What your membership fees will not pay for
by Deborah Ostrovsky
Years ago, I became a student member of BCAM.
(Cost of a student membership: $5 in annual dues, or less than I spent each day on take-out coffee.)
After graduating and landing a job with a decent salary, I became a regular member.
(Cost each year: $25 tax-deductible donation, or less than I spent on takeout lunches and dinners almost every day.)
I still pay my annual dues; but now I am on the board of BCAM and have a baby.
You’re probably asking what the connection is between being a new BCAM board member and being a new mother – other than the fact that my inexpensive five dollar annual dues have grown to an affordable $25 per year. Or, that I now juggle more responsibilities as a committed volunteer for BCAM while working and changing diapers.
The connection is simple. As a student, my concerns about the breast cancer epidemic and environmental links to this disease were sincere, if slightly abstract. As an adult in my late thirties, I have known more women with this disease – friends and colleagues younger than me – than my mother has in her lifetime. Now I am a mother, and each day is a fragile balancing act as I embrace the sheer joy of raising a daughter while trying to quell my incessant fears about what the breast cancer rates will be when she grows up.
This is why being a BCAM member has become one of the most important decisions I have made in a very long time.
So why should you become a member of BCAM?
BCAM is unique as a health advocacy group with a specific focus on breast cancer as well as an environmental group fighting to protect the health of women of all ages.
Very few organizations focus on sensitizing girls and young women to the growing list of environmental toxins and carcinogens in consumer goods that are linked to breast cancer. Our FemmeToxic program is doing just that. Very few breast cancer organizations focus on prevention and cause rather than cure. BCAM is doing just that. Even fewer organizations spend time trying to share resources and knowledge with other local non-profits and community groups. BCAM is doing just that.
You may ask why a membership with BCAM is more important, say, than giving money to other breast cancer charities. Having a BCAM membership doesn't detract in any way from other breast cancer charities, because what we do is entirely different.
While many other non-profits focus on the vague but evermore popular notion of “awareness raising" and "cure," BCAM works from the premise that most of us are sophisticated thinkers who know that "curing" a disease entails a long and thoughtful analysis about causes. We know that prevention doesn’t just start with a mammogram. Cancer won’t be cured by shopping for pink food mixers and pink jewellery, the proceeds of which are meted out in deceivingly small amounts for a “cure.” We start by addressing environmental links to the disease.
As a membership-driven organization, your annual $25 dues are used to bring our programs related to prevention to wider audiences and move further into communities traditionally underserviced by environmental groups.
And I want to let you in on a secret. As a board member, I can tell you what your membership fees will not pay for.
Most of our work is done by volunteers. Our administration costs are low. We will not host lavish fundraisers with huge overhead in fancy ballrooms decorated with pink ribbons. We will not make you do a five kilometre run in team t-shirts or pink baseball caps. We’d rather invite you to a lecture by an important environmental researcher. We’d rather introduce you to the work of local activists. We’d rather design educational programs so that budding public health students can work with young girls and women and teach them about toxins in cosmetics and consumer goods.
Once you’re a member and you start attending our general meetings, you’ll notice that the BCAM office makes any student lounge look like the Ritz Carleton. There’s no swanky furniture or vast team of salaried staff with expense accounts. Rest assured that your membership is not paying for cellphones or coffee machines.
Come visit us. I invite you to confirm my theory that the integrity, hard work and productiveness of our organization is inversely proportional to the shabby chic (minus the chic) interior of our headquarters.
So join our ranks– because your membership will be used wisely. Your membership makes us stronger and helps us reach more women across the country. Do it for yourself and for all the women you know affected by breast cancer; but also to ensure that my daughter’s generation will no longer need our help.