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How Inefficient Charities Can Spoil Your Cause Marketing

The issue of Time magazine currently on newsstands is all about cancer, including a story on cancer research charities called 'Check Your Charity.' One charity highlighted in the article, called the National Breast Cancer Research Charity, made me do a double-take. Time reports that it took $12.7 million in 2009, and spent 52 percent on fundraising. The reporter’s lead says a lot; “It's not that the National Breast Cancer Research Center is a scam….”

What gave me the double-take was that National Breast Cancer Research Center sounds so much like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the New York nonprofit which took in $30.2 million in revenue in 2009 and spent a scant 5.9 percent on fundraising.

The phrase ‘cancer research’ has become a marketing conceit. Put the words together and you have fundraising magic. But it sucks to be a well-proven charity like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, when a less efficient charity can invoke the same magic words.

"I shudder when I look at how many groups have 'cancer research' in their names," Time quotes Greg Simon, a board member of FasterCures, which works to improve medical research. "The general public is throwing its money away."

What's The Breast Cancer Research Foundation to do?

They plainly recognize they have a challenge. The front page of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation website touts receiving a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the ninth consecutive year 'above the fold,' as they say. It also calls out a pie chart that shows that nearly 91 percent of funds go to cancer research and awareness, a very high number. The front page of the website also informs us that The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is also the only breast cancer charity to receive an A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy.

What else could The Breast Cancer Research Foundation do?

They could certainly go to their cause marketing partners like Sketchers above and ask them to carve out a little space that says, in effect, ‘The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is the most efficient breast cancer research charity around.’

Although sponsors oftentimes take a ‘you get what you get’ approach to their charity partners when advertising their cause marketing sponsorships, here is a case when it’s in their best interest to promote the efficiency of their partner charity.

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