Sunday, 21 April 2019

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Views about charity fundraising methods

Has fundraising for breast cancer research become too closely associated with fashion and shopping? Is the reality of breast cancer trivialised by celebrity endorsements, fashion and glamour?  

In this week’s topical and emotive discussion, we explored our views and feelings about the ways in which charities go about raising much-needed funds for research into prevention, treatment and support for breast (and other types of) cancer. 

Our discussion, which included women with a diagnosis of primary breast cancer and women living with secondary breast cancer, highlighted just how many of us had been involved in fundraising efforts for charities. We run marathons, half marathons, we bake cakes, we make scarves and purses, we do moon and midnight walks. We are proud of our efforts and grateful for the chance to give back - we want to support ourselves and others.

Yes, we are all agreed that funds are needed, and, we recognise that we are living at a time when funding can be difficult to access. What then can charities do to maximise the prospect of securing funds? 

In recent years, the colour pink and the pink ribbon have been used to convey a sign for breast cancer. To add to that, clothing, underwear, beauty products, jewellery, flowers and even tea can all be bought in the name of breast cancer (though some pointed out the charities may only recieve a fraction of the cost).

Many of us have come to detest the 'pinkification' of breast cancer and find the emphasis on glamour, feel-good stories, celebrity endorsement - with the saucy cakes, pink wigs, the ‘nudge-nudge’ taglines, and associations with sexuality - deeply upsetting and even offensive.

We did not all agree. Some of us wear our pink ribbons with pride. We actively support campaigns like ‘Tickled Pink’.  A few of us argued that just because we buy - or are given - fashion products or indulge in a bit of fun does not mean that we are ignorant of the suffering caused by breast cancer. 

Some of us do not feel that the current trend for showing physical scars, and unpleasant, challenging realities is necessary to raise funds. It can also be helpful, some of us thought, that pink is so closely associated with breast cancer since it helps breast cancer charities to distinguish themselves from other deserving causes.

Pink-washing is particularly - but by no means solely - distressing for women living with secondary breast cancer. They shared the emotional impact on them of seeing a disease which will ultimately be the cause of their death portrayed as frivolous and fun. They also expressed hurt and frustration about the lack of investment into research into secondary breast cancer. Since the average life expectancy after diagnosis is 24-36 months, it is shocking that only a paltry 7% of breast cancer research income is spent on secondary breast cancer.

Some of us worked for charities and offered an insider perspective of the challenges involved in successfully running an organisation based solely on donations. The point was made that relatively small donations can make a huge difference to small, local charities and they have a significant impact on the lives of individuals they support.  

Whether we like it or not, fundraising can intentionally or unintentionally project an image of the cause itself. For some of us, this means that charities must consider the image that is portrayed and how the experience of cancer is projected, especially since in this media age we live in, image can be used to communicate the essence of the disease.

We thought there can be a danger in under-reporting or downplaying the reality of breast cancer. Some of us felt strongly that some campaigns undermine our wellbeing and recovery, for example many of us had found losing our hair traumatic. We are re-traumatised by adverts - one example the “Brave the Shave” campaign. Surely, we wondered, it cannot be right that the very charities who purport to support us are adding to our suffering? We understand that our friends and families are helped by the opportunity to show solidarity, but some of us are vulnerable and we need charities to hold our psychological needs in mind.

Unsurprisingly, as women already diagnosed with breast cancer we often feel conflicted by the increasing emphasis given to the prevention of breast cancer. Messages aimed at educating the wider community about reducing their risk of developing breast cancer have the effect of making us feel guilty and responsible for developing the disease ourselves. 

Do the campaigns really capture the reality of how we cope through treatment and beyond? Of our scan-anxieties and rates of recurrence? Of the chemo-brain that we experience? Of the pain and long-term effects we experience? A bigger question is, well, should they? 

Most of us accept that it hard to strike a balance. We appreciate everyone for their individual view and for the respect shown to one another. Here at BRiC, we recognise that we do not all have to agree, what is more important is that we have a space to talk openly, to listen. After all, we are in this together!

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group please send us a private message.


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