Why You Won't See Breast Cancer Awareness Products on Gouldylox*

                                (image source: Forbes.com)

It's not because I don't care about breast cancer. I do. I turned 40 this year and most doctors believe that forty is the magic age where you need to get mammograms. I had a bit of a scare two years ago. I found a lump in some tissue during a self-exam and ended up getting a sonogram of my breast. Thankfully, I was ok.

I think it's really important that women understand how to do self breast exams and even more important that everyone who needs a mammogram is able to get one. As well as everyone having access to quality treatment if, god forbid, a spot is detected on the mammogram.

What isn't important, however, is that you use this month to buy everything pink and believe you are supporting research that will end breast cancer. Is it important to be a good citizen and support causes you find worthy? Absolutely. However, a little research into the pink-ing that happens in October shows that an fiscally unhealthy percentage of the sales does not go to the charity you think you are supporting.

Based on a quick scan of many items available this year, it appears that 20% of the purchase price going to charity seems to be a big deal. But what about the other 80%?  Sure there are manufacturing, advertising, distribution and employee costs. But 20%? According to Charity Navigator, at least two thirds of the money earned should go towards programming, or in the this case, towards the cause. Sure, they aren't apples to apples, but the same philosophy applies. Still, there is a huge difference between 20-66.6%. How much is doing good work and how much is selling pink things to boost their sales numbers before the holidays kick in?

As a good rule of thumb when looking at BCA products this month, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Would I buy it anyway? We all know I'm the queen of shopping math, but I draw the line at pink-ing. If you weren't in the market for the item already, then keep walking. Make a donation to your favorite BCA charity (or any charity for that matter).

2. Are you comfortable buying a product knowing what the contribution is? Ask before you buy. You'll be shocked to see how many of the contributions are minuscule. Keep in mind that 60% is a healthy minimum. If you are happy to contribute that amount through your purchase, then go for it!

3. Ask where the money is going. Sure, many of you may not care. Your one purchase doesn't really mean anything after all and it makes you feel nice to support a good cause, right?  If an unusually high amount goes towards staffing costs, then you should think twice. Your contribution may be lining the pockets of the rich.

I've personally told the publicists I work with that I'm not interested in anything pink where less than 60% of the purchase price goes directly to the charity. Maybe it's just me, but I haven't been pitched anything BCA-related since.

Keep in mind, some companies make flat donations to charities and have a cute product that contributes towards that donation. I'd rather know upfront what the intentions are and make an informed decision. At the end of the day, here are my thoughts.

Buy what you want, donate what you can and do your best. But I won't be suggesting anything on this blog that looks or smells of pink-ing. 

How do you feel about Pinktober? Do you shop or skip? Let's discuss in the comments!

Full disclosure:

I founded and run a very small non-profit organization called Karma Dogs. We don't have a staff or much money to spend. However, since it's inception, we have not gone down any financial path where the balance of non-profit fiscal health would be disrupted or questioned. 

* If a product meets my requirements and I think you might be interested, I'll share the details. It could happen!

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12 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a fervent hate of the SG Komen cause (they really need to stop spending their money on lawsuits and use it towards actual research!) and so get really annoyed when people look at me like I'm nuts when I say I can't support them and choose to support smaller/other charities instead.

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    1. Don't get me started on them. According to Charity Navigator, the CEO of SGK makes a quarter million a year MORE than the CEO of the Red Cross. The problem with that? The Red Cross has a budget TEN TIMES THE SIZE OF SGK. That said, I'm sure they do good work, and their budget is fiscally responsible. (how they balance it that way with a salary that high for the CEO begs a different question.)

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  2. This needs to spread like wildfire. I refrain myself from purchasing any "pink" items just because I know where the money is going to...investors. Thank you for writing this article. Spread the word that 20 percent is not enough!

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  3. The only time I buy "pink" things is if I'm planning on buying the item anyway. Pink's my favorite color, so... but other than that I won't buy these "pink" products. What's even worse are the products that sexualize breasts when they're trying to make people "aware" of breast cancer. That, and those chain status things on facebook where you post one word or a heart or something, but you can't tell any man why if he asks, only women... ya know, cos men can't get breast cancer. -eye roll-
    Sorry. I get really rubbed the wrong way when it comes to stuff like this. XD Either way, this is a great post!

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  4. I didn't know that! Thanks for the eye-opening post!

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  5. Girl, if you don't mind, I wrote the SAME damn thing back in 2009 (great minds think alike!): http://www.agirlsgottaspa.com/2009/09/why-i-wont-be-spotlighting-bca-beauty-products

    I've only done one BCA promo this year and made sure that 100% was going to charity before I engaged in it. Not only was the money being raised ALL going to ACS and their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the owner was matching all contributions.

    It makes me sad when people don't educate themselves and blindly think they are helping the cause. :( I'm all about direct giving where the charity gets all your money, not a portion of the proceeds from a lipstick.

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  6. Kelly, I can't express my thanks to you enough for this post. There is certainly nothing wrong with purchasing an item that results in a donation; I do it only if I was going to buy that particular item anyway. What really chaps my butt is the aggressive marketing push to buy these products and then you see a small footnote somewhere that out of every "x" dollars spent, something like $1 dollar will be donated to research. Really? What is even the point of that? I just hate how the brands toot their horns with "look at us, we're donating to BC research". And why do people buy into this marketing ploy (otherwise known as marketing crap)? In this day and age, I can't believe that so many people believe that large brands are donating out of the goodness of their heart. C'mon people, they're just trying to sell more of that product. If anyone really wants to help, do your research and donate directly to the organizations that actually do the research. And thank you for the information on SGK; I did not know that and I will never donate to them again. It is sickening that the CEO makes that much money in an organization that is supposed to be all about helping others. Sorry for the rant, can you tell that this is a sensitive subject for me? I'm supporting you 100% on your stance on this.

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  7. Thank you Kelly, for putting the "Christmas" back into charity. There are too many full page ads inexpensive magazines and too many prime time commercials for breast cancer awareness month to be very profitable for the "non profit" margin! I know its a PC cause to be linked with, so they have no problem getting celebrities and well know businesses to participate, but have you looked at the items they are selling? They are either too sickly sweet, or just plain ugly! Do everyone a favor. Write a check out to your favorite charity and mail it, then the charity you want to get your money gets it, and you get the full benefit of a charitable deduction under the law. Then, reward yourself with something you really want to buy! The ends equal the means, charities get donations, and level headed women get a present that they really want and will use! Same as buying a pink thing, without the 80% going to the middle men, and you get a thing, maybe not pink, but it doesn't matter any more!!

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  8. THANK YOU for this!! I am a breast cancer survivor and I get *so* irritated every October with all the bogus "pink-ishness" that goes on!! It's sad that breast cancer support has largely become a marketing tool for businesses - if you look at some of the "breast cancer" items, you'll be suprised to see that some of them don't even say that there will be a contribuation made for the purchse of a pink item!! One of the best sites I've found about this is "thinkbeforeyoupink.org" (hope it's ok to post the website) and there's a section of questions to ask yourself before you spend your hard earned money on something pink. I find it very helpful.

    So - thank you again for posting this. It is information that absolutely needs to get out there - and trust me, NO thinking cancer survivor is going to be miffed because you won't buy pink!!! Most of us are thoroughly offended by the pinkwashing (thinkbeforeyoupink.org's term - LOVE IT) particularly when little or none of it goes to any reputable breast cancer charity or organization.
    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest (so to speak... :D )

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  9. THANK YOU! People look at me like I'm some kind of pagan for not throwing myself all over pink products any more, but after doing some research into charity practices this summer I decided that "pink-washed" products are something I'd rather avoid.

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  10. Thank you for taking a stand on this!! I can only echo what others have already said. I very much dislike the pink-washing that happens every Oct. Items that have no tie-in to BC research what so ever. And the companies that cap their donations - you have no way of knowing if your purchase is going towards research or simply lining the business' pockets. They never issue a statement saying 'we've reached our donation max'.

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  11. Yes, yes, 1000%. I refuse to buy anything that has been "pinked." it is really just a flat out marketing ploy. For crying out loud, last year a fracking company (actual fracking not a BSG reference) painted a drill bit pink. You can Google it. Disgusting. A real eye opener was watching a documentary on Netflix a couple of years ago called Pink Ribbons Inc. Really shines a light on the whole thing. It's no longer available on Netflix but if anyone can find it out there it is very enlightening.

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