Raising Money To Cure Cancer: Is There A Better Way?

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Here & Now Guest:

  • Bill Saporito, reporter for Time Magazine

Americans are expected to donate $300 billion to charities this year, some of that to the thousands of cancer charities that exist in the U.S.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the largest funder of breast-cancer research after the government's National Cancer Institute, and they put around 20 percent of their income into administrative costs and fundraising efforts.

But Time Magazine's Bill Saporito found that some, especially smaller charities, spend an even higher portion of their money on activities like fund raising and attracting board members.

"So many organizations waste so much money that they can't possibly do what they set out to do which is cure cancer," he told Here & Now's Robin Young.

Saporito found, for example, that the Walker Cancer Research Institute, which includes the National Breast Cancer Research Center, raised $12.7 million in 2009 and spent more than half of that on fundraising, and only about four percent on research. Additionally, the National Charity for Cancer Research, whose parent organization is Optimal Medical Foundation Inc., raised $5.3 million in 2009, none of which, says Saporito, appears to have funded research.

But Saporito reports that other charities argue that money that's not directly put into research can serve as seed money for future projects. He writes about CureSearch for Children's Cancer, which is trying to become a leader in research.

.... CEO John Lehr says there's a direct connection between financial leverage and breakthrough research. His organization is one of the main funders of the Children's Oncology Group, a coalition of 210 hospitals that coordinate research and have the ability to run large clinical trials on, say, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. "They have been at the forefront of all the clinical breakthroughs that have occurred over the last several decades," says Lehr.

Saporito recommends looking up charities on websites like Charity Navigator and Guidestar to see how money is used before donating.

This segment aired on June 15, 2011.


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