So after Nike timed it juuust right and finally dumped Lance Armstrong’s charity, I got to thinking: “What does Livestrong actually do?”
I mean, sure, we all know it’s cancer something or other but what exactly? Because here’s the thing, when Lance Armstrong and Nike were still playing the Lance would-never-ever-cheat-in-his-life card, that damn charity was making a killing. Not only was business booming with those rubber bands and trinkets and such, but rich people were waiting in line to give their money to the famous cyclist and his much-ballyhooed charity.
(Click here to see funny Lance Armstrong pictures.)
And with that I was off to get the hardcore financials on Livestrong. Thankfully, charitable organizations have to report everything.
A Google search turned up a 2011 financial report but nothing else. (That’s odd. We’re 180 days into 2013 and they don’t have their 2012 money released? Hmmm…)
Anyways, I take a gander at the 2011 financials and I see a behemoth organization that insists upon itself… and not much else. Let’s look at some of the vague and ambiguous highlights of the Livestrong.org financial document (in chronological order as they appear in the document):
1. They opened a Cancer Navigation Center in March (what the hell is a cancer navigation center?). They expected to help 500 people but they ended up helping 1,200 with “physical, emotional and practical challenges that accompany cancer.”
My take: Ok… That’s really ambiguous and I’m not impressed with that number. Sorry Lance Armstrong Charity, I’m not falling for the “set low expectations and then more than double it to pretend its actually a big number” play. Honestly, 1,200 people sounds like a pittance when you consider Livestrong has banked hundreds of millions over the years.
2. “[T]he Foundation redoubled its efforts to expand access to care and reduce the stigma of cancer around the world in 2011, especially in developing nations. At the United Nations’ General assembly, we made a strong case for strengthening health systems throughout the world… We launched anti-stigma and patient empowerment pilot initiatives in South Africa. With more than 180 community leaders and educators trained and public service announcements launched, our door-to-door awareness effort provided one-on-one cancer information to thousands of households.”
My take: What the hell? What stigma about cancer? That it’s bad? And you got 180 volunteers to go door-to-door? That doesn’t sound like you spent very much money – and even if you did, what the hell did you accomplish? I’m not sure that can be legitimately quantified.
3. Oh, here are those hard results I was looking for: “The results: people exposed to the campaign reported learning something new about cancer or changing their ideas about the disease. We have begun replicating this strong progress in Mexico and will continue to spread it wherever stigma is strongest.”
My take: People learned something new, well lah-dee-freaking-da, I guess we can close the book on cancer now. Yes, please replicate this apparent waste of time and money.
4. “From local to national to global, the Foundation continues to do everything in our power to expand access to the care and support that can have a lifesaving impact for the world’s 28 million cancer survivors.”
My take: Awwwww, that sounds so vague and reassuring. I feel like a burglar just told me I had a nice head of hair while heading out the front door with my stereo. I smiled and reminisced for a few seconds until I remembered he just stole my stereo.
5. “Cancer Navigation Services. Navigation means making your way through the health care system and the cancer journey overall. Our free services help survivors understand their options, what to expect and what questions to ask.”
My take: So that’s what navigation is. That sounds about as fluffy as a marshmallow. Understand their options – the hell do you need so much money for?
6. Get ready for it. Check this out: “Overall, we served more than 225,700 people through navigation services – in person, online, and by phone.”
My take: You gotta be kidding me. You’re counting website hits now? Damn and I thought Lance Armstrong was the liar, cheater and complete douchebag. Turns out the charity apparently doesn’t fall far from the EPO tree.
7. “We formed the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance (alliance), which supported ongoing collaboration and progress through a five-year strategic plan. At the plan’s conclusion in 2011, the alliance had become a national hub of AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults) activity, resulting in a robust referral network, guidelines for clinical care and training, and increased awareness in the clinical, research and public arenas.”
My take: Is this a financial report from the Onion? Where the hell are cancer patients getting help? Where is new cancer research being explored? What scientific studies are being done? How can those with cancer have their lives extended? We got a “robust” referral network, guidelines and more awareness. Ugh, thanks Livestrong.
8. “Through our advocacy work, the Foundation will fight to ensure that anyone living with cancer has access to quality cancer care, that federal investments in cancer research and programs don’t lose funding and that tobacco control measures are strengthened around the globe.”
My take: The keywords here are “Through our advocacy work.” This sounds like Livestrong doesn’t do jack but hire lobbyists to go spread money around to politicians and go out and eat caviar lunches.
9. “[O]ur organization led a statewide initiative (proposition 15) in 2007, which resulted in the cancer prevention and Research Institute of Texas (cpRIT). cpRIT will leverage $3 billion over the next 10 years to focus on innovative research to eradicate cancer.”
My take: They did it again. “Our organization led…” That means they didn’t actually do anything tangible. Read that entire paragraph. CPRIT is doing all the real work. Livestrong is just trying to take credit for what some other organization is doing.
10. “In 2011, we successfully fought to maintain full funding for CPRIT’s initiatives. To date cpRIT has awarded 350 grants, totaling more than $570 million, to fund innovations in the areas of prevention, research and commercialization.”
My take: Again, trying to claim CPRIT’s results. Fought to maintain? Was the funding ever in doubt, Livestrong? Don’t lie like your leader.
11. “As part of our comprehensive campaign in New York during the UN NCD Summit, our activities ranged from grassroots activism and visibility on the ground to online activation on Facebook and participation at the highest levels of policy discussions.”
My take: You went to New York to get on Facebook and replied to some people who wrote on your Facebook page? Can we take a peek at your hotel, travel and restaurant receipts?
12. “Team LIVESTRONG participates in walks, runs, rides and triathlons around the country. The events also foster a sense of unity, community and strength. In 2011, due to the continued generous support of our Team LIVESTRONG sponsors, 100 percent of funds raised by Team LIVESTRONG went directly to support our programs and initiatives in the fight against cancer.”
My take: A sense of unity and community – oh and I shant forget strength. Well if that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends in one sentence; now we can all feel good about what’s happening down in yellow headquarters.
“100 percent of funds raised by Team LIVESTRONG went directly to support our programs and initiatives in the fight against cancer.” Really? That’s purposefully disingenuous statement if I ever saw one.
13. “20 Team Livestrong Events. 12,500 Participants. $8.5 million raised.”
My take: YES, WE KNOW YOU RAISED A LOT OF MONEY. No one doubts that you have gold falling out of the janitor’s closet. The question is where the hell is it all going besides all these vague endeavors that are only quasi related to some collateral cancerish awareness.
And last but not least, let’s look at bike boy’s operational revenue and expenses for 2011:
EVENT REVENUE | $16,777,776
CAUSE MARKETING & LICENSING | $15,790,805
CONTRIBUTIONS | $10,827,153
MERCHANDISE SALES | $3,213,109
IN-KIND REVENUES | $2,443,687
DIVIDENDS & INTEREST | $2,039,175
PROGRAM ACTIVITIES | $29,348,074
FUNDRAISING | $4,582,833
MANAGEMENT & GENERAL | $1,856,065
So basically, Livestrong did a bunch of goodwill and awareness and pocketed a cool $15,000,000 for its coffers so that it can continue to pay salaries and travel to faraway places in order to talk more about “awareness” and “community” and “options” for years to come. It’s too bad that apparently very little of this money actually goes to solving the problem.
Neat stat: The term “cancer research” appears only twice in the financial document and both times it refers to nothing Livestrong actually did.
So I ask you, America, where is all the tangible evidence that this Lance Armstrong operation actually does anything real about cancer? Where are the solutions? Where are the answers? Where are the years of research?
We don’t need any more cancer awareness; everybody knows what cancer is. We need some damn answers — and I haven’t seen much evidence that Livestrong is even attempting to find those answers.
The bottom line is that when someone donates to a cancer-related organization, it’s reasonable to assume that a majority of the money will go towards finding a cure for cancer. At Livestrong, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that is taking place.
You know what, I’m about to do as much for cancer research as Livestrong or Lance Armstrong ever has: Vegetables have been proven to fight cancer, slow cancer, and prevent cancer. Eat them and they’ll make a huge difference in your health and quality of life.
You’re welcome. Now where’s my $100 million?
(Check out this funny Lance Armstrong meme.)
@jackmaclin – I’ll feel like big man on campus if you follow me.