Foreign Poverty Tours/Medical Missions

Question: We sponsor staff and executives to travel to poor counties for "poverty immersion trips" and for mission trips to deliver health care to the people. Are these activities community benefit?

Recommendation: It is not recommended to count as a community benefit the cost of sending executives on immersion trips to distant sites (e.g., part of orientation). While the trips might help executives develop a greater appreciation for the plight of the poor/vulnerable and motivate them to champion projects that help this group, there is not a direct benefit to the community. These trips could be described in the narrative portion of a community benefit report.

However, the costs incurred by the hospital of sending health care professionals on paid hospital time to deliver health care in underserved communities can be counted as a community benefit. Count the time of the professionals only if the organization is paying for them to be part of the trip. If they are volunteering their time, report only the cost to the organization, such as travel expenses.

Question: We recruit and train physicians, nurses and paramedics to participate in medical missions that provide medical and surgical care to underprivileged families in the Philippine Islands. We do not report as community benefit the time of the professionals if they are volunteering, but should we report the administrative costs? Does it matter if the staff and physicians are affiliated with the hospital?

Recommendation: We recommend reporting the administrative costs of recruiting and training professionals to serve in foreign medical missions – when the need for the medical service in that country is clearly demonstrated. It does not matter if the participating staff and physicians are affiliated with the hospital.

However, as with other donation-related activities directed outside of the community, we recommend that you consider proportionality: What is the magnitude of this contribution compared with what else is being done in the community? It should not constitute a large proportion of your community benefit.

(September 2012)

Please Take Note: The information provided does not constitute legal or tax advice. The material is provided for informational/educational purposes only. Please consult with counsel regarding your organization's particular circumstances.