Breast cancer research is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It makes up one of the largest research areas for federal National Cancer Institute funding, with nearly $520 million spent in fiscal year 2016. Moreover, the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program dedicates another $130 million to research annually.
But billions more come every year from the nonprofit sector, which raises an estimated $2.5 to $3.25 billion for breast cancer in a given fiscal year.
Though breast cancer receives the most attention every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, charities and nonprofits work year-round to raise funds for the prevention, treatment, and cure of the disease. They also provide much-needed support services for patients and caregivers. Donations are accepted at any time.
Yet it can be daunting for the average donor to figure out where a donation can have the most impact. Thanks to the ubiquity of pink ribbons, pink-packaged products, and special pink-bedazzled fundraising walks and events, it can be hard to know where your charitable giving will have the most impact.
If you are planning on donating, whether it’s a one-time pledge or setting up a recurring contribution, we’ve compiled a list of organizations to help get you started.
And if you already have a charity in mind, but want to do a bit more research into how your donation will be used, we’ve also rounded up a few best practices to finding out if an organization is reputable.
Breast Cancer Research Organizations
Breast cancer research charities seek to discover new forms of treatment, identify effective methods of prevention, and find a cure. More than awareness, these organizations focus on lifesaving research and allocating resources to finding medical breakthroughs.
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is a nonprofit committed to achieving prevention and a cure for breast cancer. BCRF provides funding for cancer research worldwide to fuel advances in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, metastasis, and survivorship.
Moreover, 88 percent of funding goes to breast cancer research, while 3 percent is dedicated to awareness programs.
Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation
The Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation is a breast cancer research and education charity. The organization’s mission is to support the understanding, research, and treatment of breast cancer in partnership with Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
Since its inception, the foundation has raised nearly $30 million for breast cancer research.
Gateway for Cancer Research
The mission of the Gateway for Cancer Research is to “fund meaningful and breakthrough clinical trials worldwide that help people living with cancer to feel better, live longer, and conquer cancer.” Gateway says 99 cents of every dollar received directly funds cancer clinical trials.
The American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The organization funds 155 grants that total more than $60 million just for breast cancer.
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation uses education and advocacy to help improve the lives of those either with or at risk of developing breast cancer. The foundation also focuses on collaborative research with nontraditional partners in search of groundbreaking results.
Eighty-one percent of its budget is spent on programs and research, and 19 percent is used for operations and fundraising.
National Breast Cancer Coalition
To refocus global efforts on ending breast cancer and saving lives, the National Breast Cancer Coalition has set a deadline: End breast cancer by January 1, 2020.
The organization’s website states that “in 2015, 84 percent of total expenses were invested in program activities such as education, training, research and public policy.”
Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, Inc.
The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund supports both new and established researchers, experts who are working towards discovering the causes of breast cancer, in addition to prevention and treatment options.
Their research looks at various factors of the disease, including genetic, molecular, cellular and environmental. The fund states that it has, to date, awarded more than 72 research grants — a total of more than $4 million — to medical research.
Breast Cancer Alliance
The mission of Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA) is to “improve survival rates and quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer through better prevention, early detection, treatment, and cure.”
BCA funds four types of grants annually: exceptional project grants, young investigator grants, breast surgery fellowships, and education and outreach grants. The fund has awarded $11.5 million to research in areas including metastasis, triple negative breast cancer, and immunotherapy.
Breast Cancer Support Services
One in every eight American people born of the female sex will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Battling the disease can take an economic toll.
Charities — both at the local and national levels — provide needed resources to individuals and families affected by breast cancer, and offer services like support groups, financial assistance, and guidance on treatment options.
Breast Cancer Emergency Fund
The Breast Cancer Emergency Fund is the only Bay Area organization dedicated to providing emergency financial assistance to low-income women and men battling breast cancer.
To date, the fund has delivered more than $3.5 million in compassionate care to help reduce financial hardship, improve quality of life, and enable people to focus on their health and their families.
CancerCare, founded in 1944, aims to help people cope with a number of challenges associated with breast cancer — emotional, practical, and financial — by providing free professional support services and information.
CancerCare has provided $26.4 million in financial assistance to more than 24,000 people to help with treatment-related costs such as transportation, home care, child care, and co-payment assistance.
Breast Cancer Angels
The mission of Breast Cancer Angels is to provide financial and emotional assistance for individuals, and their families, as they are going through breast cancer treatment.
Services are available in Orange County, Long Beach/South Bay, and San Diego. All donations go directly to supporting clients and their families.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Though Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston focuses on various types of cancer, they do run a specific program that works with individuals who have received a breast cancer diagnosis.
The Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber offers those with breast cancer various treatment options, which include “the latest medical oncology and surgical options,” in addition to breast reconstruction and radiation therapy.
The Rose is the leading nonprofit breast health care organization in southeast Texas. Its board-certified radiologists, specialized technical staff, two mammography and diagnostic imaging centers, and a fleet of mobile mammography vans offer advanced breast cancer screening, diagnostic services, and access to treatment to more than 40,000 women annually.
The organization uses 88 percent of the money raised to directly support its programs.
SHARE Cancer Support
SHARE is a national nonprofit that supports, educates, and empowers women affected by breast or ovarian cancer, and places a special focus on medically underserved communities. Its mission is to create and sustain a supportive community of women affected by breast or ovarian cancer.
All of SHARE's services are free of charge and they include support groups, educational tools, and clinical trial assistance.
How to find reputable organizations
With so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which charities are going to make best use of your dollars.
In addition to making sure the organization’s vision and mission are in line with your charitable goals, it’s crucial to make sure you know where your money is going and what percentage actually is used on program expenses.
Most reputable charities post relevant financial information on their websites. This includes annual reports and links to their Form 990, a document that provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization.
U.S. tax-exempt nonprofits are required to provide copies of the three most recently filed annual information returns (Form 990 returns) and the organization's application for tax exemption.
Additionally, the IRS keeps a searchable list of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, with links to Form 990 returns.
Several online tools are available to make the task of evaluating multiple charities easier.
Charity Navigator is one of the most well-known charity evaluators and measures a charity’s financial health and accountability and transparency. Its ratings show givers how efficiently it believes a charity will use their support, and how well it has sustained its programs and services over time.
Watchdog CharityWatch uses an easy-to-understand letter grade system and explains to consumers how efficiently a charity will use donations to fund its programs. CharityWatch also exposes nonprofit abuses and advocates for donors’ interests.
How do I avoid being scammed? To avoid being scammed, the Federal Trade Commission recommends avoiding any charity or fundraiser that refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used. Also avoid organizations that ask only for donations in cash or for you to wire money.
Jen Thomas is a journalist and media strategist based in San Francisco. When she’s not dreaming of new places to visit and photograph, she can be found around the Bay Area struggling to wrangle her blind Jack Russell terrier or looking lost because she insists on walking everywhere. Jen is also a competitive Ultimate Frisbee player, a decent rock climber, a lapsed runner, and an aspiring aerial performer.