American Cancer Society and Foundation Beyond Belief - October 25, 2011

October 25, 2011 at 5:37pm

We want to apologize to all those who come to our Facebook community to either support the American Cancer Society or be supported by it. Because we respect and value the voice of our community, we have tried various methods of dealing with the current situation involving the Foundation Beyond Belief, responding in a measured way and only removing hateful and egregious posts. In addition, we want to make sure we are absolutely clear with respect to the facts.


We have seen profane hyperbole and personal attacks on members of this community that only serve to disrupt the American Cancer Society’s ability to serve cancer patients and their families. At this point, our ability to deliver on our life saving mission has clearly been impacted. We need to get back to work.


These are the facts:


In recent weeks, supporters of the Foundation Beyond Belief have used the American Cancer Society community on Facebook to post misinformation, saying the Society turned down half a million dollars and is discriminating against atheists.


These statements are false.


Todd Stiefel, a humanist philanthropist and supporter of Foundation Beyond Belief, approached Relay For Life representatives and offered a matching gift of $250,000 if Foundation Beyond Belief teams raised $250,000 in 2012. The matching gift offer from Mr. Stiefel was contingent on his and the Foundation Beyond Belief's request to become a Relay For Life National Team Partner.  However, beginning with this fiscal year, ACS discontinued Relay's National Team Partner program for clubs and organizations while National Teams focused around commercial organizations remain.


Mr. Stiefel and the Foundation Beyond Belief have not told us if they are willing to consider working with the Society in any manner other than as a National Team Partner. We think this is terribly unfortunate and wish the Foundation Beyond Belief would reconsider making its recognition as National Team Partner a condition for its support. We do not take lightly an offered donation of a half million dollars, and we remain committed to discussing with the Foundation Beyond Belief ways in which we can work together, encouraging the group’s participation in Relay For Life and in the Society’s mission to save more lives from cancer.


After reviewing the situation, it is clear that we have made mistakes. We did not communicate effectively about the rationale behind our decision not to allow the Foundation Beyond Belief to participate as a National Team Partner. And we used our own organizational terminology in public communications to differentiate between commercial teams and teams formed by clubs and organizations, calling them “corporate” and “non-corporate” teams. Unfortunately, that lack of clarity created misunderstanding and confusion. To be clear: we ended the National Team Partner program for clubs and organizations, many of which were incorporated, earlier this year; the National Team Program for commercial entities --primarily businesses and corporations with large employee bases-- remains. Going forward, we intend to make the distinction much clearer in our communications.


The National Team Partner program will now be implemented in a way that more clearly outlines the requirements for participation. Perhaps just as importantly, those requirements will be more clearly communicated on our Relay For Life website and elsewhere. You can find information about our National Team Partner program here:


We acknowledge our mistakes, and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we have worked to resolve them. We appreciate our many loyal volunteers who believe that the Society and its Relay For Life program would never discriminate against any group committed to participating in our mission to save lives from cancer. It is our deepest desire to get back to business as normal so that we can focus on serving cancer patients and their loved ones, and the millions of individuals who want cancer information and who are passionate about engaging in our mission.


Greg Donaldson

National Vice President, Corporate Communications

American Cancer Society