Fundraising for a Loved One With Breast Cancer

Tips for raising immediate and ongoing financial support

In This Article

If a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your first instinct will likely be to help however you can. Beyond moral support and hands-on assistance, the one thing that people with cancer often need is help with the cost of treatment. Even if your loved one is well insured, the out-of-pocket expenses after deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, or denials can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 25 percent of people undergoing breast cancer treatment had out-of-pocket expenses exceeding $8,000, while 15 percent paid in excess of $18,000 and upwards of $30,000 in some cases. This doesn't take into account things like lost income, child care, travel, and other expenses commonly incurred during breast cancer treatment. Neither does it reflect the cost of ongoing care nor the expense of treating advanced metastatic breast cancer.

If you decide to step forward to help, there are a number of short- and long-term solutions that can raise funds effectively and legally.

Financial Assistance

Putting together fundraisers or charitable events may feel like the right thing to do, but they take time and the appropriate charitable vehicle. If your friend needs immediate help, start by learning which financial assistance programs are available to meet those needs.

While you may assume that assistance programs are only for the poor, most are based on income thresholds accessible to many middle-income earners. Some programs limit eligibility to individuals or families who earn 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL). Others may set the threshold as high as 500 percent or more. Others still may have no income restrictions at all.

By way of example, the 2019 FPL set by the federal government was $12,141 for individuals, $16,460 for a couple, $20,780 for a family of three, and so on. What this means is that a family of three with an income of $100,000 can still qualify for many assistance programs.

Equipped with this information, you can begin searching local, state, and national assistance programs to assess the rules of eligibility. Many oncology practices and cancer treatment centers have navigators trained to assist. Even online searches can turn up programs that others may not know about.

Among some of the resources to consider:

  • State departments of social services offer a wide range of housing, family, dental, food, and counseling services
  • Patient assistance programs (PAPs) offered by drug manufacturers can cover some or all of the cost of certain medications.
  • Breast cancer charities can offer direct and indirect assistance, including referrals and help with co-pays, transportation, home care, child care, and temporary housing when treatment is out of state.
  • Cash and counseling programs, available in some states through Medicaid or social services, provide cash stipends to family caregivers.
  • Workplace financial assistance is offered by some larger corporations.
  • Churches or civic organizations can often assist with transportation, home care, child care, shopping, and short-term mortgage or rent assistance.
  • National Patient Travel Center (NPTC) is a charitable initiative that coordinates free or discounted air travel when cancer treatment is delivered far from home.
  • Cancer Financial Assistance Foundation (CFAF) is an online clearinghouse that connects people with the cancer assistance programs they need.

    Starting a Nonprofit

    Friends and family can pitch in a few dollars here and there, but if your loved one is in a real financial crisis, a longer-term solution may be needed. Establishing a nonprofit may seem like a complicated solution, but, with a little and effort, the return on the investment can be remarkable.

    To begin a nonprofit group, the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Nonprofits recommends the following steps:

    1. Choose a name and a group of people you trust to serve as a board of directors.
    2. File articles of incorporation with your state. (Contact your local Department of Labor for information about applications and fees.)
    3. Obtain an employee identification number (EIN) from the IRS using Form SS4.
    4. Apply for nonprofit status by following IRS Publication 557 and completing Form 1023. This exempts your charity from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3).
    5. Return to your Department of Labor office to officially register your 501(c)(3) charity.
    6. File for state tax exemption.
    7. Check if there are any permits or licenses needed to raise funds in your city or county (referred to as charity solicitation registration).
    8. Apply for a bulk permit from your post office to help with nonprofit mailing costs.
    9. Hire an attorney to review your paperwork and provide legal advice.

    As complex as this process sounds, much of it can be done online or through third-party providers specializing in state incorporation.

    From start to finish, you should expect to wait at least six months and upwards of a year before you can engage in charitable fundraising.

    Fundraising Events

    Once you have obtained your 501(c)(3) status and registered your charity, it is time to plan your first fundraiser. It could be a single event in which you have a set date, goal, and budget, or it could be an ongoing campaign.

    Among some of the useful tips to guide your fundraising efforts:

    • Work with a local company. Many companies will offer their products or services for sale through nonprofits. Whether it be boxes of doughnuts or car wash vouchers, you may find that working with a well-known company helps raise funds and awareness at the same time.
    • Organize a sports challenge. A day-long golf tournament, a bowling competition, or a 5K fun run are all great ways to raise funds by tapping into a group of avid enthusiasts. Check to see what permits are needed if public facilities are used.
    • Encourage community involvement. Rent table space to locals who want to sell their crafts or goods during your event. In addition to participation fees, ask vendors to donate a portion of their proceeds to your cause.
    • Raise money online. Crowdsourcing is an excellent way to raise funds if you have a limited events budget. You can use GoFundMe or other crowdsourcing portals to get your message out to your community. Ask local production companies to donate their services to create a more polished presentation, providing them an end-title credit in exchange.
    • Work with event organizers. Some businesses have built-in community initiatives that actively seek charities to support. These include movie theaters, dance clubs, music venues, and other businesses that either split the door fee or share in the sales of goods.

    When approaching potential sponsors, give them a compelling reason why your needs match their community-based mission.

    Spreading the Word

    Not even the most flawlessly executed event will succeed unless people know about it. Beyond fliers and word of mouth, there are ways to build buzz around an event no matter how big or small it is. Here are some tips to help guide you:

    • Build a website. Numerous online resources can help you build and name your website within hours. Include photos of your loved one as well as a personal bio, your fundraising goals, and details of the event. Add a PayPal "Donate Now" button for people who are not unable to attend the event but would still like to contribute.
    • Use social media effectively. Set up accounts for yourself on Twitter and Facebook, and post bulletins about your upcoming events. Ask your online friends to repost the events so that the message spreads quickly. You can also maintain an active "needs" board on Pinterest. Use Google Analytics to help identify your target donor, allowing you to focus on the appropriate social media channels (including YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn) rather than touching channels that may not be as effective.
    • Contact local media. You can prepare a news release about your event, including the event details and a background story about your loved one. If you know of a reporter or columnist who specializes in human interest stories, reach out and explain what you have planned. A well-timed news story may be all the publicity you need.
    • Sell tickets online. Rather than selling tickets at the door, plug into an aggregated event website like Eventbrite. This allows you to sell tickets online while promoting the listing on Facebook to boost presales.
    • Search for ringers. Securing the participation of a local group or personality provides you the means to plug into followers, quickly building buzz around your event. Find prominent groups or individuals who have a personal stake in breast cancer. However, if they agree to support your event, do not advertise or promote their participation without their consent.

    Whatever marketing channels you use, make an effort to stand out. Ask local artists to help with poster designs.

    If sending out invitations, be creative. If planning a billiards event, for example, send the invitation with a cue chalk to key donors. This not only helps pique their interest, but it also communicates your serious intent.

    Was this page helpful?
    Article Sources