Breast cancer scams, in which women have allegedly lied about having the disease in order to make some dough, seem to be cropping up in droves in recent months. These head-shaking stories really make you question who is genuine and who is making a mockery of charity altogether. Unfortunately, a sudden, explained shutdown of Y-me, an Illinois-based breast cancer support organization, could be a sign that nonprofits themselves are guilty of taking donors for a ride, too.
Y-me operated a nationwide hotline offering counseling to breast cancer patients, and on May 13, they ran a race-walk in which participants, like State Sen. Ira Silverstein, raised more than $2 million. So, in the wake of the shutdown, Sen. Silverstein called on the state attorney general to investigate the charity and comb through their finances.
Silverstein is now saying that "given the size of the organization, the number of people involved and the importance of their work, I think there should be some accountability." You can understand why he wants to know where his -- and quite a few other selfless people's -- money went!
But Y-me says there's no reason for an investigation, citing "incompetence and mismanagement," especially under previous leadership, as the reason for their downfall. Hmm ...
Understanding where donations go is something that the entire cancer nonprofit world -- and those of us who are actively involved with raising funds for them -- seems to be struggling with. Take the American Cancer Society, which has a skeevy reputation for not exactly putting their money where their mouths are. One source claims that nationally, only 16 percent or less of all ACS money raised is spent on direct services to cancer victims, like driving cancer patients from the hospital after chemotherapy and providing pain medication. And books written by cancer experts have actually lambasted the organization for shady dealings that are actually setting us back with the war on cancer. Not to mention that the recent Susan G. Komen controversy was a real eye-opener into where these orgs' money really goes.
It all boils down to this: How can we trust them to be truly looking out for the best interest of cancer patients, putting money toward research and health care, instead of looking to make their board of directors even wealthier? It's a disturbing but valid question.
As with anything, I guess it's up to us to do our best to vet an organization before we raise boatloads of cash for them. Otherwise, we might find ourselves robbed blind in the name of a good cause.
Do you think Y-me should be investigated? Are you worried when you donate to a cancer nonprofit that your money isn't going where you think it is?
Image via Andrea_44/Flickr