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Avoid pinkwashing: Think before you buy pink

6:27 PM, Oct. 19, 2013  |  Comments
Susan Bach
Susan Bach
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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many businesses are marketing "pink" products and services to support breast cancer charities and organizations. If you're tempted to buy some of these items because you believe your purchase is helping a good cause, you should think before you buy pink.

Businesses can and do misuse pink ribbon marketing to promote products and services that provide little or no benefit to breast cancer causes. This practice is called "pinkwashing." The widely recognized pink ribbon is not officially licensed by any group and its use is no guarantee that a portion of your purchase is going toward research, awareness or programs that support cancer victims or survivors.

At my local shopping center, I can find a variety of "pink" products, from food and apparel to accessories for my phone. I can't, however, find any specific information on some of these products that tells me if, in fact, part of my purchase goes to a breast cancer charity and which charity that might be. Before you buy a pink product, ask yourself these questions:

? Which charity does this product support? It should be clearly stated on the product's packaging.

? Will simply purchasing the product result in a contribution to the charity or will I need to do other homework, like sending in the product's label, to make sure the contribution is received?

? How much of the purchase price is being donated to the charity? "A portion of the proceeds" seems pretty vague.

? Is there a limit on the amount of money the company will donate to the charity, and has that cap already been met?

? Can I make a bigger impact by donating directly to the charity?

If you decide to donate directly to charities supporting breast cancer causes, make sure you pick a reputable one. Earlier this year, the New York attorney general called the Coalition Against Breast Cancer a "sham charity" because less than 0.05 percent of donations actually funded breast cancer detection or prevention.

About 85 percent of the money raised went to Campaign Center Inc., a professional fundraising organization, the attorney general said. The charity has since been dissolved and the professional fundraiser barred from future fundraising in New York.

Since most charitable donations occur in the fourth quarter of the year, this is a good time to remind you to give wisely. Before giving to any charity, the Better Business Bureau advises:

? Check out the charity with the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance at give.org. The BBB can tell you if the charity meets its 20 Standards of Charitable Accountability.

? Donate via check rather than cash, and write checks to charities rather than individuals.

? Do not give personal information to people with unsolicited donation requests.

? Be wary of donation requests that are high-pressure and don't adequately describe the work of the charity. Be wary if a charity refuses to answer questions about their operations, finances and programs.

? Keep records of donations with receipts, canceled checks and bank statements for tax purposes.

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