Are Our Donation Dollars Actually Being Used for Cancer Research?

by Candice Walsh Jul 7, 2011
Money for cancer research seems to be on the downswing, despite huge increases in fundraising efforts.

Recently, CBC’s Marketplace analyzed financial reports from the Canadian Cancer Society dating back over 12 years. Their findings? The amount of money spent on actual cancer research dropped from 40.3 per cent in 2000 to under 22 per cent in 2011.

Apparently more money nowadays is being funnelled into fundraising and administration costs rather than actual research. Since cancer researchers need money to carry out their work, their research is being put off as they try to figure out ways to offset the costs.

And while the Canadian Cancer Society claims to have more duties than just providing money for research (i.e., support to people living with cancer), the financial reports have proven that it’s the fundraising sector getting the biggest portion of dollars…up by 26 per cent since 2000.

This brings to mind the recent accusations against Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson for using funds raised to build schools in the Middle East as his personal ATM.

It all feels like a knife in the heart. I’ve just returned from a week-long trip visiting with my terminally ill uncle, and watching him suffer has been one of the most painful experiences I have ever experienced. His family has thrown themselves headfirst into fundraising and offering support, especially through the Canadian Cancer Society’s successful Relay For Life campaigns, and the thought of it all being in vain is unbearable.

At the same time, however, the fact that my family has pulled through and organized mass fundraising teams to bring in thousands of dollars is pretty epic and offers a measure of comfort not found by sitting around doing nothing. I’m pointing fingers at you Armchair Activists, here. What do you hope to accomplish by posting “I’m aware of cancer” in your Facebook statuses?

So how do you distinguish what’s right or wrong, and what’s the solution? I don’t think it’s all in vain, actually. The awareness that the society has created is incredible, and a step in the right direction. But change is needed. Cancer researcher Brian Lichty at McMaster University suggests putting more pressure on such large organizations, or even launching a grassroots movement. Someone should post that idea to Facebook.

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