Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I do not hate the pink ribbon.  I supported that ribbon.  Blindly.  I do not consider myself a stupid consumer.  I know how to properly vet organizations before donating money.  When I'm called by a "professional fund raiser," I politely decline.  As an absolute rule, I don't offer any over the phone donations.  Since becoming actively involved in many difference advocacy efforts, I seek my own organizations to support.

There is a problem with the vetting process in the pink ribbon culture.  It's not all about Charity Navigator or Guidestar awarding its highest rating.  Somehow, this goes much deeper.  I despise the fact that I was duped.  I can't blame anyone but myself.

The pink ribbon is NOT regulated.  Awareness? Are we all aware, for example, that anyone can slap a pink ribbon on a product and never donate one penny to any organization?  That's a fact.  The ribbon is put on the packaging and in the fine print, it will say something like "supporting breast cancer awareness."  Other products donate a minuscule portion of the net proceeds (literally one cent in some cases).

With plenty of other products, the donation is capped once a certain amount of money is raised.  In simple chemobrain terms:  Ten dollars from this widget is being sent to Breast Cancer Charity.  The fine print?  Maximum contribution of $100.00 will be made by Smart Corporation to Breast Cancer Charity.  Thousands of widgets are produced with the pink ribbon.  After the first ten are sold, SmartAss Inc keeps all of the money.  No more donation to Breast Cancer Charity.  That's disingenuous.

The technical name?  Cause marketing.  THIS PISSES ME OFF.  And it PISSES ME OFF because WE should be smarter.  We should be savvy consumers.  Instead, we are The Brand.  We are marketable commodities.  We are profit margins.  OUR illnesses add to someone else's bottom line.  Mind you, I understand we live in a capitalist society and corporations are not in the charity business.  Thus, I don't begrudge corporations for getting in on this whole breast cancer gig.

If they are donating a decent percentage to the right organizations and they are making money in the process, so be it.  It's money we would not have otherwise seen.  I get it and I can state with honesty, that I appreciate the funds.  Think about it for just a second before telling me I've gone off the deep end.  Would I prefer they simply write a check, take the charitable deduction on their corporate taxes and skip the hoopla?  Certainly.  I think we are a long way from that and as we work toward that goal, I'm happier to see there is money flowing.

As long as they aren't selling things that are known to contain carcinogens or promoting items that are unhealthy.

As long as they aren't keeping the lion's share of what they sell.

There's always a caveat and those are mine.  Except of course, for the NFL which I still contend has zero business in the breast cancer business.  Set aside the domestic violence for a second, they really need to be backing brain initiatives.  More on that in an upcoming post.

So, when you see an item you might want to buy, if you like the item, need the item, want the item then BUY the item.  If you are doing it because of a ribbon, the answers to these questions should be somewhere on the packaging or on the display.
  • How much money from this purchase is being donated to a charitable organization (and is there a cap)?
  • What organization is receiving the donation?
  • How does that organization spend their donor dollars? (Lumping a mess of stuff under the heading of "programs" is NOT an acceptable explanation for me, either.  I want details)
We have strayed far.  We buy anything in the name of The Cause.  The pink ribbon is a tangled mess.  It took twenty five years to create this mess and it is not going to change overnight.  Those of us who ARE aware should not be standing on the sidelines and watch as others (often unknowingly) continue to buy into this pervasive pink culture.  If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

And for the record, you can bypass the middle man and donate directly.  If research is your thing, look at what is being done at the cancer hospitals.  The list of NCCN member hospitals is here.  Digging around the hospital sites, you should be able to find their research and in some cases, you can earmark you money to a specific research study.

Cold Spring Harbor Labs and Rockefeller Research Labs are two other places that jump to mind.  Stand Up To Cancer funds "dream teams" to stop the silos and force collaboration among researchers.  Then, there are organizations like METAvivor, all volunteer and they fund only research specific to metastatic disease.  You donate a dollar to METAvivor, the entire dollar is going into the hands of a researcher.  Theresa's Research is another organization that specifically funds research on metastatic disease.  I'm sure there are others.

Outreach, helping women in the community?  If that's what speaks to you, I'm fairly sure googling breast cancer support with your own city or town will bring up a whole host of local organizations.  You can keep your money in your community.  My sis, upstate Ann Marie, aka Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer wrote about a few organizations in her community and beyond.

Feel like you want to reach the families of women who have died, leaving little ones to be raised by single dad's?  Atalie's Hope was set up by my friend's mom for just that reason.

Donate directly so you can be sure the money is funding what speaks to you and to make sure most, if not all of your money, will be provided to the organization you select.

Feel free to leave info in the comments about organizations you know/love and we should know about, too.  We can make this into a "Donate Directly" list.  I'll try to get them all within the body of the post as clickable links.

A list:

Avon Foundation  credit and thanks:  Heather Mores

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  1. Once a month at work we have "cupcake Wednesday" to acknowledge and celebrate the staff birthdays of the month. Two people each month volunteer to bring in cupcakes. Today is cupcake Wednesday. I went to the celebration, and what did I see? Chocolate cupcakes covered in white frosting with pink sprinkles and a pink ribbon decoration sticking out of the frosting. For the first time ever, I was offended. Why do we get to October and suddenly every item out there has a pink ribbon on it? I don't hate the pink ribbon. In fact, I wear a pink ribbon pin during the month (stay tuned for my blog post on why). I just question the motivation behind the marketing. I suppose manufacturers, and bakers, think they are being supportive. However, we don't need support. We need a cure.

    BTW, I support the Avon Foundation, which contributes to breast cancer research as well as community support and screening. The Foundation also works to end domestic violence.

    1. I like Avon Foundation, too. They have also taken the lead in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance. I know they've taken heat from many over their cosmetics but I think the foundation's dedication to women has been unwavering. And, I'm a huge fan of Marc Hurlbert, too. (Given my issues with the NFL and the domestic violence nonsense, Avon covers both of those issues)

  2. dear AnnMarie,

    your post is a masterpiece of caution about donating money for breast cancer. thank you so much for all the time and effort you have given to both enlighten us, as well as providing so many worthy (and legitimate) institutions, groups and organizations to which we can donate. as always, your advocacy is so very appreciated.

    much love,

    Karen xoox

    1. My dearest Karen,

      Thank you so much for always sharing your thoughts here. I miss you terribly....

      Much love to YOU, dear one,



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