Promoting 'pink' or aiding in finding a cure? Where donor's money really goes

By Christina Carpenter / CJ 475 Reporter
Posted Nov. 1, 2012

The famous fall colors of October are becoming more prevalent every day as we watch the leaves turn from green, to yellow and brown, and orange pumpkins line the porches of neighborhoods — and let us not forget about pink. Every year October is met with walks, runs and hundreds of fundraisers all around the U.S. as we celebrate breast cancer awareness month donning pink in our daily wear and products.

ABQ Zumba's Down Cancer
[+] Click HERE for full-screen video
By Christina Carpenter

Experience the Breast Cancer Resource Center's effort to Zumba Down Cancer.

The City of Albuquerque's Breast Cancer Resource Center recently hosted a fundraiser to raise awareness and money for the charity different from any other the state has seen, instead of walking or running for the cure, they decided to Zumba Down Cancer. The most popular new way to exercise, Zumba, is a Colombian dance fitness program that incorporates dance and aerobic moves. In an effort to get people from the community excited and pumped about Zumba-ing down cancer, they set a Guinness Book of Records goal to have the most participants at a Zumba gathering in the U.S.

"We wanted to do something different from all of the other fundraisers going on this month in Albuquerque. We wanted to get people excited and involved. And, we wanted to put a on fundraiser where the money people donate goes directly to the patients," Executive Manager of the Breast Cancer Resource Center Jahaan Martin said.

Every day throughout October people sign checks and donate time to various fundraisers. With every check torn out of a checkbook comes a sense of hope that the world is closer to the cure. Unfortunately, not every dollar donated meets this intention, in fact, some fundraisers spend more money on programs and getting the actual fundraiser together than they put toward direct aid in finding a cure.

According to, a website that rates national charities and informs people about which charities are best to donate money to because the money will actually be going toward the stated causes, the American Cancer Society (ACS) receives a "C" for financial responsibility. According to, The ACS is a $1 billion-a-year corporation that gets all of its money straight from donations. Seventy-two percent of that money is given to programs and 21 percent is put toward fundraising, none of which goes directly to patients or research. On top of which, ACS CEO John Seffrin is salaried at over a $2 million dollars a year, according to

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the national fundraiser which raised $400 million in the 2009/10 fiscal year, and is the grassroots organization responsible for all the pink we see every year in October, also receives a "C" from for financial responsibility. According to, former CEO for Komen for the Cure Hala G. Moddelmog made $500,000 year. Thirty-seven million of the $400 million raised is spent in general administrative fees alone. Of that $400 million made, $35 million are from investments and $365 million are from fundraisers. In addition to the $37 million spent on administrative fees, the fundraiser spends $141 million on education, $47 million on health screenings, $75 million on research and $60 million on fundraising costs.

Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure is a local affiliate to Susan G. Komen. Their donations and fundraising money do not pay for the national salaries. In fact, 75 percent of the money raised by Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure stays right here in New Mexico. As a local affiliate, they put their money into a "pot" so to speak, 25 percent of which goes to national research grants, donations, marketing and other channels.

"We are one of the few local affiliates, kind of like a franchise. We have the Komen name, Komen logo and the opportunity to purchase information on breast cancer and research and at a reduced price. But, we live and die on our own fundraising," Executive Director for Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure Susan Simons said.

Simons said Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure just reached their $2 million mark which is reinvested in New Mexico's breast cancer screening, treatment and education over the past 12 years.

"We are all in this together, we try not to hold events on the same days as other organizations. Every organization runs their own fundraisers, and we try to assist them if we can," Simons said.

Over the years, Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure has donated $20,000 to the Breast Cancer Resource Center.

Large non-profit companies require infrastructure, are bureaucratic by definition and cost a lot to run. That means much of the money they raise disappears in the system. The Breast Cancer Resource Center, as well as Central New Mexico Komen for the Cure, are small operations, allowing them to focus on the community and its specific needs.

It is acknowledged that it takes a lot of resources, financial and other, to run these large national organizations and no doubt they are making strides to fight cancer, but how do people know where there money is going? There is no direct connection between participating, contributing and seeing really how donors help. Small and community-focused organizations like the Breast Cancer Resource Center however, are freewheeling and don't answer to a parent organization and are able to directly donate money to patients.

"We sponsor breast health and other classes for patients, as well as provide them with psychological support and other resources they may need to get through these hard times," Program Manager of the Breast Cancer Resource Center Deborah Openden said.

This was the Cancer Resource Center's first go-around for a Zumba fundraiser. Though they fell short of meeting their goal to make the Guinness Book of Records, they raised approximately $2,000 — all of which goes directly to patients. They hope to make it even bigger and better in the coming years with a continued help from the Albuquerque community.