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American Cancer Society

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American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society helps cancer patients get well, stay well, and fight against cancer

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The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by 15 physicians in New York City. The first mission of the American Cancer Society was to educate the public about cancer as a disease and improve its diagnosis and prognosis. Today, the American Cancer Society is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The current mission of the organization is to eliminate cancer through education and funding of cancer research. The organization’s website is a comprehensive educational resource for those diagnosed with cancer and their families.

The Good

  • Administrative expenses
  • Donor communication

Administrative Expenses

The American Cancer Society spends an average of 5 percent of its revenue on administrative expenses each year. Executive salaries are relatively high when compared to similar organizations, with the president and CEO of the American Cancer Society earning $1.4 million per year. However, this salary is less than the what the previous CEO of the American Cancer Society was earning.

Donor Communication

The American Cancer Society provides many ways for users to receive updates, including the organization's journal for providers, A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and Cancer Cytopathology. Donors can also receive email updates, follow the organization on social media, and expect fundraising requests via email, postal mail, and phone.

The Bad

  • Total income
  • Fundraising expenses
  • Program percentage
  • Accessible financial information
  • Negative press
  • Awards

Total Income

The American Cancer Society has had varying levels of income over the last several years. Last year's donations are down nearly $100 million from 2012. Revenues for the past five years are as follows:

  • 2015: $815,827,000
  • 2014: $812,525,892
  • 2013: $878,083,920
  • 2012: $904,294,009
  • 2011: $896,170,911

Fundraising Expenses

The American Cancer Society's fundraising budget is significantly higher than that of most similar organizations, with between 20 and 35 percent of incoming funds being spent on fundraising activities each year.

Program Percentage

Most charity watchdog organizations consider a program delivery percentage of between 70 and 80 percent as a responsible allocation of funds. However, the American Cancer Society's program percentage has varied for the last several years, ranging between 60 and 76 percent.

Accessible Financial Information

The American Cancer Society has published an infographic that provides basic financial information on its website. However, finding specific information about the total income, executive salaries, and administrative expenses of the organization is quite difficult. The last annual report which was published online by the American Cancer Society was for 2011. Additionally, the organization has published its IRS Form 990s for 2010 to 2014 on its website, but these forms are not easily accessible.

Negative Press

The American Cancer Society has been involved in a number of controversies, including the following:

Executive Salaries
The former president and CEO of the American Cancer Society earned a $2.4 million annual salary up until the time of his leaving the organization. In 2015, a new president and CEO, Gary M. Reedy, assumed the position. Mr. Reedy does not earn the same salary as the past president and CEO, but does receive a salary of over $1.4 million. The organization defends its high salaries, saying that the percentage of executive salaries is less than 1 percent of the annual revenue received by the organization and that caliber of leadership provided by Mr. Reedy justifies his salary.

Breast Cancer Screening Changes
In October 2015, the American Cancer Society announced new recommended screening practices for breast cancer detection, which brought swift criticism. Many leading physicians immediately went to the media to dispute the recommendations, stating that the organization, being influential, could change public opinion of the serious nature of breast cancer and lead women to refrain from early screenings. Past recommendations included annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40, while the new guidelines recommend beginning annual screenings at age 45. The American Cancer Society defended its new guidelines, stating that it was moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach and that the new guidelines were set to encourage communication between a woman and her doctor about appropriate screening practices for her particular situation.

Refusing Entry to a National Team
The humanist group Foundation Beyond Belief contacted the American Cancer Society in 2011 about sponsoring a national team for the upcoming Relay for Life fundraising event, offering up to a $250,000 pledge match for all support pledged to the team. The American Cancer Society initially welcomed the team entry, but subsequently pulled its entry and refused to communicate with the organization. Some speculate that because Foundation Beyond Belief is purportedly atheist, that the refusal was based upon potentially damaging public relations.

Lack of Meaningful Research
Some have criticized the American Cancer Society for not spending more on researching a cure for childhood cancers. The American Cancer Society has responded to these complaints with surprising statements suggesting that childhood cancer is not its focus and that if donors want to support the fight against childhood cancer, they should donate to other organizations.

Planned Parenthood Grants
As late as 2007, the American Cancer Society was providing cancer screening and prevention grants to Planned Parenthood. In 2015, when Planned Parenthood was the focus of an investigation for selling the remains of aborted fetuses for profit, a list of organizations supporting or providing funding for Planned Parenthood was released. The American Cancer Society has not disclosed the amount of funding which was previously allocated to Planned Parenthood or when the funding was ceased. However, the American Cancer Society did release this statement about the matter:

"The American Cancer Society does not fund grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates. We have previously funded a very limited number of cancer control grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates to implement cancer control (smoking cessation) programs....These grants expired several years ago. The American Cancer Society does not fund-nor has it ever funded-abortion or contraceptive counseling."


Our Review Team could not find evidence of the American Cancer Society receiving awards, which is a negative indicator of the outreach and impact of the charitable organization's program efficacy.

The Bottom Line

The American Cancer Society's income has been declining over the past several years. Additionally, the organization's administration and fundraising expenses are relatively high and its program delivery percentage is low. The American Cancer Society has been involved in a number of controversies as well.


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User Reviews


6 Reviews

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Miss Survivor
November 28th, 2018 DETAILS
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Their commercials are beautiful, compelling & persuasive -- a lovely faced young woman in a kerchief giving the agency their props, & a gentleman pretty much doing the same, although mentioning their RESEARCH efforts as well. OBVIOUSLY PAID ACTORS trained to SAY anything to make this incompetent agency look sensitive and professional. THEY ARE NOT!!! What this agency, however, does NOT tell you is that if you're unfortunate enough to have a RE-CURRENT cancer (as I do), they cease being pleasant & professional regarding their FREE RIDES TO CHEMO. They snap at you that "your funding has run out" and rudely suggest that you call another agency! DEPLORABLE, HOSTILE & UNPROFESSIONAL! The last agent I spoke to ("Brandon") was so insensitive you wonder how he ever got a job servicing a vulnerable population AT ALL. As if the terminal disease isn't stressful enough -- the reps should REALLY be offered more SENSITIVITY TRAINING & cease acting as though the money is coming out of THEIR pockets personally! This agency should be better versed in forseeing comprehensive CRISES needs, such as re-current cancers that plague a survivor for many years. NOBODY ASKS FOR THAT!!! WHY PENALIZE A SURVIVOR FOR NEEDING IT??? Oh, and as for their "LODGES" & "FREE PLACES TO STAY" -- another insult to ones intelligence. There are VERY few of them, NONE are local, and by the time you drive several HOURS to get to one, you're better off paying for a motel in your home town! Each requires the patient has a "caregiver" with them, despite the fact that each guest must be over 21. RIDICULOUS, since the average survivor needing the service is already an adult -- so why the need for a "babysitter"? Gimme a break! This agency is deplorable, insensitive, undignified and needs a LOT of investigation and re-vamping of their quality care standards! They are MISLEADING & its no wonder the agency itself is in DECLINE. SURVIVORS DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER THAN AN AGENCY MANNED BY PEOPLE THAT COULDN'T CARE LESS!!!

October 10th, 2018 Stockton, CA DETAILS
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When patients need rides, wigs, housing, or any form of support; ACS is not available. This is a great money making machine with no help for patients. They advertise locks of love, and giving to patients for hospital stays, rides for treatments. All money goes to fund raising and salaries.

Thomas Hullinger
August 27th, 2018 Pleasant Grove, UT DETAILS
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The American Cancer Society has been doing great work for a long time. I appreciate their efforts on my behalf as I have had family members who have died from cancer and I know they are working hard to find cures.

Alicia Holman
June 22nd, 2018 Gilbert, AZ DETAILS
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This charity has way too much overhead and isn't transparent enough. I know it's a business, but more of the money needs to directly to either finding a cure or benefiting cancer victims. Either that or they need to explain why they spend so much money on items not related to either one of these items.

June 11th, 2018 Pleasant Grove, UT DETAILS
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I want to get rid of Cancer any way that we can. It has affected me personally and The American Cancer Society is leading the charge and I love them for it.

May 22nd, 2018 New Milford, CT

They don’t help you have to be in treatment they tell you. I have stage 4 breast and liver cancer I need help with finances and other things I take Ibrance and they said that’s not treatment . Find a cure. There is one but cancer makes money so why cure it just let people die and collect money