By: Melissa Brock
October is about more than just wearing pink– find out how you can get involved.
Every October, the world busts out the hot pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities in the United States with a mission of raising funds for research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of the disease. Professional athletes trade in their team colors for pink gear, and retail stores flood their racks with purchase-able pink items: pink apparel, pink jewelry, pink decor and more. You can even buy pink ribbon pasta on Amazon.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes and one woman dies due to breast cancer every 13 minutes. Susan G. Komen, the largest breast cancer organization in the United States, estimates that there will be 268,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2018 alone.
While these statistics are sobering, breast cancer mortality rates have declined 39 percent due to the continued dedication to researching the disease.
Breast Cancer Awareness is a cause we can all rally behind, but many people have questioned whether or not whipping out your credit card to buy all of that pink gear is the best way to join the fight.
How you can get involved (beyond wearing pink)
Wearing pink is a great way to raise awareness of breast cancer and show your support of a loved one with the disease. However, simply wearing a pink sweatshirt won’t help eradicate breast cancer as much as actually donating money for research.
Here are a few ways you can get involved throughout October:
- Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks: The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer three- to five-mile walks raise awareness and money to fund research, offer support services and promote early detection. The American Cancer Society has teamed up with Avon, which is now the national presenting sponsor.
- The National Race for the Cure: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series, a series of 5K runs and fitness walks, celebrates breast cancer survivors and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease. The Komen Race Series encourages people of all ages and fitness levels, from walkers to elite runners. Learn more about how to participate.
- Susan G. Komen 3-Day: This 60-mile walk over the course of three days raises $2,300 per participant to help end breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day supports a goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.
- You can also host an event, help fundraise, make a non-cash gift, utilize Amazon Smile, give through your workplace or include a breast cancer charity in your estate through planned giving. If you wish to honor someone whose life has been impacted by cancer, you can also do so through memorial giving.
How to maximize charitable donations to breast cancer
There are a variety of ways to donate to Komen, according to Lisa Giuroiu, vice president for corporate partnerships at Komen. “The easiest way is to go to our website, ww5.komen.org. If they go to that website page, there’s a donate button at the top, and if you click on that, you can very easily donate,” she said.
You can also donate using cash back rewards. Americans fail to redeem billions of dollars in credit card rewards every year, so it’s possible to turn those unused dollars over to a breast cancer charity.
Certain airline and hotel companies have created special programs to donate miles and points and have made it easy to allocate those dollars to the breast cancer charity of your choice. Some loyalty programs will even match your donation.
- Log in to your airline, hotel or issuer loyalty account.
- Choose a breast cancer charity. Most programs let you donate to big-name nonprofits, such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
- Indicate the points, miles or cash back you’d like to donate. Rewards are usually deducted from your balance, and your donation will be reflected (usually through your loyalty program or the charity to which you’ve donated).
Charities can use miles and points in a variety of ways. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, for example, uses donated miles to connect researchers around the world.
Donate through American Airlines
This year, American Airlines is partnering with Susan G. Komen to help raise breast cancer awareness. Donations made through American Airlines throughout the month of October will help fund the Susan G. Komen Young Investigators Grant Program, which supports researchers as they discover breakthroughs for the most aggressive and deadly breast cancers.
Throughout October, American will feature team members who are survivors of breast cancer on their website and throughout airports around the world. You’ll also notice a change in their colors this month. According to the American Airlines website, “everything from beverage napkins to the inflight menu, amenity kits, Wi-Fi portal and more have gone pink for the month of October.” American team members are even purchasing and wearing American-branded pink items with 30 percent of the proceeds benefiting Susan G. Komen.
To encourage AAdvantage® customers to donate this month, American is also awarding donors with 20 AAdvantage miles for ever $1 donated (with a minimum donation of $25) throughout October. Customers will also be able to donate directly to Komen while in flight.
Charity Charge MasterCard
The Charity Charge MasterCard is another way to give directly to breast cancer charities. Charity Charge is a public benefit corporation based in Austin, Texas. If you’re a cardholder, you can earn 1 percent cash back and donate it to the charity of your choice. It doesn’t deduct a processing fee, which means the breast cancer charity you choose gets all the money you’re donating. It’s a snap to donate to any breast cancer charity; Charity Charge’s system pulls from the GuideStar database that contains all 501(c)(3) organizations in the U.S.
Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America
According to Giuroiu, there’s a way to donate to Komen regularly through the Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card from Bank of America.
“People can make a difference by using this credit card and using it on a regular basis. They’re able to make an impact without thinking about it,” Giuroiu says.
More than $8 million has been donated to Susan G. Komen through the card since 2009.
Giuroiu says that using the card can net you 3 percent cash back on gas, 2 percent at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent on everything else for the first $2,500 each quarter. In addition, once approved for the card, you’ll get a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days of opening the account. The card features low fees, tiered rewards that do not expire and an online cash bonus.
“The beauty of the card is that a donation is made to Komen while at the same time, the consumer is getting their own cash back rewards,” Giuroiu said. “If you’re interested in saving lives and helping with research, this card is the way to do it.”
You can also open a Pink Ribbon checking account offered by Bank of America, and a contribution will be made to Susan G. Komen. You’ll also get checks, statements and debit cards with the Susan G. Komen logo printed on them.
Set up your own fundraiser
It’s also possible to set up your own fundraiser using a credit card connected to PayPal. PayPal offers discounted transaction rates for donations to 501(c)(3) organizations. There are no extra fees for setup, statements or withdrawals. PayPal charges 2.2 percent and $0.30 per transaction and no monthly fee for charities.
You can get sponsors for any activity under the sun:
- Run a marathon
- Host a yoga event
- Climb, bike, hike, walk, etc.
The American Cancer Society has taken crowdfunding by storm. You can visit the website at crowdrise.com/americancancersociety and go to “Start a Fundraiser.” One great example is the “Corvettes Racing for the Cure” breast cancer fundraiser, which has raised over $15,000 by gathering Corvette and car enthusiasts on a racetrack to raise money and awareness.
You can also consider throwing an old-fashioned party and asking friends and family to donate to the cause. You can then turn around and donate using your personal credit card after all monetary contributions have been counted.
Also consider using your birthday to raise awareness and funds. In lieu of gifts, donate or pledge your birthday instead, and tell everyone you know.
How to avoid donating to a scam
It can be tough to discern whether you’re donating to a reputable organization. Breast cancer charities are no exception. Inspector/protectors like the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator are great resources if you’re not sure if the charity you’re contemplating is the best one.
According to Charity Navigator, it’s best to research how much of a charity’s total expenses are spent on programs or services before you donate online. A reputable breast cancer charity should spend about 75 percent on programs and services. Also, ideally, a minimum of 15 percent should go toward administrative expenses for overhead costs, including hiring and paying employees.
Here are some of the most reputable breast cancer charities, according to both Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy:
- Susan G. Komen
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
- Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation
- Gateway for Cancer Research Breast Cancer Charity
- American Cancer Society
- Entertainment Industry Foundations Womens Cancer Programs
- Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund
- Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research
Beware of “pinkwashing”
Just because an item for purchase features a pink ribbon, it doesn’t necessarily mean the purchase actually benefits breast cancer research and finding a cure. The term “pinkwashing” refers to a company’s claims that it supports breast cancer programs when the company’s contributions to a breast cancer charity aren’t directly tied to the purchases consumers make.
“There are a variety of businesses that do that, and they’re not transparent in how they’re generating money for the cause and what the consumer is actually doing to impact the cause,” Giuroiu explains.
Ultimately, if you’re not sure a company will truly turn your donation into a benefit for a breast cancer charity (or the company won’t tell you which breast cancer organizations will get the money), the best way to be absolutely sure you’re benefiting a breast cancer charity is to donate directly online to that charity.
Benefits to donation
In addition to contributing to the research for a cure, you can also qualify for a tax write-off.
Breast cancer charities should all be 501(c)(3) organizations, so your donations are deductible for federal or state tax purposes as allowed by law. Planned giving, which also include bequests and gift annuities, may also offer tax and/or financial advantages. (Note that airline and hotel points donations are not tax-deductible.)
According to Charity Navigator, your gift to a qualified charitable organization could allow you to obtain a charitable contribution deduction against your income tax as long as you itemize deductions. If you itemize, your total deductions should be greater than the standard deduction. Under the new tax legislation, an individual’s total itemized deductions must exceed $12,000 (that figure is up from the past amount of $6,350). Married couples need to make sure their deductions exceed $24,000 (which is up from the past standard deduction of $12,700).
The bottom line
There is much work to be done, according to Giuroiu, and the workload reaches beyond just wearing pink.
That’s why Giuroiu encourages individuals to use the Bank of America Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® to help advance the breast cancer cause. “From a credit card perspective, this is one way that people can do something very, very easy to join the fight and help find the cures that need to be found,” she says. “Everyone has the ability to impact and save a life. Everyone can be a part of the solution.”
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.