Setting the record straight

News headlines in 2011 unfairly criticized Canadian Cancer Society for spending more on fundraising than on cancer research.1 Yes, this is factually correct, both in 2018 as it was in 2011. In F2018, Canadian Cancer Society spent $52.8 million on fundraising compared to $48.9 million spent on cancer research grants. And yes, Canadian Cancer Society does have huge fundraising costs to raise money for its operations. 

However, unlike most large cancer charities, Canadian Cancer Society has two core programs, not just one.  It runs cancer programs for people with cancer and it funds cancer research. Canada’s other large cancer charities fundraise and only grant money to cancer research. Think a United Way model, or a mutual fund. This fundraising/granting/investing work is very different from being on the frontline, working with people with cancer. Few charities provide hands-on help to people living with cancer. Canadian Cancer Society is an exception.

In its cancer programs across Canada, CCS convenes support groups, provides online resources, organizes rides to cancer treatment, operates lodges (Ronald McDonald-type housing for adult cancer patients undergoing treatment), and loans wigs to people with cancer. At every cancer treatment centre across Canada, Canadian Cancer Society volunteers provide refreshments to patients waiting for cancer treatments.

In 2018, in addition to its research grants of $48.9 million, Canadian Cancer Society spent $51.4 million on cancer support programs. Cancer programs, research grants, and advocacy totaled $103.6 million in 2018. When undertaking a fair assessment of fundraising costs, spending on cancer research and cancer programs must also be considered.

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Kate Bahen

July 10, 2018

Read more Charity Intelligence reports on Canadian Cancer Society:

Donor report on Canadian Cancer Society, updated July 4, 2018

Teaching an elephant to dance: Canadian Cancer Society cuts $67 million in costs, updated July 10, 2018

Mega cancer charity merger: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation to merge with Canadian Cancer Society, October 28, 2016

Cancer in Canada, indepth report looking at cancer, identifying 4 underfunded cancers that have the highest toll on Canada: colon, lung, pancreatic, and stomach cancer, April 2011

To see reports on other Canadian cancer charities

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Sources:

1. Jason Kirby, “Buy, sell, donate: A new breed of analysts is using investing techniques to better scrutinize the booming charity business”, Macleans Business, July 28, 2011 

2. Erica Johnson,Cancer Society spends more on fundraising than research, CBC News, July 6, 2011

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