February 14, 2017
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a settlement with Florida nonprofit Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Inc. The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s claims that, in 2015, the group deceptively raised $1.4 million nationwide, including at least $36,372 in Michigan. The group’s solicitations told donors that funds raised would be used for breast cancer research grants. In reality, all the money raised, except for one $8,235 grant, went to professional fundraisers and other expenses—not breast cancer research.
“In recent years, my office has combatted deceptive solicitations for cancer, veterans, firefighters, and police. It’s sad to see these causes exploited,” said Schuette. “Donors should remain vigilant during solicitations—especially regarding emotional appeals for sympathetic causes. And it bears repeating: research the charity before giving.”
In settlement, Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation will pay $150,000, with $125,000 paid for breast cancer research and the remaining $25,000 to recoup the State’s investigative costs. Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation will also withdraw its charitable solicitations registration and is banned from soliciting in Michigan for ten years.
In January 2017, the Attorney General issued a Notice of Intended Action against Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, alleging 14,542 civil violations of charitable solicitations fraud, with maximum penalties of $10,000 per violation. In 2015, Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation raised $1,425,201, telling donors that funds raised would be used for grants for breast cancer research in support of a breast cancer vaccine. However, the Foundation’s financials failed to disclose any breast cancer research grants in 2015. In response to the allegations, the Foundation amended its financials and documented one grant of $8,235 for breast cancer research. But all the other money Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation raised was used for other purposes: to pay its professional fundraisers, the company executive’s salary, or other expenses.
The Attorney General’s investigation into Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation stemmed from the Attorney General’s 2016 investigation into professional fundraiser Corporations for Character, an investigation which resulted in a monetary settlement and the fundraiser’s withdrawal from the state. Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation used Corporations for Character for some of its fundraising, a fact which led the Attorney General to scrutinize the charity’s own fundraising practices.
The Attorney General’s January Notice of Intended Action ordered Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation to cease and desist the alleged violations, giving them twenty-one days to resolve the matter or face a civil action in court. In addition, the Attorney General also issued Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation a Notice of Intent to deny its charitable solicitations registration.
To assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable donations to support, Attorney General Schuette established an online searchable database for charities. The Attorney General also publishes an annual professional fundraising charitable solicitation report. Through these resources, users have access to information to aid them in determining which charities are worth supporting—and which are not. The Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section is also available at 517-373-1152 to answer inquiries about a charity.