As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s thing about America’s biggest breast cancer charity withdrawing its support for breast cancer screening programs:
Does everyone know about the GiveWell blog? They’re an independent, non-profit charity evaluator, and they provide what seems to be fairly thorough, reliable, and transparent analysis on the effectiveness and usefulness of various charitable organisations, so as to help people make informed decisions about what charities to support.
Anyway, they’ve not done a thorough investigation of Komen that I’ve been able to uncover, but they have looked at how they spend their money, and weren’t particularly impressed with what they found.
In 2008, by far the biggest part of Komen’s program expenses were going to “public health education” – nearly half of the total expenditure, significantly more than research, and much more than treatment services.
It’s something of a personal value judgment, I suppose, exactly how much of their budget a charity should spend on each of their different functions, but given what we saw yesterday about Komen’s focus on brand awareness, I’m not convinced that making those little pink ribbons even more ubiquitous and unavoidable is actually going to do a lot for anyone’s health. Being aware of a problem is only any good if you then go and do something about it, and if all you do about it is buy a ribbon to support a charity, then around 46% of your effort is just going into repeating the cycle.
Among other worthy contenders, GiveWell have identified two “Top-rated charities“: the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, both of which are primarily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. If you want to make the greatest improvement to the world for the fewest pennies spent, that’s where they say you should put them.