Speaking on behalf of the more than 1,000 volunteers in Dallas, we appreciate the opportunity to inform the community about the American Cancer Society and answer some of the questions raised in David Pasztor's article "Uncharitable Charges" [February 2].
Unfortunately, Mr. Pasztor's article failed to include the facts that dispute James Bennett's claims--facts that have been upheld again and again by reputable, nonprofit governing bodies. The facts are as follows:
In Dallas, the ACS has a paid staff of 25 that serves the North Texas area. The staff manages day-to-day operations and supports our network of volunteers. It is unreasonable to assert that the cost of this staff support is not an inseparable part of the cost of delivering any organization's programs or services--would anyone question why a high percentage of the budget for a school or a hospital goes to pay the salaries of teachers or nurses? Services are delivered by people. The salaries and other expenses Bennett claims we misrepresent are allocated by generally accepted accounting principles contained in the National Health Council's Standards of Accounting for Voluntary Health and Welfare Organizations.
The American Cancer Society seeks the best return on the dollar when seeking and investing in real estate. Money for the 14 office buildings that the Texas ACS owns was collected from donors who specified that their money be used for buildings, or the buildings themselves were donated. In 1994, the Texas Division saved $1.6 million by owning as opposed to leasing office space--money that was spent instead on programs and services.
Society policies require that we raise money throughout a given year, then spend it on programs and services the following year.
We accumulate the results of the current year's fundraising in short-term investments--the interest from which supports still more programs. We did this with fundraising costs of only 14 percent in Texas in 1994--a model of efficiency for other reputable charities.
The question was raised as to why contributions do not go directly to "cancer victims." If the Texas Division of the ACS were to spend its entire yearly revenue in 1994 to help the 66,000 individuals who were diagnosed with cancer, each person would receive approximately $308--less than the cost of one chemotherapy treatment.
This amount includes money that would otherwise be allocated to national research programs such as those of the 27 Nobel prize winners the American Cancer Society has supported through the years. The ACS strives to help the most people with the resources we have through education of the public on prevention and early detection, support of research in discovering a cure, and services for cancer patients and their families, among other things.
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We find it alarming that the Dallas Observer is so quick to give unquestioning credence to the findings of a self-imposed "watchdog" who has made a name for himself by misrepresenting highly regarded institutions.
By Mr. Bennett's own admission, he utilizes unorthodox accounting methods to come to his conclusions which contradict the guidelines of legitimate watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau, National Charities Information Bureau, and National Health Council.
The American Cancer Society has been in business for nearly 80 years and truly has a made a difference in reducing smoking rates, in the discovery of and widespread usage of the pap smear, and in increasing awareness of the importance and utilization of mammography, to name merely a few of our accomplishments. We only hope that through the efforts of our two million volunteers nationwide, the dedicated staff, and the research we support, cancer will be conquered in our lifetime.
Mark Clanton, MD, MPH, President
Steve Habgood, Chairman
Greater Dallas Unit American Cancer Society