11/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Brace Yourself for Pink Overload

You probably know Product Red, Bono's campaign to raise money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. You know it because Gap, Apple, and Motorola poured over $100 million in advertising. But according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the campaign only raised $18 million worldwide. Writer and public service professor Mark Rosenman called it an "example of the corporate world aligning its operations with its central purpose of increasing shareholder profit, except this time it is being cloaked in the patina of philanthropy."

We're just a few days from October, and corporate marketeers are pulling out their fundraising campaigns. And this time they're pink. Pink toasters. Pink camera and printer combos. Pink dog leashes. Even pink Ford Mustangs.

It's called "pinkwashing" or "pink nausea", when corporations try to boost sales by turning their products pink in the fight against breast cancer. But will your pretty pink purchase really have an impact? Here are some questions to ask before buying pink:

Know your Donation
How much is "a portion" of the proceeds? And where are these proceeds going? Products should have clearly written, transparent information about how much they are giving to what charity. Also look to see if there is a cap on giving; your purchase may not contribute anything to the cause if you're shopping after the cap has been met.

Know the Product

It would be ironic to purchase a pink product that actually contributes to the cancer epidemic. Breast Cancer Action, a clever and progressive activist organization, calls out such products like the Pink Mustang which emits cancer causing carcinogens in their exhaust. Some cosmetics and chemical-based products have also shown links to cancer.

Know your Alternatives
Even if pink is your favorite color, consider donating directly to an organization. Breast cancer survivor Pam Stephan writes about five maximum impact organizations that spend more on support that they spend on administrative costs or fund-raising. Here are the top five, by the percent of their funds used to support the cause:

Breast Cancer Research Foundation - 91.5%
Living Beyond Breast Cancer - 83.7%

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. - 80%

Breast Cancer Network of Strength - 76.8%

Susan G. Komen Foundation - 63%