Teal Is the New Pink: Consider Ovarian Cancer for Your Sorority Philanthropy

September 15, 2016

While back-to-school season means it’s time to hit the books again, anyone involved in Greek life knows the academic year also means gearing up to raise money for the various charities and causes. Philanthropy is a big part of pledging to a Greek organization, and those efforts can make a tremendous difference, especially considering more than 800,000 undergraduates are active in sororities and fraternities.

However, some causes don’t get the awareness they need to save lives. It’s common for sororities to support important causes such as domestic violence prevention and breast cancer awareness. Although both of those causes are admirable, it’s much less popular to don teal ribbons for ovarian cancer. We have to change that.

Breast cancer research received about $625 million in funding in 2011, which is more than five times the $110 million in funding for ovarian cancer research. This disparity continues despite the fact that women stand a much lower chance of surviving ovarian cancer. Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a five-year survival rate of only 46 percent, compared with 83 percent of women who beat breast cancer. What’s more, ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women — and the most fatal gynecologic cancer.

The reason breast cancer — and many other forms of cancer — have seen a greater reduction in mortality rates has a lot to do with extra funding that has helped improve early detection and treatment. People do not discuss ovarian cancer as frequently as breast cancer, which means fundraisers and donations are much less common.

Another part of the problem is that ovarian cancer is associated with a list of subtle symptoms that make early detection more challenging than for some other cancers. The majority of cases are found late because doctors and patients often dismiss symptoms as less-significant issues such as cysts or menstrual pain. This is precisely why sororities should be doing more to boost awareness.

Considering that the survival rate jumps to 92 percent if ovarian cancer is caught before it spreads outside the ovary, it’s time to break out the teal ribbons and spread the word. Here are three fundraising ideas to stop ovarian cancer from flying under the radar:

  1. Special events. Consider hosting events such as auctions, runs, athletic competitions, catered dinners, concerts, comedy shows, or other forms of live entertainment that can attract a large crowd. Use these events to raise both money and awareness while giving something back to the participants.
  1. Sales.The key to successful fundraising through sales is to keep the concept simple. That’s why bake sales became such a staple in fundraising. In a similar effort, one sorority hosted an all-you-can-eat pancake event for $5. Another idea is to collect clothing donations and create a pop-up consignment shop. The possibilities are endless.
  1. Social media.Raising money using online fundraising sites such as Indiegogo and YouCaring is a great way to reach mass amounts of people who might want to contribute but can’t attend an event. You can share links to your fundraising page through social media and develop a campaign to help get the word out. Another perk to this strategy is you can set a higher donation goal while spending less from your budget. It’s perfect when you need a lower-maintenance plan with powerful results.

Ovarian cancer can remain a silent killer only if we stay silent about it. We might not be able to change the fact that it will affect more than 22,000 women this year, but we can all work to make ovarian cancer a larger part of the women’s health conversation. Simply talking about it could help pave a path to better treatment and higher survival rates in the future.