October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many businesses are marketing “pink” products and services to support breast cancer charity groups and organizations. “Pinkwashing” is a practice by dishonest businesses who claim to support breast cancer research or services through the purchase of pink products, but pocket the donations instead. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged about a half a dozen charities who were charged with swindling nearly $200 million from donors. In order to make sure donations go to the right place, Better Business Bureau advises consumers to research pink product and charity claims before making a purchase or donation.
“The pink ribbon is not trademarked; any company or charity can use pink or a pink ribbon on their products”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “So, it’s important to confirm that a business’ claim to partner with a charity is legitimate.”
While the majority of these efforts are trustworthy, consumers should take the following steps to ensure their efforts will go where they are needed:
- Think before you pink: Remember to read labels on products carefully for disclosure of information. If you can’t find information, contact the business directly and ask the following questions: What portion of the purchase price will be donated to the charity? When will the charity receive the donated amount? What exactly is being funded? Are donations to the charity from the business capped? When is the last day to donate? Confirm the charity’s corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list corporate partners and sponsors on their website. Check to make sure the business you’re purchasing from is associated with the charity.
- Use your head, as well as your heart. Think about the product that you are purchasing, is it something that you want or need? If the answer is no, then consider making a donation directly to the breast cancer charity of your choice. That way you know exactly how much money is going to the charity of your choice.
- Keep an eye out for copycat charities. If you suspect a scam involving a ‘look-a-like charity,” do not give. Be watchful for names, logos, slogans or colors which are similar to the legitimate charity. Be wary of bold claims such as “100 percent of donations will go to the charity.” This is not true since all charities have fundraising, program and administrative costs. Be wary of vague claims, such as “all proceeds go to charity” or “your purchase will benefit a charity.” A disclosure should be provided that includes the actual or estimated purchase price amount the charity will receive directly.
Consumers can find reports on charities at Give.org. The Wise Giving Alliance examines the percentage of its money a charity spends on programs, its governance, fund-raising, informational materials and effectiveness. Charities who meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability can become BBB Accredited Charities.
For more information about how to be a savvy consumer and donor, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373 or use BBB Scam Tracker.