Yes. NMC invests in certain community efforts relating to improving health and the overall quality of life in our region. We help underwrite healthy physical activities like the Great Race, the Bike for the Lake, Running of the Bells, and Relay for Life. We donate to the Franklin Grand Isle United Way’s annual campaign. We help sponsor community activities through the Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. We support the American Heart Association’s efforts to reduce heart disease in our community and the Jim Bashaw Fund’s efforts to assist those facing uncovered medical expenses relating to cancer and catastrophic illness. We occasionally make small donations to visibly support a variety of community initiatives designed to make living and working in northwestern Vermont even more enjoyable and sustainable.
Recently, I was asked why the hospital makes these kinds of donations since we are a not-for-profit organization. That status is actually one of the reasons that NMC makes these investments. Federal requirements regarding providing community benefit are part of what that the Internal Revenue Service considers when allowing a hospital to maintain its tax-exempt status. In other areas of the country, a few hospitals have actually forfeited their tax-exempt status because they could not demonstrate that they provided a true community benefit within the regulations. While our local donations are a relatively small part of the overall community benefit NMC provides, it is an important and visible part from the perspective of the IRS.
Our reasons to help support activities such as these go well beyond the tax code. To provide exceptional care to our community, NMC must recruit and retain top quality employees and medical staff members. These efforts are greatly enhanced by a vibrant economy, local commerce, good jobs, strong schools, robust services, quality entertainment, and diverse recreational resources. We are best served by ensuring our employees and their families are actively engaged in and enjoying the region where they live. In that sense, NMC investing in keeping our community healthy and vibrant is a smart recruitment and retention strategy. Our workforce makes NMC one of the larger employers in the region, as we now have approximately 750 employees spread across the hospital, our outreach sites in Enosburg and Cambridge, our employed physician practices, Northwestern Occupational Health, and Northwestern Urgent Care. Our employees (and our patients, actually) like to see NMC’s name affiliated with things they value in the community. Plus, that visibility helps our efforts to maintain awareness of NMC’s services. If we drift into being a “best kept secret,” our community’s health could suffer and costs could go up as people go without care or travel outside our area for care that they could have gotten right here if NMC had been top of mind.
Our approach to community benefit investment donations allows NMC to focus on what we do best (providing exceptional healthcare) while still having an impact on the other pressing issues facing our community. We cannot be all things to all people, and taking on programs to boost jobs or strengthen pre-school education would be beyond our scope of expertise. Plus, there are aspects of healthcare which are beyond NMC’s focus. The broad impact of the Franklin Grand Isle United Way is key addressing the issues our community faces around income, education, and health. By giving to the United Way and targeting other donations to specific organizations and initiatives, NMC is able to help enable others’ experts to make an impact where their skills are strongest while we maintain our focus on improving the health of our population.
Meanwhile, we recognize that many people in our community believe so strongly in NMC and our mission that they want to donate to us to help create a healthier community. That generous philanthropic spirit helped establish the first St. Albans hospital back in 1883 and the Kerbs hospital in 1947. Community support made the advancements of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s possible here at NMC and have continued to help us in our efforts towards better health in the years since then. We are so grateful to have such strong community support and will continue to be good stewards of any funds we receive. We are pleased to play a small role in contributing to the overall vibrancy of our area. It is this sense of community that will secure a healthier future.
— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer