-blow for 50 cents on your massive gas-consuming vehicle is showing that you "care" about the lives of those that are serving in the wars. I mean, sure, you are all for offing a few "rag-heads" and it matches so well with to the "Don't Tread On Me" snake flag sticker you stuck over the gooey leftovers of the McCain/Palin one, but does it really demonstrate any actual "concern" from you?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2011


From the summons:

Campaign Center solicitors use false nanles, varying their last name to attenlpt to identify with the perceived racial, religious or ethnic group of the potential donor, in violation of Article 7-A of the Executive Law. A Latino undercover investigator from the Attorney General's office was asked not to use his real last name when calling donors and was asked to instead use the name" Powers" or "Booth."


Yankton cocksuckers!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:11 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


asked to instead use the name" Powers" or "Booth."

As in Powers Boothe, the star of Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:17 PM on June 30, 2011


Think Before You Pink has lots of info on "pinkwashing".
posted by emjaybee at 1:20 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sure, but I'm not sure how slapping a Chinese-made magnet you got down at the gulp-n-blow for 50 cents on your massive gas-consuming vehicle is showing that you "care" about the lives of those that are serving in the wars.

I don't own any car so I don't know what the reaction would be to adorning my vehicle with a "Chinese-made" magnet.

One thing is however certain, in the years I have worn my pink ribbon, no one has ever launched into a diatribe of cliché-filled invective over it.
posted by three blind mice at 1:26 PM on June 30, 2011


in the years I have worn my pink ribbon, no one has ever launched into a diatribe of cliché-filled invective over it.

Yes, but your wearing of your pink ribbon every day for years is not just a cheap disposable symbol of your caring enough to do the very least, right? I know it may seem like a small step, but actually caring about something and using a symbol to demonstrate that care is different from caring about displaying the symbols of caring about something. f you were to tell people that inquired about your ribbon "my girlfriend made me wear it", what do you think your chances of people reacting as positively would be?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:33 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


three blind mice, there's a difference between "wearing a pink ribbon on my jacket every day" and "buying the Yoplait with the pink label once a year and then forgetting about it the rest of the year". The latter kind of action is what the complaints are about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


But you don't have to listen to my cliche-filled invectives, here's some folks that do it much better.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2011


I would add Scheme to Defraud, Failure to Apply Funds Consistently with Corporate Purposes or Solicitations, False Filings, Persistent Fraud or Illegality in Business, Deceptive Acts or Practices, Breach of Fiduciary Duties, Unlawful Distributions to Directors and Officers, Conduct Necessitating Removal of Officers and Directors, Failure to Properly Administer Charitable Assets, and Wasting of Corporate Assets and Perpetuation of Corporation Solely for Personal Benefit to the list of complaints. Even with a ton of valid moral outrage, there would be no legal case without violations.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2011


I buy blue for testicular cancer.

I am so sorry.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:24 PM on June 30, 2011


Well, there is a ribbon for every cause. And, the potential for fraud in (almost any) campaign.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 2:28 PM on June 30, 2011


Anything that claims to be for charity should have to prove to the IRS that they spend more than 90% of their income on services or grants.

Fuck charities, even the "good" ones, that spend roughly the same proportion of their income on services and grants that for-profit Health Insurance companies do. The Health care reform act requires insurers to spend 85% on services.

Fuck any charity that can't outperform the fucking Health Extortion Companies right in the ear.
posted by chimaera at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2011


(Also, thank science for the Oxford comma, as my sentence above could be really misconstrued without it)
posted by chimaera at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2011


i buy the pink stuff because pink is one of the colors in my kitchen color scheme and most of it is all the same shade (if i had my druthers, it'd be a hotter pink). i figure that most of them are "donate until X amount" which is really "we've decided the amount to donate that will help with our taxes and now we're going to market that fact like it's special." when i give to charity, i research it and give appropriately. don't assume that every pink mug you see is being held by some dumbass who thinks it saves the world. maybe, like me, they just like the color.
posted by nadawi at 3:35 PM on June 30, 2011


This is why I buy brown for colon cancer.

I think brown is for "eat shit motherfucker". (Source)
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:42 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be clear - I think there are groups doing good stuff with the funds they raise. Which just makes me hate the opportunistic scammers all the more.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:51 PM on June 30, 2011


This is why I buy brown for colon cancer.

I buy blue for testicular cancer.


I buy white because SOMEBODY has to support the cancer.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:26 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it was already linked upthread, but Think Before You Pink has an excellent critique of the pink ribbon industry/marketing strategy. This particular case linked above is an egregious sham, but the point of TBYP is to promote some critical thinking about the supposedly "legitimate" side of the pink ribbon campaign.

Take for example the fact that a company does not have to give a single cent to any kind of breast cancer cause in order to display the pink ribbon on their products. Or also that companies whose products undisputedly contribute to cancer (think Chevron) use the pink ribbon as a marketing tool.

The recipients of pink ribbon campaign donations are primarily very well funded research-focused agencies, while treatment and prevention services for regular people still go neglected.
posted by serazin at 8:47 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Think Before you Pink website (recommended above): Many companies that raise funds for breast cancer also make products that are linked to the disease. Breast Cancer Action calls these companies “pinkwashers.”

This disturbs me the most.

Think of the influence companies that produce carcinogens have over the message broadcast in these Pink Campaigns. If their money is paying for the campaign, they control the content. Content that could overly emphasize genetics, poor diet and exercise as the cause of cancer and tout early detection as the only form of protection. I'm not saying these aren't obviously legitimate scientific causes or good preventative measures. I'm saying that these companies have an incentive to make sure the campaign becomes one in which breast cancer patients learn to blame themselves -- my faulty genes, my poor food choices - and are discouraged from taking a closer look at the environmental factors and hazardous products that surround them. The blame can travel outwards, instead of into the patient. Mammograms are a great form of protection, but so could be turning up the heat on the companies to ensure their products aren't contributing to the epidemic.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 9:55 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine who was fighting breast cancer for several years made absolutely certain that those of us who cared for her would never, ever buy any of the breast cancer pink products. Ever.

From the dubious charitable claims (people could do far more good if they donated directly, even if it's just what the producer alleges they'll send in) to the ultimately disposable nature of most of the products to the potentially toxic materials used, she made the point stick.

Sadly, she did not win the war, and we lost her a couple of years ago. In her memory, I will always remember what she taught me.
posted by batmonkey at 12:18 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want guidelines for donation, in addition to American Institute of Philanthropy, Charity Navigator provides all that public-record financial information in one place. (Although they have taken CABC's info down and replaced it with a donor advisory complete with blinky tag.)
posted by gingerest at 2:12 AM on July 1, 2011


When Barbara Ehrenreich, of Nickeled and Dimed fame, got breast cancer she wrote a scathing article relating her experience with the disease and even the reputable charities:
Smile! You've got cancer.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:50 PM on July 1, 2011


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