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The Globe and Mail

Canadian cancer charities merge amid crowded donation field

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and Colon Cancer Canada have merged into a new group, called Colorectal Cancer Canada.


Another pair of cancer charities have merged in a bid to strengthen their fundraising and advocacy efforts amid a crowded charity landscape.

The amalgamation of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and Colon Cancer Canada is being driven by a desire to pool resources, eliminate duplication and bolster support for patients, rather than by financial constraints, said Barry Stein, president and chief executive of the merged group, now called Colorectal Cancer Canada. The move will also help eliminate donor confusion and competition for dollars in this cancer field.

"There will be one voice," said Mr. Stein, a Montreal-based lawyer specializing in corporate and commercial law and a survivor of the disease. "It's really about what better resources we can bring to the patients, their families and the caregivers."

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Earlier this year, Canada's two largest cancer charities – the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – joined forces to head off a financial crisis fuelled by shrinking donations. Over four years to 2016, the Canadian Cancer Society's revenue fell 16 per cent, to $180.3-million from $215.2-million, while the breast-cancer group's revenue plummeted by more than a third, to $22.3-million from $36.1-million.

Read more: Donation drop forces merger of Canada's largest cancer charities

Operating under the Canadian Cancer Society name, the consolidated group was in talks in February to merge with other organizations. There are about 300 cancer charities in Canada, many of them small outfits.

Mr. Stein said merging with the Canadian Cancer Society was not an option considered.

"We are very focused on immediate attention to colorectal-cancer patients," Mr. Stein said. "If we were to merge with an organization like that – which does extremely good work, no doubt about it – I think our message would become diluted and we wouldn't be as fast and nimble to react."

Bunnie Schwartz, who co-founded Colon Cancer Canada, will continue working in patient support under the amalgamated group. Mr. Stein said the merger will lead to operational savings, but the ultimate aim is to expand advocacy and education initiatives.

Colorectal cancer is highly treatable when caught early. It is the second-leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian men, after lung cancer, and the third-leading cancer death for women.

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The colorectal charities were bringing in modest donations compared with Canada's cancer-fundraising giants.

The most recently available financial statements show that donations had declined for the two charities, affecting their overall revenue. In 2015, Colon Cancer Canada's revenue was nearly $1.1-million, dropping from $1.5-million the year before. The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, meanwhile, brought in $1-million in revenue in 2015, compared with nearly $1.3-million in 2014.

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