The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) got some bad PR last week when it was reported that they have denied the wishes of the executors responsible for a $2 million donation as to where the money should be allocated.

CCS is in the right in this instance, but that may not be how it is perceived.

The $2 million donation was from Robert Clark who passed away in 2016. In his will, he bequeathed $2 million to CCS (along with $10 million to other charities).

Last fall, the executors of Mr. Clark’s estate saw a news story about the Pancreatic Cancer Canada Foundation needing money to conduct research for pancreatic cancer. The executors liked what they saw and thought Mr. Clark would have liked it as well.

So, they reached out to CCS to ask if some of the Mr. Clark’s $2 million donation could be used in partnership with the Pancreatic Cancer Canada Foundation.

CCS did not like that idea. In a statement to the Canadian Press, Sara Oates, executive vice-president of finance and operations stated that it is important to their charity that they adhere to the donor’s specific wishes – which in this case was to give $2 million to CCS.

According to the Canadian Press story, Mr. Clark’s executors exchanged numerous emails with various Cancer Society staff for several weeks trying to get an in-person meeting. That never materialized. Instead, they had a conference call on January 4th with Sara Oates, executive vice-president of finance and operations for CCS.

During that call, there seemed to be a communications breakdown. Oates seemed to perceive the executors plan as a threat that they would withhold money and not adhere to the wishes of the deceased. Meanwhile, the executors were trying to bring two charities together to fight a common rare cancer.

Four days after the conference call, the executors received an email from Oates asking then to “to remit the remaining funds without delay” to avoid possible legal action.

Is CCS doing the right thing? Yes, absolutely.

Could they have handled the meetings with Mr. Clarke’s executors better? Yes, absolutely. If a donator, or the executor of a donator, requests an in-person meeting. Take the meeting.