Donating your hard earned money to a charity is an important decision and valuable investment. Even if it’s $5, we try our best never to waste money. There are thousands of incredible, hard-working, and impressively successful charities around the world. Giving them money, and therefore the tools to succeed, should make us feel good because we have made a difference.
How much of a difference, however, is arguably what matters most.
So, when considering whether to join Relay for Life and raise money for the American Cancer Society this year, think hard. Several leading cancer prevention charities around the world, including the Cancer Prevention Coalition, have called for boycotts of the American Cancer Society and deemed it the “world’s wealthiest ‘nonprofit’ institution.”
The leading charitable donation guide group, Charity Navigator, ranked the American Cancer Society in last place in its category of cancer charities, with a very low score of 53 out of 100. Their ranking broke down ACS expenses and exposed that now-retired CEO Donald Thomas was earning an annual salary well over $1.4 million and the former National Vice President of Divisional Services William Barram was making well over $1.55 million.
In a paper published by Samuel Epstein, “American Cancer Society: More Interested Accumulating Wealth Than Saving Lives,” Dr. Epstein, professor emeritus of occupational & environmental medicine at the University of Illinois, explains that the American Cancer Society’s focus is largely based on profit and wealth accumulation while giving little focus to actual cancer research. “The American Cancer Society is fixated on damage control — diagnosis and treatment — and basic molecular biology, with indifference or even hostility to cancer prevention,” Epstein wrote.
The article, published on the Cancer Prevention Coalition’s website, details a huge mountain of evidence depicting how the American Cancer Society had firmly associated itself with pharmaceutical corporations, endorsed controversial chemicals and surgeries, and had a very long and poor track record of cancer prevention. It also details how, year after year, the American Cancer Society has paid its CEOs excessively.
In 1995, the Arizona chapter of the American Cancer Society was targeted for its extremely high overhead. Two economists, James Bennett of George Mason University and Thomas DiLorenzo of Loyola University of Maryland, issued a report analyzing the Arizona chapter’s own financial statements and demonstrating that it uses about 95 percent of its donations for paying salaries and other overhead costs, resulting in a 22 to 1 ratio of overhead to actual money spent on the cause. The report also found that the Arizona chapter’s annual report had grossly misrepresented the amount of money spent on patient services, inflating it by more than a factor of 10. The American Cancer Society responded by alleging that the two economists issuing the report were working for and receiving pay-offs from the tobacco industry, but did not offer any evidence to support these claims.
At the New York branch, an employee was indicted for a $4 million tax fraud scheme that allowed individuals to fraudulently claim contributions, much of which had been returned to them.
In 2000, Dan Wiant, an administrative officer of the American Cancer Society of Ohio, pled guilty to embezzling $7 million from the organization.
The list of scandals is endless — and the denial is widespread.
The American Cancer Institute of Philanthropy, which operates the well known “CharityWatch.com,” gave the American Cancer Society a “C+” grade, claiming that the ACS takes in more money than any other cancer charity that they review, but is only able to give 60 percent of its budget to program services not related to solicitations.
What’s the solution? Relay For Life, the signature event of the American Cancer Society, takes in billions. So, not giving them money to embezzle and load the pockets of millionaire CEOs is a good start.
But to whom should you donate?
The answer is simpler than you may think.
Several charities across the country have received solid A’s from all the charity watchdogs. Cancer Care, the Cancer Research Institute, Stand Up to Cancer, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation have all received an “A” from the American Institute of Philanthropy. And if, for some reason, you desire to go big and spread the word about an already well-known charity, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital received a solid B+.
And if you really, really want to donate to the American Cancer Society, consider these words from the Cancer Prevention Coalition before you donate—“The ACS bears a major responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer.”
Don’t make things worse—boycott Relay for Life at CC.
Commentary and Debate Editor