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American Breast Cancer Foundation

   Aug 15, 2021

Sometimes a charity that reported high fundraising costs and low program spending in the past will report drastic financial efficiency improvements in later years. While this is a good thing when those reported improvements are the result of real changes to its operations, it's a bad thing when the only thing that has changed is how a charity self-reports its financial information. For example, a charity that spends a significant portion of its budget each year on fundraising could appear to be operating extremely efficiently or extremely inefficiently depending on which boxes on its tax form it chooses to report this spending. CharityWatch takes a deep dive into charity tax filings and audited financial statements and makes adjustments for these inconsistent reporting choices among charities so that we can communicate relevant information to donors about how their contributions to charity are really being spent. 

CharityWatch has rated the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) since its fiscal year-ended 03/31/2004. Based on our in-depth analyses of its financial reporting, ABCF's annual program percentage has never exceeded 49%, and its letter grade ratings have either been a "D" or an "F" on our "A+" to "F" scale since that time. The face value reporting of ABCF's fiscal year 03/31/2020 IRS Form 990 statement of functional expenses (exclusive of IRS Form 990, Part IX, line 11f, Investment management fees) reflects a 66% program percentage. CharityWatch was concerned that this reported improvement could be the result of the charity simply reporting the same financial activities in different boxes on its tax form, and so we contacted ABCF in June 2021 via mail and email with additional questions prior to completing an updated rating for the charity. This is what we asked:

Questions Submitted to American Breast Cancer Foundation 

  1. Please provide a description of changes in operations that resulted in the reported improvement in ABCF's financial efficiency for fiscal 2020 relative to its historical reporting. 
  2. In fiscal 2017, ABCF allocated 37% of its Form 990, Part IX, line 5 salary expenses to program. In fiscal 2020 the amount allocated to program was 80%. Please describe what caused these changes in how officers, directors, trustees, and key employees spent their time on program activities as compared to management and fundraising activities from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2020. 
  3. We observed in ABCF's Form 990 reporting that the charity's board [of directors] has expanded significantly in 2020 as compared to many prior years. We invite you to provide additional details about what motivated this expansion and describe any improvements your organization has implemented related to its governance.

As of 08/15/2021, American Breast Cancer Foundation has not responded to CharityWatch's questions. CharityWatch has therefore assigned it a "?" rating for its fiscal year ended 03/31/2020 based on our analysis of its audited financial statements and IRS Form 990. Should ABCF respond to our questions in the future, CharityWatch will evaluate the information we receive and reassess our "?" rating at that time. Our most recent letter grade rating for ABCF was a "D" based on our determination that it spent 41% of its cash budget on programs and approximately $33 to raise each $100 in cash support in the fiscal year ended 03/31/2017.

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