Evaluating Plastic Surgery Charities for Contribution - What You Need To Consider Before Donating

Most of the charities that arrange plastic surgeries and associated services nationally and abroad follow similar models. They tend to arrange for teams of volunteer physicians carrying medical supplies to complete “missions” into the regions in question. Increasingly, however, these groups also work to improve medical infrastructures and to train personnel.

The most widely publicized of these groups are those that perform volunteer outreach in impoverished, under-developed, or war-torn areas. Sadly, the need for these programs has spiked dramatically in recent years with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the widespread instability in Africa and the Middle East.

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Legitimate charities should respond quickly to any and all complaints and be willing to supply any documentation requested to verify the honesty of their organization!

Of the charities currently in operation, those that work to correct clefts of both the lip and palate, to revise scarring from burns, and to improve damage and deformities caused by acts of violence are the most common and the most widely publicized.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance - Help Prospective Donors to Judge the Worth and Legitimacy of Charities

With any charity that is delivering medical care abroad, it's important to understand the condition they are claiming to treat, and to get a sense of the area in which the group is working. To help prospective donors judge the worth and legitimacy of such charities, the Better Business Bureau has developed a list of criteria for reference purposes.

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As with any question of charitable legitimacy, the main issue is always the same -- making sure the donation goes where it’s supposed to go and does what it’s supposed to do -- help someone in need.

Guidelines for Giving, Developed by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance

The Better Business Bureau's website provides visitors with tools to check out individual charities, and includes a list of standards for charity accountability, which were "developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations, and to advance support of philanthropy."

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"developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations, and to advance support of philanthropy."

Although these standards do not apply to private charities that are not soliciting contributions from the public under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, they still provide important guidelines to individuals for the evaluation of any organization they are considering supporting.

The guidelines encourage diversity and pluralism, and stress adherence to the law at all levels -- local, state, and federal. Other points include, but are not limited to:

  • The presence of a board of directors with oversight procedures, performance appraisals of key personnel, and audits conducted regularly.
  • A minimum of five members on the board of directors with three meetings per year, evenly spaced and conducted in a face-to-face setting.
  • Honest and prudent spending that fulfills statements made during fund-raising appeals.
  • The expenditure of no more than 35% of contributions on subsequent fundraising activities.
  • Avoiding the accumulation of funds that could be used for charitable ends.
  • The full disclosure and complete availability of annual financial statements compiled by accepted accounting standards. These documents should include a breakdown of all expenses allocated per program, fundraising event, or administrative activity.
  • Truthful and accurate information in all fundraising and solicitation endeavors that is easily verifiable and in no way misleading.
  • Mechanisms to protect the privacy of donors and the security of their financial information.

Additionally, legitimate charities should respond quickly to any and all complaints and be willing to supply any documentation requested to verify the honesty of their organization.

Small Regional or Faith-Based Charities

International Friends of Compassion Logo There are too many small, regional or faith-based plastic surgery charities to list. A good example, however is the International Friends of Compassion, at ifcus.org. This group focuses its activities in Indonesia, specifically among the displaced people of Sulawesi and North Maluku. Working since 2000, the IFC purchased 75 acres on the island of Halmahera in 2004 where it established a medical base that now sees 8,000 patients a year.

The facility delivers a range of medical services including the coordination of short-term volunteer teams of medical and dental professionals to perform cleft surgeries. Approximately 30 children are treated per volunteer mission, with a typical team consisting of plastic surgeons, nurses, surgical techs, and nurse anesthetists. In addition to providing services, volunteers generally deliver needed supplies and equipment secured in the United States via private donation. They may also provide training services to local personnel.

One advantage donors have in supporting smaller groups of this nature is that it is often easier to intimately understand the problems of the region being supported by researching the local politics, economy, and medical profile of the people. The IFC teams, for instance, often treat patients with leprosy, which is prevalent on the islands.

Utah Medical Outreach Logo Another example of a small, narrowly focused charity is the Utah Medical Outreach. This group that has been working in Mexico and Guatemala for the past two decades providing surgical services via bi-annual mission trips of one-week's duration. They provide a number of procedures, including cleft repair. The Utah Medical Outreach is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing medical, surgical, and humanitarian services to needy children and families in Central America.

National & International Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Charities

The Smile Train

Smile Train Logo
A much larger plastic surgery endeavor, The Smile Train at smiletrain.org conducts cleft surgeries in more than 80 countries around the world. The group receives no money from the government and according to financial claims on its homepage, spends 82.2% of all money raised on program services. (That claim is based on figures for the 2010 fiscal year.)

Approximately 16.9% of monies raised go back to additional fundraising, with 0.9% used on management and overhead. This low figure is directly attributable to the use of technology to manage patient records and requests digitally, and by the fact that many regional managers for the group work from their own homes.

In addition to the surgical treatment of cleft conditions, the Smile Train supplies medical equipment in countries where it works in an effort to build up an infrastructure for safe operating conditions in terms of both sterile environments and available equipment. The group clearly acknowledges the need for multiple procedures to address cleft conditions, and seeks to provide dental, orthodontic, and speech therapy as well as financial aid to its poor clients.

Click on the image below to visit the Smile Train donate page
Donate to Smile Train Logo

The Smile Train has awarded more than 66,000 scholarships in 140+ countries to provide surgical training to physicians and related professionals over the past decade. It has also conducted extensive public awareness campaigns. The operation is run by a staff of 58, with 31 located in the U.S. and 27 abroad. Significantly, the group's website offers visitors the ability to download annual and audit reports and 990s from previous years.

Face-To-Face: A Broad-Based Plastic Surgery Charity

Face To Face Surgery Logo
Some donors prefer to give to broad-based efforts rather than to those that are narrowly focused by region or by condition. For instance, FACE TO FACE is a surgical exchange program conducted by the Educational and Research Foundation for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Surgeons working with this effort address all manner of facial deformities, many congenital in nature, as well as those caused by trauma.

This program is unique in that the educational exchange component seeks to enhance the impact of the overall efforts by improving local medical resources over the long term. It's a dynamic, field-based approach that has seen innovative techniques evolve from the collaboration of professional colleagues "on the ground" under widely varied conditions around the world.

Participants are facial and reconstructive plastic surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and speech pathologists who donate their time and talents for two-week mission programs. Services are delivered both in the U.S. and abroad on conditions of the face, head, and neck. Some of the procedures performed include: cleft repair, the creation of external ears for infants born without them, and rebuilding or revising facial and cranial deformities. Much of the group's work centers on reconstructing soft tissue damage from burns, explosions, gunshots, other acts of violence, and catastrophic cancer excisions.

AAFRPRS Face To Face Logo The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is the world's largest specialty association for facial plastic surgery. The Educational and Research Foundation for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. All contributions to FACE TO FACE are tax deductible to the fullest extent provided by law.

Operation Smile

Operation Smile Logo Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity that heals children's smiles, forever changing their lives. "At Operation Smile, we're more than a charity. More than an NGO. We're a mobilized force of medical professionals and caring hearts who provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate". Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft — often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. In some places these children are shunned and rejected. And in too many cases, their parents can't afford to give them the surgeries they need to live a normal life.

Click on the image below to visit the Operation Smile donate page
Donate to Operation Smile Logo

They state on their website; "That's where we come in as an international charity providing much needed surgical services. Since 1982, Operation Smile — through the help of dedicated medical volunteers — has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities."

Questions to Ask Before Giving

When evaluating any plastic surgery charity for a donation, consider asking the following questions:

  • What is the total cost to perform each surgery?
  • How does the cost of a "mission" break down in terms of actual number of patients helped?
  • Are the procedures performed by volunteer doctors from developed countries?
  • If local medical personnel are involved, what is the level of their training and skill?
  • Will the patients receive any kind of on-going therapy, support, or aftercare?

Think twice about any group that is unwilling or unable to answer these questions or to supply financial documentation of its activities.

Without question, there are many sincere and well-administered plastic surgery charities delivering services to patients in need around the world. All are in constant need of volunteers and financial contributions. For donors, self-education is the best strategy. Although the immediate and compassionate urge is to reach into your pocket and give, take the time to learn about exactly what the charity does, where it works, and how it is administered.

As with any question of charitable legitimacy, the main issue is always the same -- making sure the donation goes where it’s supposed to go and does what it’s supposed to do -- help someone in need.

Common Types of Charity Organization And What They Do

Of the charities currently in operation, those that work to correct clefts of both the lip and palate, to revise scarring from burns, and to improve damage and deformities caused by acts of violence are the most common and the most widely publicized.

Cleft Surgeries

Both cleft lip and cleft palate are conditions that greatly diminish quality of life. This is true both in terms of the physical challenges inherent in speaking and eating in the presence of the disorder, as well as in the psychological pain associated with being socially ostracized due to the obvious facial deformity. Cleft lip and palate can also result in hearing loss, and increased dental problems.

It's important to note that people who have these conditions usually require more than one surgery over a number of years to correct the damage and to normalize their physical function and appearance. Typically this surgical work occurs in tandem with speech therapy and the use of corrective orthodontic devices.

Many of the charities that work with these patients in developing countries do not talk about long-term support, or after care. That is valuable information to have before deciding to support the organization. Without on-going care, a single cleft surgery can leave a patient with minimal improvement at best.

Burn Scars

It is not uncommon for one charity to offer multiple plastic surgery outreach programs. There are many places around the world that have endured years of violence both from outright war as well as from sporadic, but sustained guerrilla and terrorist insurgencies. The use of roadside explosives in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan have placed many innocent people, including legions of children, in harm's way.

Scar revision surgeries have become a major focus of charitable medical endeavors in these regions, and, in both sad and hopeful ways, techniques have improved dramatically as the need for the work has grown more prevalent over the past decade.

Although scars cannot be completely erased, they can be minimized and made to appear more consistent with the surrounding skin. Often, reconstructive procedures are required to rebuild features like the nose or ears first, so scar revision work is also a lengthy process involving multiple surgeries over a number of years.

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Without question, there are many sincere and well-administered plastic surgery charities delivering services to patients in need around the world.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries to the face, head, and neck may be caused by many things, including physical trauma from combat conditions or intentionally as an aspect of domestic violence. In some cultures, women are “punished” for their behavior by cutting away aspects of the facial features.

Cancerous tumors and other growths are often left untreated for years, so that when excisions are performed, the tissue loss is catastrophic. This is especially true in cancerous tumors of the face, and is a common problem with children in under-developed, poverty-stricken areas.

Amputations and Reconstructive Procedures

In many parts of the world, amputation is used as a terror tactic. In regions of war-torn Africa, for instance, terrorists often cut off one or both of their victim's hands. While hand transplants are expensive procedures still under refinement, surgery may be needed to correct the crude amputation so a prosthesis can be fitted to the remaining limb. Wound closure techniques and aftercare are major parts of these treatments.

Although the term "plastic surgery" is generally associated with procedures to enhance appearance, many reconstructive surgeries fall under the same umbrella and are dispensed by plastic surgery charities. In countries where rape is a widespread terror tactic, victims may be left incontinent, and require reconstructive work to lead more normal lives.

More Notable Charity Groups & Organization Related to Plastic Cosmetic Surgery

Children's Burn Foundation

Childrens Burn Foundation Logo The Children’s Burn Foundation offers support services and reconstructive treatment to children and adolescents ages 18 and younger, giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential physically, psychologically and socially. It also provides innovative fire and burn prevention programs to schools and public safety officials in the United States and abroad. To learn more about The Children’s Burn Foundation, visit their website.

Breastcancer.org

BreastCancer.org Logo Breastcancer.org provides information about breast cancer treatment issues to individuals living with and affected by breast cancer. Its mission is to help women and their loved ones to make informed decisions about their care including post-surgical reconstruction procedures. To learn more about Breastcancer.org’s mission, visit their website.

Skin Cancer Foundation

Skin Cancer Foundation Logo The international Skin Cancer Foundation emphasizes the need for skin cancer prevention through sun protection, early detection and prompt, effective treatment. On their site you can read; "The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only international organization devoted solely to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of the world’s most common cancer". More information about the foundation is available on its website.

InterFACE

InterFace Charity Logo For more than 30 years, California-based InterFACE has provided reconstructive surgery to children in Mexico. The group, which includes volunteer surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, pediatricians and social workers, also helps teach Mexican surgeons how to treat cleft lip and palate, hand and ear deformities, burns and congenital and acquired deformities. For more information about InterFACE, visit its website.

Breast Oasis

Breast Oasis Logo Breast Oasis collects new and gently used bras from plastic surgery patients and passes them on to women in need across the country. Founded in 2009 by Akron, Ohio-based plastic surgeon John Pederson, MD, the coalition includes more than a dozen doctors whose offices serve as donation centers, and the group is expanding quickly. So far, Breast Oasis has donated more than 100,000 bras.

Do you know of, or represent, a charity organization you think should be mentioned here please send us an email from our contact page.

Sources: Read More & Additional Useful Information

Sources - Read More: Additional Useful Information

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