The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

‘Tis the season…of donating to charities. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation offers a great way to give to a community working hard to treat and ultimately end breast cancer. And there are many other nonprofits also working to educate the public and support research.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where giving to a charity isn’t as easy as it ought to be. If you’re looking to support breast cancer research and survivors this holiday season, here’s what you need to know.

Where should my donations go?

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a great place to start. With high-profile donors including Owl Rock’s Marc Lipschultz, Discovery Capital Management’s Rob Citrone, and billionaire media investor Herbert J. Siegel, the BCRF’s work draws the support of big names from all walks of life.

Other great foundations waiting for your donations: Living Beyond Breast Cancer, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and The Breast Cancer Fund. (All of these organizations received a rating of three stars or higher from Charity Navigator.)

Should I go pink?

Every October, all manner of companies and organizations put out pink products and advertisements in honor of breast cancer survivors and those doing research on the disease. But how much good do these campaigns really do?

Getting to the truth can be tricky. Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, notes that a lot of these companies don’t actually donate anything to breast cancer charities. Instead, they “raise awareness”—a pretty vague notion. And some of these companies, Sulik writes, simultaneously produce products that can cause breast cancer even while they paint the walls pink.

“It doesn’t make much sense to buy pink ribbon products,” says Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. “By doing so, you’re simply subsidizing corporate marketing campaigns. If you want to give, give directly to the breast cancer organization.”

And as an added bonus, when you give directly, you get the tax deduction—not the corporation.

What else should I look out for when donating?

  • Use websites like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to check on the credibility of the organization you want to donate to. These sites can also tell you exactly where your money will go.
  • If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the nonprofit’s financial reports to get a feel for their health and habits.
  • Know that while donating money directly to an organization may not be sexy, it’s often the best way to go if you really want to help. Cash donations allow the nonprofit to direct the funds in a way that fits with their strategic plans.
  • Read the labels of any pink-ribbon-adorned merchandise you buy. You should be able to tell exactly how much money from the sale will go to which specific organization. If you can’t, don’t buy it.

This season is a great time to give to breast cancer organizations supporting research, survivors, sufferers, and their families. Just make sure you give some thought to where and how you want to donate!