Cancer groups to improve disclosures on pink wares

Oct 18, 2012, 5:11 PM

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The nation’s two largest breast cancer charities have adopted guidelines for fuller disclosure by those selling pink products and services in their names, New York’s attorney general said Thursday.

The so-called best practices, adopted by Susan G. Komen For The Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, include having companies disclose the specific amount that will be donated from each purchase. Companies using pink ribbons and similar symbols on products also are expected to state if a purchase triggers a donation or merely calls attention to the cause.

“These best practices, agreed to by the nation’s largest breast cancer charities, will help ensure that cause marketing campaigns provide the benefit that’s expected, and that we protect consumers, charities and above all, the women and families affected by this devastating disease,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Other provisions call for the companies to disclose the nature of any in-kind contributions, whether there is a cap on their donation amount and to post on their websites the amount a campaign generated.

Schneiderman’s Charities Bureau has been reviewing related “cause marketing” campaigns of nearly 150 companies since last year, finding substantial donations but some confusing information about amounts.

For example, one clothing company’s “pink” ad campaigns in 2009 and 2010 said it was making “a cash and in-kind contribution of $250,000” to the Komen program. It turned out the cash donation was $100,000 each year, with $150,000 of in-kind expenses for paying celebrities to appear in the ads.

Andrea Rader, a Komen spokeswoman, said the group worked with the New York attorney general to develop the best practices that it is using nationally.

“We are, of course, vitally interested in making sure consumers know when they spend a dollar where that money is going,” she said, noting there are more than 1,000 breast cancer charities in the U.S.

The Dallas-based charity raised $420 million in its last fiscal year, including roughly $50 million from commercial cause campaigns, Rader said. Komen spends 83 cents of every dollar on its mission programs of research, community health, outreach and education programs that include screenings, surgeries and living expenses for patients, she said.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation President Myra Biblowit said transparency in cause marketing has long been a priority. The Manhattan-based foundation was ready and willing to adopt Schneiderman’s practices and already was complying with all 20 Better Business Bureau charitable accountability standards, she said.

In fiscal 2012, the foundation raised $52.7 million, with 40 percent from cause marketing campaigns, spokeswoman Anna DeLuca said. Currently, 91 cents of every dollar it spends is directed toward breast cancer research and awareness programs, she said.

Last year, Schneiderman’s office sued to shut down another group, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer. He called it a sham charity on Long Island that fraudulently raised $9.1 million over five years while spending more than 95 percent of the money on itself.

In another case, two people pleaded guilty in Nassau County to criminal charges for misusing more than $500,000 donated to the unregistered charity Coalition For Breast Cancer Cures to pay for travel, shopping and other personal expenses.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Cancer groups to improve disclosures on pink wares