October is here, which means Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In other words, prepare for the influx of pink ribbons on everything and loads of Facebook “awareness” memes on your wall.

Cancer Can Suck It Bracelet | Spiffing Jewelry

In the past, we’ve been happy to support great companies with their hearts in the right places who are donating a percentage to a reputable charity.

But as this month has become more and more commercial (BCA fried chicken? Really?) and talk of “pinkwashing” abounds, here are a few things to keep in mind when you consider how to do some real good for a really important cause.

1. Awareness Isn’t Enough
I have never stopped thinking about this incredible post, In The Name of Awareness,
from my now friend, blogger, and scientist Susan Niebur who recently
lost her life to breast cancer. In it, she talks about the futility of
memes like “change your status update to your bra color” when that
action, however well-intended, isn’t accompanied by a donation or some
real action. She also points out that survivors with double masectomies
don’t wear bras and can’t even participate themselves.

In other words: think before you meme.

2. Research the Charities You Support
You can find charity ratings on sites like CharityWatch.org from the American Institute of Philanthropy or on Charity Navigator. There are always a few disputed assessments, so you might cross-reference between them or do a bit of your own investigating.

3. Ask Where The Money Goes
As Susan said, “Aren’t we aware by now, people?” We tend to prefer organizations and products that put money
towards tangible support for cancer sufferers and survivors, and toward medical research.

for products like this cute Breast Cancer Crusade Watch in the Avon Shop, which donates a full 100% of the net profits directly to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Watches

I also really like the Cancer Can Suck it Bracelet (at very top) from Spiffing Jewelry on Etsy–the artist notes that she created it as a grassroots way to raise money for her sister who’s battling cancer, and is donating 100% of the proceeds directly to her.

Don’t be afraid to ask where the money goes with any product; we tend to be wary of
general statements like “a portion of the proceeds will go towards
breast cancer awareness and support.” If we cover a BCA product here,
rest assured we’re asking how much, where it goes and for what.

In fact, I’d love to change the name from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Breast Cancer Support Month. We’re aware! We’re aware!

4. Buy a Product for Someone Else

liz lange compression sleeves
liz lange compression sleeves

We love the Liz Lange Compression Sleeves for Lymphdivas
that help with the pain and swelling caused by arm lymphedema, and do
it stylishly (finally!) with dozens of different patterns. All
compression sleeves are expensive, however. Consider buying one (or
more), and donating it to a local treatment clinic.

5. Do More Than Shop
If you join the Cancer Action Network
of the ACS, you’ll get frequent updates on what you can do to help and
how to spread the world about what you’ve learned. You can also see what
your state is doing or how your political candidates measure up on the
issue, so you know just where to send your emails and letters.

avon army of women

You can also volunteer, which takes no money at all. Avon’s Army of Women
(above) is a great place to start. Sometimes all they ask of you is to
fill out surveys that help them with valuable research. Now that’s
something we can all do.

For those of you social media junkies, follow the #BCSM hashtag on Twitter. Their weekly online meet-ups provide tons of information, great guests, and as survivor friend and blogger Jen Singer puts it, “they go beyond the pinkomania.”.

6. Donate Directly
are so many really great, well-respected organizations that can really
use funding. Whether or not you buy a scarf or a coffee mug. Here, just a few solid recommendations from our own survivor

Also consider donating directly to a top hospital with an excellent breast cancer treatment center. A few include the MD Anderson [Cancer] Center at University of Texas, and the Emory Breast Center in Atlanta.

lymphdivas compression sleeves7. Take Care of Yourself!
good news: Cancer is often a treatable disease, but successful treatment relies in part
on early detection. Start with self-exams, and then ask about mammograms
when you hit 40. More than 225,000 women will be diagnosed with it this
year and we’d love to keep as many of them with us as possible.

know that we have the best readers in the world–caring, thoughtful,
and with your hearts in the right place. We hope this helps to put your
money and efforts in the right place too. –Liz

Have any other helpful ideas for Breast Cancer Awareness Month or a favorite charity? We’d love to hear them in comments.