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In this week's episode of Too Good To Be True, Ryan and Julia dive into the sinister world of fake, fraudulent, and scammy charities.

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Click it. Click it. [MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to Too Good to Be True, an investigative podcast about exposing the scams, schemes, and financial cults trying to separate you from your money. Well, hello, and welcome back to the Financial Diet's Too Good to Be True.

I am Julia Lawrence-Olson. I have been in the financial industry for 12 years. And I am an accredited financial counselor.

And I am editor and journalist, Ryan Houlihan. I feel like today is going to make me sad, Ryan. I think you might be right about that.

I mean, not that anything we're really getting into is particularly cheery. [LAUGHTER] But this one's particularly bad because this week, we're talking about scammy charities who are not really doing with your funds what you would think they would be doing with your funds. Ugh, I think this is going to be particularly hard for me because giving money is a big part of just my personal journey. And also, my mother worked in nonprofits for pretty much my entire life growing up.

She was a director of a few of them. Yeah, I mean, I worked at a nonprofit. I was a fellow at Glad when I was in my early 20s.

And it taught me what a difficult job they really actually have to accomplish. Glad, for example, is a media nonprofit. And so-- Oh, I didn't realize that.

Yeah, they create a ton of educational content, not only for the public, but for journalists or for network executives or for people in entertainment roles. Ever since I've worked at a nonprofit, every time I've seen someone working on a really good cause, I've felt like giving my money is the best, most effective way to help them, outside of directly volunteering my time. And I used to run these Real Housewives themed live events post the Trump election because I felt like the power of reality TV should be used for good in some capacity.

And we would alternate different New York based women's charities to donate the money to because, obviously, the topics discussed in Real Housewives are about women. And I felt like women were really under fire. And it also taught me the value of doing your research because there are certain women's charities who are doing much more intensive on-the-ground work.

And there are others that I felt were misappropriating not just their funding, but their man-- or women power in that instance. Yeah, I've sort of had a similar experience, having been involved with a foster care community for quite a while. And I used to mentor kids that were aging out of the foster care system.

And then both my husband and I also became licensed babysitters, so we could provide relief for other families. And there is a huge spectrum of how people or organizations really decide how to most effectively help the community that they're trying to serve. And so just because something says this is for cancer, right-- this is for foster kids-- I think it's really important for people who want to engage to ask, OK, but how, right?

What about cancer are you trying to fix? That's a huge topic. And are you trying to support the actual people going through?

Are you doing research, right? Are you doing grants to other third parties that I need to know who you're giving grants to. Exactly, and because these are not companies, they're not making a profit.

It makes sense that a lot of their time has to be spent just gathering money. And then that's the job, essentially. I think it would be good for us to highlight three charities that are still around.

They're still functioning. Really? Yes.

All of these are still around? So all of these charities are examples of different ways that the image that you may have of what their work is and how they are organized is very different than the private reality of what's going on in these organizations. And I think all three of these, it would be very fair to say, are misleading the public.

And I think if we can look at each of these, it might be a good way for people to look for red flags. And importantly, I should say, before we even get started, you can look up on an organization charity watch a ton of relevant data and information you might want to know about various nonprofits. And it grades them and gives you some reports on where your money will end up going.

And that can be a really great tool to control when you give who you're giving to. But one of the first charities I think it's important to focus on is an emphasis New York based charity. Every person who lives in the tri-state area knows this organization because they have an incredibly infectious jingle.

Which I just heard for the first time. As somebody who grew up in the South, this is all new to me. Let's give you a little sample, and let's see if the listener can identify this organization or ever get this out of their mind. (SINGING) 1-877 Kars4Kids, K-A-R-S, Kars4Kids. 1-877 Kars4Kids.

Donate your car today. Well, great. Well, great.

I can never unhear that. And I have to say that also watching the-- I mean, would you call it a music video? No, it's an ad.

It's a jingle. It's a jingle. It's a Kidz Bop.

It's giving me like Stepford Wives meets Toddlers & Tiaras, very weird, weird vibes. Saccharine. A very saccharine glee adjacent vibe.

Kars4Kids is a New York based charity that has been around since 1994. And it generates its revenue through car donations. I have actually donated my car before.

So donating your car is, as charities go, donating your car is a common way because it is such a convenience to the person who's trying to get rid of a car that might not be able to turn a profit. I was like, listen, my '98 Buick Regal, that the windows don't go up and down, she has breathed her last. We are done with this.

So I actually donated it to my local NPR station. Oh, interesting. Sorry, Kars4Kids.

You've got a competitor in that we recommend more. Well, the issue with the Kars4Kids specifically is an illustrative issue with donating your car in general, but it's also an illustrative issue about not really knowing what the vague cause you might be giving towards is. Right, for kids.

Kids isn't a specific cause. Whose kids? My kids?

What are these kids that you are giving to, and what do they need? So let's go into their stated mission a little bit. I think that'll help.

Their mission, they say, is they are a registered nonprofit Jewish organization, who, together, with their sister charity, Oorah, help thousands of children develop into productive members of the community. With our inclusive, big picture approach, we bring together home, school, and community to make a lasting positive impact on our children. What?

Again, does that mean anything to you? Help thousands of children develop into productive members of the community-- why do they need you to do that? Well, they need them specifically because in the Kars4Kids worldview, they're helping kids by giving them religious specific material and programs-- Uh-oh. --in the Orthodox Jewish faith to, in a sense, distribute what they believe to be important values to kids.

But that's not made explicit in the promise of Kars4Kids, or in the promise of just turning kids into good members of community. It's coming from a specific religious worldview that hasn't been illustrated to you necessarily upfront. I grew up pretty non-religious and then my family became much, much, much more Catholic when I was in my early teens.

I dropped out of that very quickly and then converted to Judaism myself full-time. Growing up on Long Island, I had been introduced to Judaism and Catholicism as basically the main religions of the region. Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

So the commonalities between the two, but also the differences between the two, it's given me more perspective as I've been an adult on my personal Judaism because I have, at least, some background in something else to compare and contrast with. And I think it gives me clarity on what the goals of different Jewish movements are that might not be as clear to people who haven't walked in both worlds. Right, that sounds like a really unique perspective that you can kind of come in as an outsider, which I guess I sort of also had, too, coming into my faith journey as an adult, 19.

Even though I was exposed to the culture in the community, obviously, growing up in Texas, I was not a participant in it. So let's talk a little bit about how Kars4Kids works first. So if you're trying to get rid of, for example, an old car that wouldn't make you much money to sell, Kars4Kids will do a pickup program where they'll take the car from you.

And-- Well, I should hope so. How else is it going to get there? I'm going to push it down?

No, yeah, there's not a central location where the Kars4Kids are being dropped, but then that revenue from the car is considered a donation. And they're reporting that their funding goes to educating children in underprivileged communities. Underprivileged communities, I see that term bandied about a lot.

And I'm really wondering, what does that really mean, and who gets to say what that is? That seems very vague. Yeah, that's not a specific legal term.

So but the organization itself has come under fire from critics because these car donation charities in general are not totally spending a ton on the actual charity as much as they're spending a ton of money on processing the vehicle because in order for the donated car to be turned into profit, obviously, you have to have a running business that can break the cars down and recycle or repurpose those parts. And in order to do that, the charities are often employing family members or close associates of the director of the charity to run that section of things and overpaying them in what would not be a standard [INAUDIBLE]. Way.

So, yeah, so this almost seems like a sort of tee up for a junkyard to be really profitable. Is that true? Yes, 100%.

Kars4Kids, specifically, what it does actually take in of the donation money being used for the actual charity and causes is through another organization that they're directly affiliated with, which is the New Jersey charity Oorah, which explains is, quote, "a single youth charity in New Jersey, which, according to tax forms, is a Jewish outreach organization for the purpose of imparting Jewish education, values, and traditions, as well as guidance and support to Jewish children who lack access to these fundamentals." What? So Oorah is mentioned on the Kars4Kids website, but it's not directly linked to. And one of the things about this is that if you want your money to go to an Orthodox Jewish charity to impart Orthodox Jewish values to children, great, that's amazing.

I'm glad that that's a choice you're making. But if I see this Kars4Kids and I think, oh, me, secular me, I have a car. I don't hate kids.

Why not call them? I just want this problem solved. And if it's going to go to a good cause-- Yeah, I mean-- --two birds, one stone. --if they're for kids, then certainly they're giving kids something that they need, right?

Maybe providing essential services like paying rent, helping their families pay rent, or after-school programs, or taking them on-- I don't know-- trips. There's lots of things kids need. There would be literally nothing to indicate that there is any sort of religious bent to this.

You would need to see that they're related to an organization called Oorah and then decide on your own to google and research a separate organization that is involved with them. Also according to, in actual fact, the Minnesota Attorney General, quote, "issued a 300-page report finding, among other things, that out of the $3 million raised in that state from 2012 to 2014, less than $12,000 went to children's services in Minnesota." What? Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless the public is given the impression that the charitable spending is going elsewhere.

In this case, as in many, it is often just left vague. She additionally found that though Kars4Kids reports spending 63% on mission, in actuality, of the $88 million raised nationally from 2012 to 2014, only 44% was given to charity, with $40 million going to Oorah. So where is all the rest of that money going?

So Oorah itself is an organization that promotes an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. And again, if that's what you want to give your money towards, great. But so that you actually know what they're specifically spending it on, Oorah, quote, specializes in outreach to non-observant Jews, operating summer camps and other programs that seek to make non-Orthodox Jews more observant, according to a 2019 article in the Forward, which covers Jewish-American news.

So I have a question as a non-Jew. One, how do you know such a thing? So within the Jewish community, there are different kinds of Judaism, similar to there being different kinds of Christianity.

This, I understand, yes. And if you were, say, a reformed Jew, and you wanted to send your kids to summer camp, and someone's offering to take your kids for a very low or almost no cost-- I mean, take my child. It's a Jewish summer camp, and you're a Jew.

And you think, this is a great, enriching, cultural experience for my kids. I see. And what they're doing there is teaching them or introducing them, let's say, to concepts of more strict and more intense, I would say, of religious settings and to more conservative structure based.

And if I even-- I, as a Jewish person, I would say if my kids were being introduced to some forms of Judaism that I either don't agree with or don't think are right for them at this time in their lives, I would be really upset to find out that someone had crossed that boundary, especially someone within the Jewish community because I would feel like it was an extra violation. Yeah, it's almost like a betrayal from within. And so even the money that is actually going to the causes that you might want them to go to, every level that you discover-- like, oh, it's actually just going to a Jewish community.

Oh, it's actually just being spent in one region. Oh, it's actually just being spent on Orthodox Jewish ideas. Oh, in fact, it's only a portion of those funds that are going there, and the rest is going to a junk yard, let's say, that's making a huge profit.

Every level of this is different amounts of deception. So every time you think you've discovered the real secret with Kars4Kids, it's sort of an onion [INAUDIBLE] in more and more problems. And I don't think that a jingle with smiling happy kids-- No. --playing pink guitars is going to effectively make that clear.

And if anything, it's a purposely created propaganda front to launder what might be less palatable causes. So am I hearing you right in that the only thing that they are providing is summer camps? So an important concept to understand in Judaism is that although I'm sure that Orthodox communities would be happy to accept Jews who would like to become more like them, I think the real goal here is that within Judaism, if a Jew does something that is part of tradition, it's called a mitzvah.

And a mitzvah is basically similar to a good deed. It's something that has so much value. So in New York, for example, during certain holidays, you will see Hasidic communities asking people on the street, are you Jewish?

And if they are, asking them to take part in a very quick short ritual in exchange for something like Hanukkah candles, which you can take home with you. And so, they would see these kids, even if they came for one day to the summer camp and did one day of Jewish activities, that's a win. That's a mitzvah.

And if their parents don't let them come back, that was all you could get. But you're healing the world, which is another part of Judaism, is this concept of tikkun olam, which is every act we can do to heal the world is part of the mission of what we're trying to do, which is create a more beautiful organization of society and humanity. My jaw's on the floor.

I knew absolutely none of this. So another organization we should probably talk about is Autism Speaks. Do you know anything about Autism Speaks?

I know that it is a little bit of a nonstarter at this point. I know it's bad. I don't know why.

And I do know about the little blue pins. And there you go. That's it.

So, yeah, those puzzle piece pins are really where the majority of the public gets their understanding of Autism Speaks because celebrities will, for example, wear them on the red carpet. Or you'll see figures speaking about autism, using it as a symbol for the entire community, when it is, in fact, just a symbol for this organization, Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks was founded in 2005, but it has since-- and I want to be very clear about this.

It is widely disavowed by the autistic community. Yet this is what I know, is that it seems like from some of the autistic people that I personally know, it's like a no-go zone. So they claim that their mission is based in researching autism, promoting autism education and acceptance, and improving services for the autistic community.

But in actual fact, I would describe the reality is that they put out fear mongering, really harmful content that, ultimately, it dehumanizes people with autism. And it's going to be something that will only perpetuate stigmas and stereotypes, rather than actually help connect real autistic people's wants for their own community with the public. So it seems like this is-- is it a media company?

Is it about making content? Because you said, Autism Acceptance. And, well, what do you do there?

They say that they're promoting acceptance. But what they do is create content that doesn't act-- it's not actually being created by autistic people with their intentions behind it. Oh, that seems like a problem.

So for example, they put out a video in 2009 called I Am Autism, which you can look it up on YouTube. We can actually play a clip here. I would love to give people a content warning.

The content in the video I Am Autism specifically is pretty extreme if you yourself are autistic or if you've experienced family members who are on the autism spectrum. It can be difficult to listen to. And so if this is a section you want to skip, feel free.

I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. And if you are happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self gain.

I don't sleep, so I make sure you don't either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, a birthday party, a public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain. You have no cure for me.

Your scientists don't have the resources, and I relish their desperation. It really is a great example of how they are perpetuating this idea that autism is this terrible curse that you wouldn't want to live with, that you can't accept, that it's a massive flaw with someone. Right, and even that term, like, "I Am Autism," that seems highly problematic.

Yeah, it is also-- it's super dehumanizing. It reduces people to just their autism, so all of their likes and dislikes, all of their personal preferences. It creates this, anything that is objectionable that you find in a person with autism can be blamed on their autism, sort of worldview.

They have also used footage in the past of parents saying that they thought about driving off a bridge with their child as an easier solution than having to put up with living with a child with autism. What? And they promoted this footage.

Also, another horrifying thing about them, just while we're up top, they only changed their stance on vaccines and vaccines being a cause of autism, which, let's be very clear, there is no evidence of-- Zero. --they changed that stance in 2015. Oh, no. But before that, they maintained that immunization could trigger autism in rare instances, even though that has been disavowed by the entire medical community since at least 2010.

Wow. So it took them a full five-ish years to update their stance on that? They are one of these organizations that thinks that they are an authority without actually speaking with the medical community or people with autism and hearing specifically the wide reaching recommendations.

So beyond not including people with autism in the management and leadership of the organization, it's by trying to address just the needs of people who are caregivers or family members. It's not admitting that autism is a spectrum of experience with a wide range of lifestyles. Because most of the autistic people that I don't need caregivers.

They need other things. So it seems like there is a wide range of needs here. And to say this is Autism Speaks and put that entire umbrella over an enormous spectrum of people just seems not great.

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Basically, every time we do a video about budgeting, saving, building wealth, investing, et cetera, we inevitably get tons of comments that are some version of, OK, but what if I don't have a regular paycheck every two weeks, and my income varies? And you guys honestly have a point. So I am finally hosting a free deep dive workshop, How to Budget an Unpredictable Income, on October 13 at 6:30 PM Eastern time, for people whose income is unpredictable or varies, all about how to get good with money.

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Click it. Click it. Another tough issue with them, for example, they always use that puzzle piece logo, right?

Right. Because what that symbolizes for them and in their worldview of autism is that there is a piece missing with autistic people, that there's some part that they need to discover to become whole. says, quote, "For autistic people, if they see an organization or parent using this puzzle piece, they know the history of the puzzle piece.

They will assume an organization does not consult with actual autistic people and may find that problematic." So how did this come about? Where did this organization come from? Because something tells me, maybe it started out with best of intentions hopefully?

So today, they say that they're promoting Autism Acceptance, but the organization itself, until 2016, had a core part of their mission, finding a cure for autism. A cure? A cure as if autistic people need to be fixed or changed in some way in order to be accepted.

And when that's so baked into the concepts around a complicated topic, and that can impact all different areas of your life, it's hard to just disavow that cure-style language and then claim it's completely removed from your narratives, right? You can say, OK, people don't want to be cured, so we'll stop saying cure, but if your ideas about autism are based on it being a problem and something that needs to be stopped-- Like a disease almost. 100%. Interesting.

What do we know about the money of this? I've never heard of an autistic person receiving any money or resources from Autism Speaks. Really, what Autism Speaks focuses on is giving resources to either caregivers or people, living with people who are on the autism spectrum.

And ultimately, if your focus is entirely on curing and managing people with autism, rather than understanding people with autism, helping assist them to create a lifestyle and an environment that can work for and with their personality, it's hard because this is actually the largest autism charity in the US-- Wow, really? --and definitely the most impactful. And what they're advocating for is stuff like early detection. How quickly can we other this person?

Exactly. How quickly can we get them outside of, quote unquote, "the norm"? A lot of these organizations are focusing on finding autism in the womb-- What? --which is a way of saying, I don't want autistic children.

I wouldn't accept autism in my life. Oh, no. It's too difficult to be around.

And this is all damaging narratives that I don't think most people who know anyone with autism would even agree with. I think any experience in the world of autism would help color a worldview that would bring you to the conclusion that this is nonsense. Do you think that their stated mission is a valid one at all?

Do you think they're just doing it badly? Or is the mission rotten at the core? I think the mission is rotten to the core.

And they can move the deckchairs around the Titanic as much as they want, but it doesn't ultimately change that the core central focus of the organization is not, in fact, helping. It is not-- their belief system is leading them to do things that are not helping a single autistic person. And I would say to anyone who feels called to get involved with the community or make a real difference to find organizations like-- things like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, or ASAN.

Or organizations like Love Michael work with autistic people on how they would like to be represented. And they allow people to experience other people with autism and hear from their voices directly. And that is the actual educational focus that autistic people need, which is, I'm here to give you a portrait of what this is like for me.

But the broad scope of my experience does not cover all autistic people. Autistic people come in, and it's a spectrum. And it is a completely wide different variance of experience.

And it's really harmful to say that all autistic people are going to have one narrative, which is a difficult life where they're difficult to be around, and they're hard to raise. This is not the kind of self advocacy and the kind of-- personal experience is a better educational tool. And self advocacy is a better educational tool when it comes to issues around a community like this than broad scope videos highlighting some of the most extreme examples, highlighting some of the people who are the voices who are the loudest about negativity.

In some of their-- for example, at Autism Speaks, according to the Autism Speaks board of directors page, only one, Steven Shore, out of their 20 plus board members, is actually on the autism spectrum themselves. Wow. From the top-down, it's not being run by autistic people.

It's being run by people who have ideas about people with autism. Exactly. And that's going to shape the kind of autistic people they might even actually work with.

So now that this all seems to be coming to light and is becoming more and more acknowledged about this organization, this kind of rottenness, right, what's the fallout been? What has been happening to this organization? So people have taken to social media to explain to other people directly what the impact and their experience with Autism Speaks has been.

So you can look at the hashtag #actuallyautistic. And if you would like to check out some YouTube videos or TikTok videos where people with autism can outline not only their personal experience, but what they see as the larger problems with that organization. Also, a great development this year, the White House held an Autism Acceptance Month-- previously an Awareness Month, but it is now an Acceptance Month-- of event.

And they invited organizations that were actually autistic-led as opposed to organizations like Autism Speaks. And they specifically didn't include Autism Speaks. Oh, so they're being iced out at the White House.

Shade. Oh, ouch! OK, that's very interesting.

So these are good developments, but I would say if you-- again, if you'd like to be involved in the community, turn to someone in your life who is on the autism spectrum or listen to actually autistic people and under the hashtag, #actuallyautistic, and not extreme propaganda being created by people with an agenda towards autism. We actually got the chance to speak to Jennifer Johnson Avril-- she's a longtime HIV/AIDS activist and the former director of advocacy communications for HousingWORKs-- about the kind of non-profits you should dedicate your time and energy to. The nonprofit industrial complex is what it is because it's kind of activism taken into a capitalist structure, which can reach a lot of people and potentially deliver a lot of services and do a lot of social good.

But that kind of organization by its nature-- and there are exceptions to that, but often cannot be the ones challenging power, right? And so much of activism is about mobilizing, assembling, challenge, speaking back to power in some ways, creating networks, creating coalitions, and exercising your people power. That's not something that a corporation is going to do.

And a nonprofit is, in some ways, again, with exceptions, but often not very different from corporations. It's just a corporation doing social good or providing services in a good way for good reasons. So I would say not to rely on that and not to rely on-- I think it can be easy to have a name brand recognition of an organization and say, oh, I'll give my money here.

But some of those organizations are really just upholding the status quo or doing the bare minimum. One example I can give without naming any names is, I was part of a very broad coalition when the national election results were being challenged, and there was a very large, well-known not-for-profit involved with that effort that was not interested in going into the streets. And the coalition I was a part of broke off from that organization and began making its own decisions.

And that was really inspiring and wonderful to see and to be a part of that. But that work wouldn't have happened if we'd kind of stuck with the directives we were getting from the large nonprofit. For example, a large nonprofit dealing with a particular illness.

And I do think something that happens is that there are-- I hate to characterize that it a feel-good organization. But there are organizations that are more perhaps easier for folks to come to because they don't challenge their politics, or they feel more neutral politically. It's much, I think, easier for someone to make a decision to donate to a hospital that serves children because there's all this narrative there that they respond to and that makes sense and helping an unfortunate person and helping an ill child and helping an innocent person.

And that kind of comes-- what comes into that, I think, is our own framework of who is and isn't deserving. Judith Butler talks about who is and isn't agreeable. And I think that's the problem we run into, is there are a lot of situations where we have very real problems that need to be addressed.

But if they challenge our ideas of what is or isn't innocent or believable or what is or isn't something we can talk about having given money to, when we're speaking with our more conservative relatives or more conservative colleagues, if decisions are driven by that, then we're in a lot of trouble. So I do think that that can pose a danger. But I think there are plenty of options and opportunities outside of that structure.

And part of that is maybe seeking smaller organizations, mutual aid groups, direct action groups who are putting money directly to problems without the structure of that more neutral seeming large nonprofit organization. So the last organization I want to highlight is a breast cancer organization called Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Do you know anything about them? No. To be honest, I think I've done a walk or something at some point with other people.

This was not something that I personally sought out. I do know they're focused on breast cancer. And I know they put a lot of pink everywhere.

And that's it. And honestly, all I know is, I've just heard some shade thrown their way. And but not even specific shade, just, there might be some crap going down, and that is it.

Yeah, so I have a bunch of experience with them. To be transparent, multiple family members of mine have had breast cancer. And I have a very close family member who passed away from breast cancer after going through several rounds of chemo and remission a few times.

And my mom, who is obviously close with other people in my family, turned a lot of her personal life focused towards raising money for breast cancer. Oh, wow. So my mom raised some really impressive amounts of money in the mid 2000s for cancer related causes before this whole Susan G.

Komen thing ended up really being a part of what created her disillusionment with the cancer industry. Listen, there can be an entire episode just about Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

There could be an entire podcast about the cancer industry. But I think it's important that we just go through some of the highlights, and this will help illuminate how this is working in other organizations. So Susan G.

Komen is probably the most well-known breast cancer organization out there. Oh, for sure. And they do, do some helpful work.

Like, they do provide an oncologist hotline, and they have these financial assistance grants that are great and can be very helpful to people with breast cancer. I see. However, they're kind of seen as shady because their finances are are a bit more suspect.

So their central claim is that they're for the cure, in the name. Yeah, I know this. Susan G.

Komen for the Cure. Indeed. But as of 2017, only 20.9% of their funds actually went to breast cancer research.

That's 1/5. OK, so what is the rest going to? So they have a fairly large online store.

A store? So they're-- Of profits. So they're using this on pink merch?

Yes, so this is part of what's a spectrum of things called pink washing. Pink washing is a phenomenon within brands where they will take-- usually, it is something like breast cancer research, but they'll take female focused causes and then give things the aesthetic of being helpful to those causes, but while really turning it into a business that's doing a capitalist-- sort of like when influencers have a merch line. Think of this as a non-profit merch line to signal to others how much you care about female causes.

So last night, I'm walking through Times Square, and I see Nordstrom for Pride. And the whole thing is just-- it's like rainbow washing, right? And I just-- I don't know.

Something about that feels opportunistic. It feels-- Yeah, the Target pride collection every year kind of-- I know. --rubs me the wrong way because those are specifically for-profits angle on trying to signal how dedicated to a community you are. But it becomes a lot more insidious and, in my opinion, more venomous when you are saying you are a not-for-profit organization.

Absolutely. And yet, you are raising money in the exact same way as an influencer or a private organization, and not being totally clear about how much that purchasing, just the merch being sold, where that money is going. We have no idea how much of their actual sales of things like pink wineglasses or pink t-shirts are-- where that funding is ending up.

And they don't limit themselves, though, to just their own stuff. They partner with a ton of different private corporations to create this pink wash umbrella that will fall down over the brand. So the brand gives some comically small amount of money to an organization that will only be using a 1/5 of it for their stated purpose.

And then they get to do a giant ad campaign, saying, look how much we care about women and cancer victims and the kind of issues impacting people living with cancer. Ai-yai-yai. That seems toxic.

Yeah, I mean, "toxic" is a great word for it because they, in fact, some of their products, have been toxic. No! So they have created multiple products such as their Promise Me fragrance, which contain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

Hold on, hold on. I need you to walk me through this. They made a fragrance?

Yeah, so they were selling a perfume like J. Lo and Britney Spears do. So that fragrance itself would be part of the problem causing the issue that they're raising awareness about.

I cannot. I cannot. They also made pink drill bits.

Drill bits? Yeah, so they partnered with one of the world's largest oilfield service corporations-- Oh. --Baker Hughes. And if you know anything about the environment and its connections with cancer, that should give you a little bit of pause.

But this is according to the Washington Post. Quote, "The two have teamed up for a second year to distribute 1,000 pink drill bits to oil fields worldwide. Each drill bit, which burrows thousands of feet underground to tap fossil fuel reservoirs, is," quote, "shipped to the drill site in a pink-topped container containing information packets with breast health facts, including breast cancer risk factors and screening tips," unquote, according to energy news site,

Oh, I'm sure those oil field workers are really digging and upping their awareness on this subject when they get that. So Baker Hughes only gave them $100,000 for this campaign, which included drill bits that were made with literal carcinogens. So not only is this a completely useless, quote, "awareness" raising partnership with a scummy organization and company, it also literally contained carcinogens, which caused, as is evidenced by the word carcinogen, cancer, which is what Susan G.

Komen is for the cure of. This is the most dystopian thing I have ever heard. And if we weren't laughing, I would just be crying about it.

Yeah, don't donate money to cancer organizations whose primary partnerships include fracking companies. That would be my hot tip. Red flag.

But let me pause for a second and ask you-- how much more do you think awareness needs to be raised that breast cancer is an issue? Exactly right. I was just about to say, who is not aware that breast cancer exists?

This whole idea of raising awareness, I could see that for some of these very, very niche, horrible diseases that only affect a very small amount of people that most people would have heard of. Cancer is not one of those. Well, even specifically cancer, it's like there are different forms of cancer where money being spent on research could make an enormous difference.

There's very basic understandings of how certain cancers work, and that if the funding money could be focused on cancers that are less-- and this is an unfortunate term when talking about breast cancer-- sexy to sell at a marketing level, it's way more fun to have an event with pink flashing banners than it is to have a prostate centric event because of cultural issues that the audience will have with the topic. I never thought about that, or a colorectal cancer. It's difficult to market, especially if you're marketing it as a product to sell to people in there, bring home with them and identify with and create an image that they're going to bring up with people because it's a visible thing.

It's harder when it's a less palatable topic. Wow. And breast cancer, there's such an awareness and there's so much research, and that's really great.

And I say this as someone who has lost some of the people that I loved the most in the world to this horrifying disease. It is just reality that it is a heavily researched disease and that some of this funding necessarily needs to go to other causes, specifically other cancers. So if the awareness is there and people want to see their money go to other causes, it would probably be very upsetting to find out that even if you do donate your money specifically to breast cancer centric causes, say, and you specifically want to give to Susan G.

Komen because they maybe helped someone you know with a grant, you should know that the CEO, back in early 2012, their CEO got a pay raise of 64%, bringing the total take home to $680,000. And that's back in 2012. That's 10 years ago.

A 64% raise? Can you imagine such a thing? Like, have we cured something that you now get?

And what are you offering me? As a CEO, what leadership skills are you really offering that that organization couldn't get elsewhere, and use the money that they're giving to you to spend on your home and your personal life? Actually, on the cause, especially if so little of the funding is even going to the cause.

You should not be taking such a big cut if you can't find a way to give more than 1/5 of the organization's profits and still be a functional organization. You're clearly not good at being a CEO. For sure.

And I have also, though, seen-- you've probably seen this yourself. There is a specific-- I think it's maybe a TED Talk where there's this guy who is basically advocating for not to demonize large salaries within the nonprofit community so that, I guess, they can keep and hire people at a certain level, which I can understand, right? I know a lot of people who work in this business that are not business, right?

Who work in this world that are basically on poverty wages, and that's not right either, right? Here's my response to this is always like, if the person asking to lead such a vital organization on such an important issue can't say, yes, unless they're living an extravagant capitalist lifestyle-- Absolutely. --then they're not the right fit for that position anyway. That makes sense.

Because they do not care about the cause more than they care about themselves. I mean, that's explicitly what they're saying. And I don't care about the cause of my job more than I care about myself.

I care about what I'm getting from it. And I think that's a healthy relationship to a job. A non-profit job is a slightly different agreement you're making with the public who is funding them, because you're not saying, I'm all for myself.

I am specifically saying we're not out for a profit here. And if you're just finding a way to obfuscate the profit into your personal bank account, that's lying. You're lying.

I think you need your own TED Talk. Let's hear a little more from Jennifer Johnson Avril, who has some advice for people who want to get involved, but feel either overwhelmed or like they don't have much to offer. I have a friend who always says, we always need someone to make the sandwiches.

So I think what that means is you don't necessarily have to put in a lot of time. If you feel like there's that part of you that wants to be fulfilled and wants to help and wants to give, you can find an organization that speaks to the issues that interest you, that speaks to your values. There are plenty of them out there.

A lot of them are small and need all the help they can get. And if you have an hour once every three months and have that be the way in which you give and the way in which you're an activist, that's completely legitimate. I know someone who used to come to meetings of an organization I was involved with twice a year for major events, and they referred to themselves once to me as a Christmas and Easter activist, which was not-- I think the joke was kind of like being Christmas and Easter Catholic.

Like, I show up for the big events. But I really love that because he did that diligently every year. Along those lines, too, I think it is very legitimate to give support to other people in your life doing that work.

Something my own partner has said a lot when we've kind of discussed how they do or do not want to be involved is that when I went through a long stretch where I was doing a lot of straight activism and another stretch where, for the nonprofit I worked for, I was going to DC and going to very large marches and helping to organize really big events that took a lot out of me, is that a lot of the care work was being done by my partner. And that's kind of the deal we had. And I think care work gets really undervalued in our society.

And something I kind of feel like I've read historically about from indifferent feminist circles with that conundrum and how care work became part of how folks express their activism in feminist circles because someone took care of the kids, and people took turns taking care of the kids. And I think there's a lot of different ways in which that idea can come through. But I think providing care, providing space for the folks in your life is another thing to consider.

I think there are all kinds of valid ways to get involved. And it's not just time and money. It can just be learning really deeply about one issue over time and saying, I'm going to commit this year to learning about this issue.

And if that's you listen to a podcast for 10 minutes once in a while, or you make a Google search, or something less evil than Google, and you commit to having a search, and when things come in, you'll take a look, or you'll start talking about that or creating a circle in which to talk about that. I know there's this great book called All We Can Save, which was edited by two female scientists, and it's about climate change. And one thing they recommend is creating book circles where people read the book together over time and then just discuss some of the ideas because it's a book where there's hundreds of ideas laid out about climate change is like an overwhelming issue, right?

Like, how do I fix that? No individual can fix that, but you can learn about one tiny piece of it, and maybe start to throw your attention there when you're able. Well, ultimately, I hope that these organizations that we've highlighted can help give you an idea of lots of organizations functioning like this, and that it will help to stick in your mind that when you want to donate money, especially when you're fired up and watching a TV show or an ad, or you've just heard about an issue, and you're really passionate-- something happens in the news and suddenly you're like, I need to support the autistic community-- that's awesome.

That's a great instinct. And I do not want to stop you. What I do want you to do is I want your instinct before you pull out your credit card to be googling-- Google. --the actual places people part of this issue want your help from.

Exactly right. I think that's like my big takeaway from this, is if you're reaching for the credit card, don't stop doing that. Just do a quick Google because now there's really no excuse to not know this data because it is out there.

Nonprofits do have to share their data on some level, and it is accessible. And yeah, it seems like the organizations that are worth your money and/or your time, you should look into. I mean, definitely look into

Don't just take our word for it. Go ahead and do your own research on them. But I can tell you that I myself do trust and use them regularly.

I find it to be very illuminating, both positively and negatively, about where my donation money is going. But it is another non-profit, and all nonprofits deserve a certain level of scrutiny. So I would encourage our audience to go ahead and do that.

But keep donating. You're a great person. Well, thank you so much for walking us through that, Ryan.

Appreciate it. Of course. And we will see you next week on the Financial Diet's Too Good to Be True.

Indeed, you will. Bye.