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Pink Ribbon Netherlands in funding controversy

Pink Ribbon Netherlands, a breast cancer charity, has been criticized by journalists for spending less than it claims on research.

On 16 November, Dutch TV programme Nieuwsuur said that less than 2 per cent of the breast cancer organisation’s budget went to scientific research, well below Pink Ribbon’s own target of 15 per cent.

The organisation rebutted these claims in several public statements. Out of about €20 million raised between 2006 and 2010, €3m have gone to research projects in particular on prevention and detection, and €2.35m to research into psychosocial care, Pink Ribbon said.

However on 19 November, investigative journalist Karin Spaink said that the €3m spent on research had been donated to Pink Ribbon especially for this purpose by two other organisations, the Dutch cancer society (KWF) and A Sister’s Hope, and that no funds coming from Pink Ribbon’s own fundraising activities had gone to scientific research.

Spaink added that the €2.35m fell under the psychosocial care heading, and were previously not defined as research spending. “In other words, Pink Ribbon is now rewriting its own accounts,” she said.

KWF confirmed Nieuwsuur’s claim that it had ended its cooperation with Pink Ribbon after two years, but denied any irregularity in the spending. “For 2011 we have decided not to make use of our special pink ribbon logo. The reason for this is that the combined efforts of [KWF and NGO Pink Ribbon Netherlands] raising funds did not produce the amount we were expecting,” it wrote in a statement on 17 November.

Pink Ribbon said that another €7m will be distributed through a call for research proposals in the coming weeks. The organisation said on Twitter that the 2009/2010 funding round had received research proposals of “insufficient quality”, so no projects had been funded through this channel then.

Of the €7m available in the current round for proposals, at least 33 per cent would be going to scientific research on the early diagnosis and prevention of breast cancer, as well as scientific research projects on the psycho social care, or quality of life for breast cancer patients, the organisation said.