Community benefits are programs or activities that provide treatment or promote health and healing as a response to identified community needs and meet at least one of these objectives:
- Improve access to health care service.
- Enhance the health of the community.
- Advance medical or health care knowledge.
- Relieve or reduce the burden of government or other community efforts.
It implies collaboration with a "community" to "benefit" its residents- particularly the poor, minorities, and other underserved groups-by improving health status and quality of life.
Why is Community Benefit Important?
Providing community benefits demonstrates that not-for-profit health care organizations are fulfilling their mission of community service and meeting their charitable tax-exempt purpose as community benefit organizations. The IRS 990 H directs organizations to "describe how the organization assesses the health care needs of the community it serves." Community Benefit Programs must specify community benefit goals and objectives and/or strategies. An organized approach to planning, reporting and evaluating community benefits is more important today than ever before, for several reasons:
- It helps identify community needs and provides the information required to make prudent choices as to the use of scarce resources to best help those in need.
- Proactive budgeting and the use of standardized accounting will make the financing of the community benefit program more predictable, sustainable, comparable and credible.
- A deliberate approach will facilitate building important relationships in the community and lead to involvement in community-wide efforts to improve access to services and community health.
Community Benefit Program Planning
Community benefit program planning involves writing goals and objectives, selecting methods to present your program, creating a budget and developing a timeline. These tools will help evaluate what programs and activities are community benefit, how to count those activities as community benefit, and help understand the categorizing process.