According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Yet, until very recently, it has carried the greatest stigma of all forms of cancer. In the past, women have avoided screenings or hid breast cancer diagnoses out of fear and shame; many still do. Over the past twenty years, the work of organizations that raise awareness and support research for breast cancer has made great strides against this stigma.
What Makes a Successful Charity?
According to Sarah Klein of Health.com, an organization that truly helps the approximately two hundred thousand women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States not only raises money, but spends it wisely. There are hundreds of organizations out there that claim to support breast cancer research, but not all of them use their donations responsibly. Klein urges donors to research charities—find out where an organization’s money comes from and where it goes—before they give.
The best way to do this, Klein suggests, is through watchdogs like the American Institute of Philanthropy  (AIP) and Charity Navigator . These sites recommend looking for organizations that spend at least 75 percent of their budgets on program expenses; anything below 33 percent shows that a charity is “not living up to its mission,” according to Charity Navigator. Another consideration is how much the organization spends on overhead costs (like rent and utilities) and employee pay; less than 15 percent of spending on these administrative expenses is ideal.
The Five Best Breast Cancer Charities
In your search for a fund-raising organization worthy of your donation, consider these five charities, all of which have excellent reputations and transparent spending practices.
1. Susan G. Komen for the Cure
In 1982, Nancy G. Brinker started Susan G. Komen for the Cure  hoping to find a cure for the disease her sister Susan G. Komen had. The organization runs a variety of fund-raising events, including Race for the Cure, the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, and joint programs with companies like BMW and New Balance. In 2009, Susan G. Komen for the Cure won the Charity Navigator four-star rating (out of four stars) for the third year in a row. During the fiscal year 2013, the charity brought in $263.6 million in revenue and devoted 82.3 percent to funding research, education, screening, and treatment programs, both in the United States and around the world. It spent a mere 6.3 percent of its budget on administrative costs and 10.7 percent on fund-raising programs.
2. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation  (BCRF) is the only breast cancer organization with an A+ rating from AIP, according to Klein. In 1993, Evelyn H. Lauder founded the BCRF to aid prevention and to find a cure for breast cancer for this generation. The organization works to provide funding for innovative clinical and translational research at leading international medical centers, as well as raising public awareness of breast health. The organization’s corporate partners, which include Ann Taylor and the Estée Lauder Companies, have helped it raise more than $220 million since its creation in 1993. BCRF spent a whopping 91.1 percent of its revenue on programs in 2013, according to Charity Navigator. In October 2009, the charity awarded approximately $28.5 million in new research grants to 173 breast cancer researchers at top-ranked universities and academic medical centers around the world.
3. Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Founded in 1991, Living Beyond Breast Cancer  (LBBC) is an information hub and source of support for individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The organization hosts national conferences, free webinars, community programs, newsletters, podcasts, and more for women who have been affected by breast cancer, their caregivers, and healthcare professionals. In 2012, the organization reports that it brought in $5.4 million and spent approximately $3 million. Most of the funds went to education and outreach, fund-raising, and research, with a very small amount—about 8 percent—going to management expenses. LBBC also received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
4. National Breast Cancer Foundation
The National Breast Cancer Foundation  (NBCF) was founded in 1991 to help saves lives through breast cancer education and early detection. NBCF provides access to free and low-cost mammograms for women with limited resources, and helps to increase breast cancer awareness with continuing education programs and online community support programs. The foundation has earned a Charity Navigator four-star rating. In 2013, it brought in about $12 million and spent about $13 million, with 82.4 percent of expenses going to programs, 8.2 percent going to fund-raising, and 9.3 percent going to administrative costs.
Dr. Marisa Weiss, a nationally renowned breast oncologist, started BreastCancer.org  in 1999 to help women navigate the vast amounts of information about breast cancer and help them face the “burden of having to make critical decisions quickly.” The organization works to provide women and their families with the most reliable, comprehensive, and current information about the disease. Having raised $3.6 million and spent $3.5 million in 2012, BreastCancer.org allots 79.1 percent of funds to program expenses, 12.5 percent to fund-raising, and 8.2 percent to administrative costs. It has earned Charity Navigator’s four-star rating.
Get a Breast Cancer (Charity) Check-up
There are so many breast cancer fund-raising organizations out there, and most of them have very similar names, which makes choosing where to donate a potentially bewildering task. Since you want to make sure that the dollars you give make a difference, use a watchdog guide like AIP or Charity Navigator to help you choose a charity that’s fiscally responsible and devoted to the cure.