October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and consumers should prepare for pink. The color is everywhere in October – football players sport pink cleats and gloves and pink versions of clothes and household items are sold in stores. There’s a good chance you’ll be asked at some point to donate to breast cancer-related charities.
When surrounded by all of this pink, it can be difficult to understand what’s what and where your money is going. Do proceeds from all pink items go to charity? Do all charities contribute to research efforts? And how much of my donation will go to programs? Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California advises that the only way to find out is to do your own research.
Whether you’re donating to a charity or purchasing a pink ribbon necklace, BBB encourages you to consider the following this Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
- Before doing anything, look up the charity at give.org. BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make more well-informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among charities. They evaluate charities against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability, and accredit those who meet all 20. When you look up an organization at give.org, you can see exactly where your donation goes – whether it be to programs, salaries, overhead costs, fundraising, etc. If you want to ensure your money is going to research rather than education or awareness (or any specific use), you can find these details at give.org.
- Be careful if a charity solicits you for donations. If you’re contacted out of the blue by phone or email about donating to a breast cancer organization, be wary. It’s possible that the charity doesn’t actually exist, and is using a fake but legitimate sounding name and spoofing the Caller ID to create a false sense of security. In fact, consumers have reported almost 20 breast cancer charity scams to BBB Scam Tracker as of October 2016. Even if the organization is legitimate, you may not want to give them your money. BBB has warned in the past about charities that use donations mainly for fundraisers’ fees, salaries, and other administrative costs. Check out the charity online at org and if you still want to donate, do so directly. If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent charity, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.
- Beware of “pinkwashing”. Many businesses participate in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in one way or another. This usually involves selling a pink version of a product for a higher price and claiming that a percentage of the proceeds will benefit a nonprofit. However, you can’t assume that just because something is pink, part of the sale will go to charity. Before you let the color affect your purchasing decision, do your research. Inspect the label or contact the store or manufacturer to determine where the money is going and what percentage is donated. Then, contact that charity directly to verify the business’ claims.
- General donation tips. Watch out for excessive pressure to make an on-the-spot donation, especially if the appeals are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity actually does. Don’t use cash, and if you donate by check, make sure it’s made out to the organization, not the person soliciting donations. Make sure to keep records of your donations. This includes receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements; keeping these documents will allow you to document your charitable giving at tax time. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to your volunteer service to a charity are deductible. Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs – to be safe, find out this information for yourself at org and donate directly.