Saturday, November 5, 2016

Donating for the “cure”: Do Your Homework/ Other Ways to Contribute

In the last several weeks, local papers have covered a story about how funds raised for innovative cancer research and crucial patient supportive services via The Prouty have been used instead to meet operational expenses at regional Cancer Center . The “whistle blower,” the head of the cancer center, was relieved of his job as a result and he is now suing the hospital.

 The fact is non profits don’t always put their money where their mission is. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement partners from every state and the District of Columbia charged four cancer charities with defrauding consumers of more than $187 million. Instead of helping cancer patients, the heads of the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society allegedly funneled donations into luxury cruises, college tuition for family members and friends, gym memberships, sporting event and concert tickets, and even dating website memberships.

With the holidays just around the corner, charities are actively seeking funding and many households respond. So before you make a donation or participate in a fundraising event-

Consider the following:
• Check out websites like CharityWatch; Wise Giving Alliance CharityNavigator and Charity Check. Give Well provides a more indepth analysis as they check on what the charity’s impact has been. Note-This is not necessarily as straightforward as it sounds. I tried to check on the Jimmy Fund, a registered non profit, as a number of people locally participate in the Boston Marathon on their behalf. Couldn’t fine them listed on any of these sites. Turns out they are under Dana Farber. Some smaller programs may not make it on to one of these lists, but could still be doing good work, so ask questions, check websites, talk to people who may have more knowledge of an organization than you.

• Whether the solicitation comes via email, letter or phone, it might not be easy to tell whether it's legitimate. The Federal Trade Commission says these signs should make you suspicious:
* The “charity” can’t provide details about how donations are used.
* The caller can’t provide proof—like a Federal tax ID number—that it’s a qualified charity and that your donation is tax-deductible.
* You're pushed to donate immediately.
* You’re asked to wire a donation.
* You're thanked for a pledge you never made to convince you that you already agreed to donate.

Unless it’s a charity you already subscribe to, do not respond to electronic solicitations as there is a good chance it’s a scam.  Read the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information pamphlet “Before Giving to a Charity” for lots of helpful tips and suggestions including how to report a Charity Scam. 

• Educate yourself about “pink washing,” which is the name given to heavy solicitation of funds for breast cancer, but in fact applies to many other conditions, such as the red ribbon for AIDS. The Facadeof Breast Cancer Awareness, Susan G. Komen and the Pink Ribbon.  is an interesting read. Just because a product is pink-or another color associated with a disease-doesn’t mean that your purchasing the product is actually going to help fund research or help those affected. 

• Unless it’s a local charity, check carefully before doing walks, runs, bike-a-thons etc. Generally these events have high administrative overhead, for every dollar you give or raise, a considerable chunk will go towards administrative costs. The bigger the organization sponsoring the walk, the more decisions about use of funds are made at corporate and may not have a desired impact locally. However, these events give a wonderful opportunity for people affected by a condition to gather, share stories and support one another. As one advocate wrote, Walk if you want to – it’s good for your health. If you want to be sure your walking truly benefits people who are ill, walk to the nearest organization doing work you admire on the issue and lend a hand. You can even hand them a check if you’re so inspired.

Ways to Help Other Than Giving Money

• Take part in research studies. Check out

Donate Tissue: This is particularly helpful in finding ways to prevent, diagnosis and treat cancer. Tissue includes materials from your body such as skin, hair, nails, blood and urine. For more information Providing Your Tissue forResearch: What You Need To Know 

• Donate blood and plasma. Can’t be a donor, offer to drive someone who can donate, be a volunteer at a blood drive, or organize one.

• Become an organ donor. Learn more about becoming an organ donor at 

Provide support by making a meal, driving someone to a medical appointment, being a peer, being a friend

• Check Employer Giving Policy: If you work for a company, particularly a larger one, check with human resources to see if they regularly donate and if they’d be interested in donating to your charity. Many companies like to support causes that are important to their employees.

• Volunteer: Condition specific organizations have many jobs that need to be done. Make a call or stop by to see what you can do.

• Make something you can donate-such as a pie or cookies for a bake sale. Many organizations look for things like blankets, caps and clothing for people that have various medical conditions such as Chemocaps. If you are artistic or have a special skill, donate it as part of organization raffles, silent auctions etc.

• Play a Game-This is basically citizen science. Check out 6 Online Games That Help Researchers Find Cures 

• Become politically active by following legislation, national and local, and taking an active part in the passage of bills that can help.

• Use a charity credit card where rewards go to your favorite charity.

• Shop online using AmazonSmile  that donates. 0.5% of your purchase to your favorite charity. Good Shop is another option. 

• Share your story. You never know who it will inspire

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