Relay for life 2015: The future of your money.


This year the American Cancer Society(ACS) organizes another Relay For Life(RFL) charity event in Second Life. The impact of this event can be estimated from their site: “As of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide in donations receive.We have brought in over 2 million US dollars to help with the fight against cancer.”

17th out of 5000. That is no mean event!

I ran into the Relay For Life charity some years ago and still recall the event vividly. I was confronted by a donation stand near a castle named Camelot and a big star spangled banner was waving in front of the home of the British king Arthur.Was this over-sized flag signalling something?

I became curious and looked for information. It soon became evident that it was an event specifically organized by the American Cancer Society for their own benefit. Indeed. All the money that is gathered world wide is used to financing activities of this All-to-American organization.

Nothing wrong with that you might say? If it is used for a good cause which eventually benefits the whole world, why would you be against it?
Actually, there is nothing wrong if they were upfront about it.
But for a long time they were pretty secretive about it and they still are.
But at least the are now more open about who is behind RLF as compared to last year:

For 100 years, the American Cancer Society has been working to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with our millions of supporters, the American Cancer Society (ACS) saves lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health, and international organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

So from this statement we gather that the ACS is both a nationwide organization and an international organization. Which would stand to reason considering that  Second Life is a global community and as of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide. It means that part of that money raised comes from the world and it would be a sad thing if all that money was just used to benefit one nation.
So does it?
Have you checked?
I bet you didn’t.
Actually the ACS is an American organization that is bound by American laws and their grants are exclusively focused on funding US based research. You can look it up for yourself on their website. Not one grant is given to a foreign university. Hence all research is done in the US within the restrictions of the US laws. And that will probably also apply to sharing research data, if they even posses such data, as they mostly finance research.
This doesn’t mean the ACS exclusively focuses on the US. It does provide information and help within the limits of the  laws as they show on their website. But all of that help is of an informational nature and aimed at those countries that are on the friends list of the US.

But what happens to countries that are not on the friends list? Have you checked if your country is?

It would be fair if the ACS was honest about what they do with the money they raise and make explicit who benefits and who doesn’t. Now it seems to me that they invest non US money in US based research which they will only provide to your country if they are allowed by law.
And this is just about research. How about all the community programs that are solely based on the US  and the world raises money for?

If you decide to fund Relay For Life as a world citizen or a foreigner you might never see any direct benefit from it. Perhaps it would be better to give your money to your local cancer organization or. preferably, to a truly international one.
Perhaps if the ACS pays attention to rest of the world it might become a true world leader. It seems that being transparent and open about it would be the first step.

But even as an American you might think twice before donating to the ACS. Their president makes a whopping 2 million a year… which is about the amount of money relay for life in SL raised in 2014. You could say SL paid his wages.
And the ACS seems to have dubious ties with companies, which seem to influence their policies.  More criticism can be found in links below.


ACS & Relay for Life

Charity status

Critical articles–more-interested-in-wealth-than-health.aspx

Relay for life: raising funds worldwide for the fight against cancer..

“Join thousands of Second Life Residents from all across the real globe as they rally today and Sunday for the 10th Relay Weekend of Relay For Life of Second Life.”

(Text from the Relay For Life of Second Life website)

Relay For Life welcome center and landing spot. Many flags for many countries. The wiki says that avatars from over 80 real life countries took part in 2011.

When I logged on to Second Life today my viewer told me that perhaps the biggest annual event of second life  was happening.   It was the Relay For Life fundraising event, and it was not only for today: it had been going on for the whole weekend. But those who are regular visitors of Second Life will know that  the fund raising for Relay For Life has not limited itself to this weekend alone. Indeed  this weekend is just this year’s climax in a fund raising campaign that has been going on for many months and probably will never see a definite end. Relay For Life is almost unavoidable and unstoppable as more and more people, organisations and places from all around the globe pitch in to raise money.  I am told by the Relay For Life wiki  that last year no less than 40 sims  took part in this event and almost 400.000 US dollars was raised. An astounding figure, certainly for Second Life.

Relay for life: Knights of Avalon.

The first time I became  consciously aware of Relay For Life was two years ago. I still have the picture of the moment, which is dated 27 July 2012. I found myself on one of my infrequent exploration trips and ran into a place that was called Camelot (I think) and it was the home of the Knights of Avalon. The picture shows a  flag of the United State in front of the castle(I think there were a few more off picture) .  Near the flag there was a Relay For Life donation stand. I was somewhat perplexed to see this rather huge American flag sticking out right in front of what was supposed to be castle from an English legend. It seemed that the owner(s) wanted to make sure that there was no mistake about their nationality. Indeed, it could be that visitors might take them to be English or perhaps  even French.  Perish the idea, they must have thought.  So the flag was put there to leave no doubt.

My thoughts now turned to Relay For Life  stand. I had heard of Relay For Life . It was a fundraising event against cancer. I had taken this to be a global event organised by a global organisation as it was held throughout Second Life. But would such an event get a stand at a place of which the owner(s) were at pains to make sure there would be no mistake about their  American origins? I somehow doubted that.  So I thought at the time and I have to laugh now.  Of course there was  another possible explanation: the flag was put there because of liberation day, which is on the 4th of July and not so much as expression of patriotism(which is, so I am given to understand, different from nationalism).

However it made me curious about Relay For Life, as it was unclear from the stand who was actually behind this event. Who are we giving money to? Luckily it wasn’t hard to find. Relay For Life is organised by the American Cancer Society(ACS). So the donation stand and the flag did go together in a way.

Did this mean that people from all over the world were in fact fundraising for a national organisation instead of a global organisation?  Indeed they were. According to the Relay For Life  wiki avatars from eighty countries took part in the event in 2011.  Eighty countries? Were these people all aware that they were donating to the American Cancer Society?

I wonder.

But does it matter? I mean, should we begrudge an organisation of one country their fundraising in the rest of the world? When I think about it, I don’t feel that there is anything against such fundraising. Maybe  this money is put to good use by the ACS for the entire world population. Perhaps the ACS is the best organisation in the world to fund research into cancer, to finance aid for those who have fallen victim to cancer and organize teaching for everyone else.  And if they are, why should we not give money to that organisation instead of some local and perhaps less efficient organization?

For those who want find out for themselves I have some sources listed below and you are encouraged to go and find out for yourself on the internet. But one question can be answered at once from the wiki:
“In real life, Relay For Life is licensed to national cancer societies in 19 countries outside the United States, and the American Cancer Society’s International Relay For Life Program provides training and technical assistance to licensees. In Second Life, participation by residents from other countries is growing, with avatars from over 80 real life countries taking part in 2011.” (The bold lettering is my doing.)
I let you draw your own conclusions.

And for those who wonder if  the ACS is actually the best organisation to give money to, perhaps this question can be answered here:




Some other organisations