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For Immediate Release: September 12, 2012
Contact: AICR Communications Department, communications@aicr.org, 202-328-7744

IN THE NEWS: Setting the Record Straight: AICR, Cancer Research, and Telemarketing

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is mentioned in passing in an article in Bloomberg Markets magazine that attacks the use of telemarketing by charities. AICR is one of many charities that uses this method of fundraising, although it makes up only a fraction of our overall fundraising efforts. We feel the need to clarify several points.

Firstly, we understand that telemarketing is not popular with the public. But in the last fiscal year alone, telemarketing efforts made approximately $2 million available for AICR research and education programs. That’s $2 million that would not have existed at a time when fewer people are giving, and government funding of cancer research and education is lower than it has been in years.

Even so, by focusing exclusively on telemarketing, the Bloomberg article never places the practice in its proper, overall context. It is only one tool among many, and charities balance a mix of techniques, both the expensive (telemarketing) and the inexpensive (gifts, bequests, foundation support, etc), because fundraising is a process. The way we interact with a given donor evolves over time, as they come to better know AICR and the vital work we do. Someone who is a monthly donor or responds to a direct mail appeal may ultimately, for example, include a bequest to us in their will, and thus help make life-saving AICR-funded research projects possible. This is the “big picture” we wish the article had taken the time to depict.

“Callers mischaracterized themselves”

The article notes that AICR contracts with the telemarketing firm Infocision, as does the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and several other charities. The article highlights instances when some Infocision employees calling on behalf of other charities did not identify themselves correctly.

AICR, in the interest of transparency, cooperated with the Bloomberg reporter’s investigation and supplied him with the scripts Infocision uses on its behalf. These scripts explicitly begin “My name is X, and I am a paid caller for Infocision calling on behalf of the American Institute for Cancer Research.”

Deviating from these scripts is a very serious offense. Calls are closely monitored to ensure that callers are being open and honest with supporters.

“Callers misled donors about the percentage of their donation that goes to charities.”

The Bloomberg reporter conducted a thorough investigation and did not highlight any instances when callers on behalf of AICR misled donors.

The percentage of support that goes to our research and education programs (between 65 and 70 percent, depending on the year) is a matter of public record. We fund cutting-edge cancer research and translate its evidence-based results into tools and information millions of people use to cut their cancer risk.

(Just today, in fact, we launched CancerResource, a free kit of research-based information for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families.)

This synergy between our Research and Education missions makes us unique, and it’s a big reason we’ve earned the support of over 17 million donors. Our percentage to program is printed in each package that is sent by Infocision to both volunteers and donors.

“According to the Infocision contract, only small percentages of telemarketing donations actually reach the charities”

This issue is complicated by the fact that the percentages specified in a charity’s contract with Infocision vary from state to state. Many states require that Infocision guarantee a minimum amount that will go to the charities. That amount is always low, as Infocision takes a very conservative approach.

But when reporters highlight only this minimum amount, they leave their audience with the mistaken impression that that amount is what the charity actually receives. It is not. The charity generally receives a considerably larger percentage, which is reported in financial statements at the conclusion of the contract period.

More Than Money

The results of phone campaigns consist of much more than the actual donations received. These efforts also help us to identify individuals who are sympathetic to our mission, and educate them on how they can prevent cancer in their lives and in the lives of their family. We are deeply indebted to the volunteers who work so hard on our behalf.

The generous gifts of our supporters, however they come to us, have helped to make over 700 AICR research grants possible, and have allowed us to deliver practical, science-based advice on diet, physical activity and weight management to millions of Americans.

 

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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