Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why I'll no longer support the American Cancer Society or the Battle Ground Relay for Life.

Several years ago, I became involved with the ACS/RFL as a result of the then very sick little boy in our extended family, Luke Jensen.

Luke was an amazing young man in so many ways, and I figured the least I could do would be to go out there and suck it up for a couple of days every year to help out... to help raise money for research and maybe find some cures for this scourge.

This year is my 5th or 6th... and it's my last.  I was barely involved this year as it was.

It's not because the battle, ultimately lost but oh so bravely fought by Luke had somehow become less... less important, less impactful.  On the contrary.

It is, instead because of this:
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Eye-Popping Pay
—published in the December 2011 issue of the Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report  
The head of the American Cancer Society since 1992, John Seffrin made $1.3 million in total compensation and benefits in fiscal 2009. His payout in fiscal 2010 was boosted to $2.2 million. This puts him at #2 on CharityWatch's list of Top 25 Compensation Packages.

According to the Society's 2010 tax filing Seffrin was paid $1.5 million for a supplemental SERP. SERP is usually an acronym for "supplemental executive retirement plan." So this begs the question: Why is Seffrin receiving a retirement payout before he's retired? Greg Donaldson, the Society's VP of Corporate Communications, told CharityWatch that the $1.5 million was a retention benefit rather than a retirement benefit that was approved by the Society's compensation committee in 2001 to "preserve management stability" and for "succession planning."

John Seffrin has dedicated much of his life to the cancer cause and has been impacted by the disease personally-his grandmother and mother both died of cancer, and his wife of 43 years is a breast cancer survivor. It is not clear why he would require a $1.5 million payout, in addition to his generous $700,000 in other compensation and benefits, to motivate him to continue his employment at the leading cancer charity in the U.S.

CharityWatch was also surprised to learn that upon retirement, three subordinates of Seffrin received retirement pay and benefit packages of $1.9 million, $1.5 million and $1.2 million, respectively, according to the Society's fiscal 2009 tax filing. A major chunk of these payouts was for accumulated pension and retirement benefits that were not disclosed by the Society until the fiscal year that the executives retired. If Seffrin's underlings received such large, previously undisclosed payouts upon retirement, it is reasonable to assume that he will eventually get an even bigger payout. When CharityWatch recently asked Donaldson about Seffrin's likely retirement benefits, he said, "We believe that any attempt to communicate any future payments to or the future value of any potential retirement benefits would be totally speculative and would therefore be of little benefit and indeed, potentially misleading."

While the Society won't reveal Seffrin's anticipated retirement payout, it has planned to set aside $16.8 million in SERPs for him and its other most highly paid executives. This is in addition to the $589.2 million planned for future pensions and $57.7 million for postretirement medical, dental and life insurance coverage for all Society employees who qualify, according to the charity's 2010 audit. The Society should not keep donors in the dark about what portion of these millions of dollars set aside for future retirement benefits will directly benefit its already highly paid CEO.

I will no longer be a party to this kind of scam.  Rated at a very low C+ on the A through F scale, and there is, frankly, no excuse for this waste of money to cover overhead.

I, instead, intend to focus on the more local, immediate and highest rated charity concerning cancer known as the Children's Cancer Association.

The leaders who run the CCA receive a total of around $171,000 per year.  Their mission isn't research (But then, it doesn't seem to be the ACS's mission, either.)  but instead to directly assist the children and families impacted by this terrible disease directly.

The ACS seems to be (and is) multiples larger... 500 times or more.

But the ACS also seems to be a victim of it's own success, having, apparently, long since forgotten what they are there for.

When the ACS CEO is paid around 6 times what the president of the United States makes?

Sorry.  I don't think so.

I love the people who work at making Relay for Life in Battle Ground such a great success.  But in this case, "great success" seems to just mean fatter checks for those in charge... and I seriously doubt that those working so hard are remotely aware of the amount of money the ACS hierarchy is getting paid... in this instance, John Seffrin, by himself, appears to be getting paid by himself as much as the entirety of the CCA's budget.

And I'm not interested in doing that, helping that or furthering that.

The people have been great.  I don't mean to denigrate the service those who remain provide. 

But the purpose of the ACS is SUPPOSED to be cancer research and focusing on a cure.

Instead, it seems to be related almost entirely on enriching a few at the top by diverting funds that never do, but absolutely should, be expended in the lab.

Thus ends my involvement with the Relay for Life.  I wish them the best.

1 comment:

Martin Hash said...

Most charities aren't really charities but cash machines that prey on human foibles. And political party fundraisers are even worse.

You did your part though.