Breast Cancer Fundraising

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Breast Cancer Fundraising

Key Takeaways

  • The charities examined spend money on advertising and promotions at very different rates with the National Breast Cancer Foundation spending 39% of expenses on this line item, while Metavivor spends 0.01% and Bay Area Cancer Connections spends 6%.
  • The Know Your Lemons campaign went viral in 2017, being shared about 47,000 times on social media and reaching 3 million people.
  • The 2018 #ITouchMyselfProject, featuring a music video with Serena Williams, reached over 1.25 billion people.


As can be seen on the attached spreadsheet, the 15 charities examined spend their money in very different ways. Both dollar amounts and percentages for each spending category from Form 990 have been provided to make it easier to compare the charities against each other.

Five breast cancer campaigns from the past five years are Check It Before It's Removed; It's more than a ribbon, it unites us; Know Your Lemons; I Touch Myself Project; and Gorgeous Way to Give. Additional details on each including the group behind it and any publicly available success metrics are provided below.

Spreadsheet Summary

  • On the attached spreadsheet, data on total revenue and expenses, along with a breakdown of expenses by category as reported on Form 990, has been provided for 15 breast cancer charities. The charities selected were the 15 rated as 4-stars by Charity Navigator.
  • Additionally, provided below for each charity is Charity Navigator's breakdown of the percent of expenses that goes toward programs, administrative, and fundraising for each of the breast cancer charities.
  • American Italian Cancer Foundation - 93.8% to program expenses; 3.8% to administrative expenses; 2.4% to fundraising expenses
  • Bay Area Cancer Connections - 76% to program expenses; 12.6% to administrative expenses; 11.4% to fundraising expenses
  • - 78.9% to program expenses; 7.5% to administrative expenses; 13.6% to fundraising expenses
  • Breast Cancer Alliance - 82.3% to program expenses; 9.8% to administrative expenses; 8% to fundraising expenses
  • Casting for Recovery - 78.6% to program expenses; 7% to administrative expenses; 14.4% to fundraising expenses
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute - 89.7% to program expenses; 8.2% to administrative expenses; 2.1% to fundraising expenses
  • Florida Breast Cancer Foundation - 89.5% to program expenses; 4.6% to administrative expenses; 5.9% to fundraising expenses
  • It's the Journey - 88.2% to program expenses; 7.8% to administrative expenses; 4% to fundraising expenses
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer - 85.3% to program expenses; 7.7% to administrative expenses; 6.9% to fundraising expenses
  • Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation - 81% to program expenses; 11.5% to administrative expenses; 7.5% to fundraising expenses
  • Metavivor - 95.9% to program expenses; 3.7% to administrative expenses; 0.4% to fundraising expenses
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation - 78.4% to program expenses; 13.4% to administrative expenses; 8.2% to fundraising expenses
  • SHARE - 85.1% to program expenses; 3.7% to administrative expenses; 11.2% to fundraising expenses
  • Sharsheret - 82.3% to program expenses; 6.7% to administrative expenses; 11% to fundraising expenses
  • The Rose - 87.7% to program expenses; 7.1% to administrative expenses; 5.2% to fundraising expenses

Breast Cancer Education/Awareness Campaigns

Check it Before It's Removed

  • This campaign was run by Pink Ribbon which is a German based charity. However, since it was run on social media, the campaign had a global reach.
  • The campaign posted pictures of 17 women baring one breast, knowing that Facebook and Instagram would delete the photos due to the images violating the platforms' nudity policies. Even as the posts were being deleted, awareness was growing and word was spreading on both social media and in the news media. Most posts lasted for somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours before they were removed by moderators, but the buzz continued in the news due to the Pink Ribbon organization announcing that their posts were being censored.
  • According to Pink Ribbon, 29 million people were reached on social media and website traffic increased by 27,984%.

Estee Lauder Companies Pink Ribbon

  • Although the original Breast Cancer Campaign by Estee Lauder launched in 1992 with the introduction of the pink ribbon, the company does launch more directed campaigns around the ribbon.
  • The 2020 campaign was themed "It's more than a ribbon, it unites us." During breast cancer awareness month in October, the company encouraged people to post pictures of their pink ribbons on social media using the hashtags #TimeToEndBreastCancer and #ELCdonates. For each post on Facebook and Instagram that used both hashtags, Estee Lauder donated $25. Their maximum contribution for the campaign was $100,000.

Know Your Lemons

  • Corinne Ellsworth Beaumont is the founder of the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization. The main goal of the foundation is to "educate every woman in the world about breast cancer symptoms." To that end, she had been working on the "Know Your Lemons" visual since 2003.
  • In January 2017, Erin Smith Chieze posted the image on Facebook, along with a post describing how "a similar photo helped her identify her own stage 4 breast cancer symptoms: an indentation." The post went viral. The image was shared 47,000 times and about 3 million people were reached on social media alone. Additionally, the story was covered by several media outlets, including BBC and CNN.
  • The Know Your Lemons Campaign has grown and the current website offers education, branded items, and opportunities to get involved.

I Touch Myself Project

  • The #ITouchMyselfProject launched in 2014, but new campaigns have been launched every two years since then.
  • The inspiration behind the campaign was Chrissy Amphlett, the lead singer of the Divinyls who had a hit with "I Touch Myself." Amphlett ultimately lost her battle with breast cancer, but "wanted the global hit song I Touch Myself to be adapted as an anthem for breast health around the world."
  • The first campaign in 2014 had 10 female singers in Australia reinvent the song "as an anthem for early breast cancer detection." The music video was seen by more than 400 million people.
  • The 2016 campaign involved a partnership "with Berlei to create The Chrissy Bra a bra made from the silkiest skin-like fabric to remind women to touch themselves when getting dressed every day and a Chrissy Post-Surgery Bra the first rock and roll-inspired bra designed specifically for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery to help support them emotionally as well as physically during a very confronting time." There was no publicly available information on how much has been raised through sales of the bras.
  • Serena Williams sang and made a music video for the song in 2018. This campaign reached over 1.25 billion people globally, and increased "the conversation about self-detection by 252%." Berlei also created a t-shirt bra as part of the campaign, with all profits being donated.

Gorgeous Way to Give

  • Ulta Beauty has partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation since 2009. They have run many Gorgeous Way to Give campaigns through the years, and have raised a total of $37 million for the Foundation.
  • In 2018, the campaign raised $5.5 million through a combination of events that included "the sales of Ulta Beauty's BCRF collection, the annual Cut for a Cause in-store national fundraising event locations, the company's annual charity Golf Outing and Day of Beauty, personal donations and more."
  • The 2016 campaign involved the creation of a pop-up store in NYC. When customers came in, they saw items priced in minutes of breast cancer research rather than dollars. Ulta Beauty reported that "the company has funded over 16 million minutes of research through its partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation," but it wasn't clear if that was since the beginning of the campaign in 2009 or just for the 2016 campaign.
  • A link to an ad run in association with the 2016 campaign can be seen here.
  • Following are some images from the #gorgeouswaytogive campaign over the years.

Research Strategy

All dollar amounts provided in the spreadsheet were pulled directly from the most recent Form 990 that had been filed for each charity. The percentages were calculated using that data, and each calculation can be seen in the relevant cell.

For the research on breast cancer campaigns, we began with a focus on the US, but quickly found that many of the campaigns that ran on social media were global, so campaigns run by charities outside of the US were also included as long as they had an impact in the US. To locate campaigns, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including charity websites, advertising sites such as AdAge, and media sites such as Allure and the AP.

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