October is breast cancer awareness month. Head to any shopping center and it's easy to see. Pretty much every store is selling something to benefit breast cancer research.
But how do you know if your money is really doing any good? Here are four keys to making sure your money makes a real difference.
Know who the product benefits.
Most companies clearly label their products so you know which charity you're helping. Just like officially licensed sports apparel, you want to look for copyrighted logos. That ensures the product is really tied to a charity.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure partners with hundreds of manufacturers and 25 percent of your purchase is donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
If you want to know for sure something is officially licensed check out the products on charity websites. Charities are really big on policing products so if you can't find it there--call the charity directly.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure has an entire section devoted to registered products, many of which are cheaper on their site.
How much of your money benefits the cause?
You want to find out if companies are donating a set amount of money to a charity or a percentage of every purchase. With a set amount, once the goal is reached-- your purchase may not matter. So be sure to read the fine print. And if you don't see that on a label, ask.
Many food products operate this way. Those cereal boxes, soup cans and yogurt cups will give a certain portion of money toward breast cancer research.
For example, Yoplait has a promotion where it asks people to send in those pink lids so that it can donate 10 cents for every pink lid it receives. The company will actually donate a minimum of $500,000 all the way up to $1.6 million depending on how many it gets in. Over that last 12 years the company has donated $25 million to breast cancer causes. So that’s not to say it’s not a good promotion, it’s just helpful to know that after a certain point your lid may not count.
How will the organization use your money?
This is more of a question about the charity. A good rule of thumb is any charity that spends at least 65 percent on its programs is considered a wise investment. You want 35 percent or less to be spent on fund-raising and administrative costs.
Is the program meaningful to you?
"I have a friend whose mom had breast cancer. So I tend to go for products that support breast cancer awareness," said Cindy Egertson.
One recent survey found 85 percent of shoppers said they have a more positive image of a company or product when it supports a cause they believe in and 80 percent said they're more likely to switch brands to support a cause.
For example, the pink ribbon donut campaign Krispy Kreme does every year where when you buy a dozen pink ribbon donuts the company donates $1 to Komen Austin can be a way to build brand loyalty.
The truth is we all want to feel good when we shop especially at a time when so many of us are looking to save.
Products that donate the most
Whether it's a portion of the proceeds or a fixed amount of money some products do more good than others. Two of the best--involve makeup and food.
MAC doesn't just pay lip service to its cause. Buy any one of the six different colors of Viva Glam lipstick and 100 percent of the purchase price goes to charities that support people living with AIDS. Since 1994 MAC has raised than $150 million dollars for the MAC AIDS fund.
"I think that's generous especially from a big company like that. It's generous and I appreciate that," said Cathy Ludford.
The late Paul Newman set up Newman's Own Foundation back in 1982. Once the company pays for the ingredients and production costs of each bottle of salad dressing and salsa, the rest of the money--all of it--helps raise money for various charities. The products have raised more than $295 million so far.
Other ways to help
Melinda Brasher of the Austin Examiner has some other ways to eat and support breast cancer research this month.