Speak Up!

Earlier this week, many of my Iowa friends from Above & Beyond Cancer joined the American Cancer Society at the Iowa State Capitol for a “Day of Advocacy”. I want to thank all who went out for taking time out of their busy schedules to raise their voices for what they consider important. We’re all busy people; it takes effort to do more than just sit at home and complain. That’s why people – politicians, business owners, and non-profits – start to pay attention when enough people stand up.

And that leads me into a follow-up to my recent post on the loss of some of our online cancer community. It’s really just a continuation to what I said about keeping up the work that Rachel, Susan, and so many others have done. This will also serve as my commentary on recent events and decisions in the cancer non-profit world.

Let’s face it, money talks. Where you put your money matters. If you give your hard-earned money to an organization, make sure their priorities are similar to yours. If you don’t agree with how they are spending money, don’t give them any. Find an organization who’s goals are more to your liking. But here’s the thing – make sure they know why you’ve pulled your support! Call them, email, or write a letter.

If research is the most important thing to you, look for an organization that supports research. In spite of other great work, if an organization doesn’t fund or stops funding research, don’t give them your money if research is what you care about the most. If preventing cancer is an important issue for you, look for groups devoted to programs and research in that area. Or simply encourage friends and family to stop smoking and exercise – two of the best ways to reduce risk of cancer and many other health issues. Better yet, take someone you care about to the gym or on a walk; it will be good for both of you. If affordable screening and ongoing care is your priority, or patient support…. You get the idea.

All this information is available – or it should be. All you have to do is look. What percentage of donations go to programs that matter to you? If information is not readily available, that should be a red flag for you. Don’t just look at the pretty, feel-good slogans. Do your homework. Think about what really matters and act on it.

The same is true for that other all-too-scarce commodity: your time. If you volunteer to raise money or show up for some function, make sure it’s for something that is important. Don’t show up for the car wash or walk just because it makes you feel like you’re doing something. We all want to feel good, but if the group doesn’t really support your priorities, don’t waste your time. Spend your precious time helping some group that aligns more with your priorities.

Finally, you can influence programs and people by raising your voice. Stand up and say what you think. Tell the people running the organizations and businesses what matters to you. Encourage others to do the same. Stand up and tell your elected officials about your priorities.

With so many larger forces at work, it can feel like our voices are never heard. But if enough of us say it or shout it, I like to think we will be heard. It may be naive, but I still believe that if we stand together and say what we think, we can make a difference. It takes action and awareness. It’s not enough to just give support to anyone saying they fight cancer. That’s not good enough. They must tell us specifically how they fight or how they support survivors or how they prevent. And if they don’t, don’t support them. There are so many organizations doing good work; a little work on your part will lead you to the best one for your priorities.


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