Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't Be A Fool

(Guest Blog- Sandra Miniutti, Vice President, Marketing, Charity Navigator)

I used to celebrate April Fool’s Day, with a slew of other volunteers, by participating in the "Don't Be a Fool, Do Breast Self-Examinations" awareness campaign. As far as I know, this program, designed to encourage women to perform monthly breast cancer self-exams, no longer exists. But I was thinking it about it last week when I came across a news item about one of my pet peeves --- the proliferation of breast cancer charities.

With virtually no barriers to entry, the nonprofit marketplace has ballooned to over 1 million organizations. A search for breast cancer charities yields more than 1,000 entities. Thus there are many breast cancer charities offering similar or duplicative programs. And, even if each of those charities spends just 25% of its budget on overhead and fundraising, I would argue that more progress could be made towards treatments and a cure (spending on programs) if there were less organizations (less spending on admin and fundraising).

More than 50 charities offering breast cancer related services have come together to address this issue. They’ve formed the Breast Health Collaborative of Texas with the commendable goal to reduce duplicative and less effective programs and to find ways to collaborate on programs and fundraising to improve access to breast health care for low-income and uninsured women. Getting these nonprofits to drop their competitive stance and work together is no small task. But they already report some programmatic success and have captured the attention of at least one funder, the 4-star Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

On this year’s April Fool’s Day, I hope you’ll agree that it is encouraging to know that some breast cancer charities have put the “Don’t Be a Fool” message to into practice and are striving for better efficiencies and service.

1 comment:

Maris Edgar said...

I, hopefully a future non-profit professional, have observed this phenomenon for years. People want to make a difference, so the start a new organization to compete for funds with organizations of the same cause, rather than start an initiative to work within an already existing entity. I agree entirely with Ms. Miniutti and think the non-profit sector in general would benefit with more people willing to humble themselves and work for someone else, rather than heading their own organization.