Financial planning can't cure cancer, but one organization is hoping it might lead to better outcomes for cancer patients—not to mention fewer bankruptcies.

Cancer is a dreaded diagnosis, but when combined with financial stress and possible bankruptcy due to the cost of treatment, the disease becomes all the more tragic. Pro Bono for Cancer, an effort from the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP), aims to weaken the link between health crisis and financial catastrophe.

“So many of us can relate to this issue because we’ve seen the strain on our families, neighbors and friends,” says Jon Dauphiné, executive director of the FFP. “This is something that we’re going to be working on as a long-term project, but it’s important to start the development now.”

The program will provide grants to cancer treatment centers and non-profit organizations to provide no-cost financial planning and advice to families coping with a diagnosis. The FFP announced a $1 million fund-raising campaign for the grants last week. More than $200,000 has already been raised, and Dauphiné expects to total to rise as he courts major corporate donors.

For Dauphiné, the decision to launch a pro-bono financial planning campaign to help cancer patients was both practical and personal.

“My brother-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and he was diagnosed late so he only lived for about nine months. But I saw the financial stress and strain his family lived through,” he says. “Luckily, they had resources and were able to work with a planner, but it was powerful stuff.”

Upon becoming the FFP’s executive director in 2015, Dauphiné sought to link the foundation’s resources with families coping with a cancer diagnosis. His research led him to an active partnership between the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, a non-profit in Massachusetts conducting pro-bono planning with families. He also learned of and a nationwide initiative in Australia between financial planners. He viewed these programs as proof of concept for Pro Bono for Cancer.

Dauphiné has recruited the Financial Planning Association to help source volunteers and create educational content for pro-bono planners, who will be working with patients and their families.

The FFP’s initial Pro Bono for Cancer efforts will link patients and families diagnosed and treated at cancer centers with volunteer financial planners trained in special needs and health-care planning. Grants made possible by the recently launched campaign will fund individual planning programs for three to five years.

Dauphiné is working on two pilot programs, the first slated to begin in November.

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