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Contributing to Cancer Research

  • Posted: 06/19/2013

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) sometimes receives questions from the public about how they can contribute to cancer research.

As the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, NCI receives most of its operating budget from the U.S. Congress. NCI may also accept charitable contributions for cancer research, but it does not solicit funds or conduct campaigns to raise funds. Individuals who would like to contribute to cancer research at NCI may donate to the National Cancer Institute Gift Fund or purchase the Breast Cancer Research Stamp.

There are also many private organizations in the United States that raise money for cancer research, treatment, and other support activities. Some of these private organizations may refer to NCI and include the toll-free telephone number for NCI’s Cancer Information Service in their fundraising literature. However, NCI is not affiliated with any of these organizations and does not participate in or endorse their fundraising activities.

The following questions can help you to evaluate the operations of a fundraising organization and make an informed decision about contributing to the organization:

  • Does the organization make its budget and a complete annual report, including an audit by an independent certified public accountant, public?
  • Are the group’s fundraising and administrative costs reasonable?
  • Does the organization use ethical and economical fundraising methods?
  • Is the organization transparent about how it is managed?
  • Is the information it distributes misleading, deceptive, or inaccurate?

Information about the practices of charitable organizations is available from a number of online services. For example, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, uses specific standards for charitable accountability to evaluate the fundraising activities of private, nonprofit organizations. These standards address the practices of public disclosure, financial accountability, fundraising activities and materials, and the governing body of the organization. You may obtain this information on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's For Charities and Donors page or by contacting the Alliance headquarters at:

BBB Wise Giving Alliance
3033 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
703-276-0100

Local Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) also report on local fundraising organizations. The address for the office nearest you is available in your telephone directory and on the Find a BBB website.

You can also obtain information on charitable organizations from:

  • The Office of the Attorney General in your state. Most state offices have a consumer protection division that investigates complaints from the public lodged against companies and other organizations. Contact information is located in the blue Government pages of your local telephone directory or on state government websites.
  • Your local consumer protection agency. The Consumer Protection page on USA.gov includes contact information for local consumer protection offices that respond to consumer complaints. A complete list of state, county, and city government consumer protection offices is also available.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). FTC’s Charity Scams page includes tips on how to make your donations count by learning about charities and the warning signs of a scam. FTC also offers a publication called Charitable Donations: Give or Take?, which has information about making donations to organizations and whom to contact if you have questions or complaints. Although FTC does not investigate individual consumer complaints, complaints reported to the agency can help it detect patterns of wrongdoing and lead to investigations and prosecutions. Complaints can be filed on the FTC Complaint Assistant page or by contacting FTC at:

    Consumer Response Center
    Federal Trade Commission
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20580
    1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
    1-866-653-4261 (TTY)
    http://www.ftc.gov