In recent years, there has been a tremendous pink ribbon marketing push starting around the middle of September. It’s great that corporate America has taken an interest, and now you can’t go anywhere in October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) without being inundated by pink ribbons and pink, well, everything.
The cynic in me says the corporations only real motivation to do this is because they will make more money by offering spatulas and kitchen knives that people already own, but will buy again because they want to support the cause. At this point, you can buy nearly everything tinted pink or with the pink ribbon on it. I myself bought a chef’s knife with a pink handle a few years ago, even though I had plenty at home. I bought it for cathartic reasons, but still. *chop*chop*
As I did last year, I ask you to take a moment before plunking down money for yet another set of shears or pen set. Read the fine print on the item to see how much they are actually donating to charity from the cost of the item. In my experience, it’s been between 2-5% and rarely, if ever, higher. So if you spend $100 in October on breast cancer awareness stamped items, you’ll likely only have $2 to $5 actually going to the charity that the faceless corporation chooses.
My preference is to instead find a charity that I think is reputable and trust-worthy. Care should be taken to ensure that a majority of your funds go toward the cause itself, rather than overhead. Charity Navigator seems to be a good site, as they evaluate over 5,500 charities from a financial management aspect. There are other sites, simply search on “charity overhead percentage” or other terms that are of concern in your decision making.
The reason I have always preferred to give my money directly to the charity itself is quite selfish. I want to make sure that every penny leaving my hands is going to make a difference. Yes, it stimulates the economy to buy stuff. It also fills your home with things that you, in some cases, don’t need duplicates of, or don’t need at all. Another point on selfishness, is that you don’t get to claim the cost of a waffle iron with a pink ribbon on your taxes. You do get to claim a deduction to a non-profit organization, if you itemize. And make sure you get a receipt to document it, in case you are ever audited.
If you still want to buy the items, go for it! I particularly like clothing items or car magnets, as they serve as a reminder to others of the needs of women and men suffering from this particularly devastating disease.
Another favorite is items that are already on the shopping list, like yogurt or cereal, that support the cause. Yoplait has been a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure sponsor for ages, and their pink lid promotion has raised over $25 million dollars over the years. (Warning for those that care, they do still have HFCS in their yogurt, the last time I checked.)
And no, I don’t feel this way only over pink ribbon items. In this tough economy, I believe that most, if not all, charities are feeling the squeeze as folks have less money to share. So even if your cause of choice isn’t breast cancer awareness, make sure you spend your donation dollars smartly.
Watch this site for a tax deductible and highly recommended charity that you can donate to with a few mouse clicks and keystrokes.