Thanks to the generous support of donors like you, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is able to maintain the financial and operational independence that allows us to provide urgent medical care to hundreds of thousands of people affected by war, starvation, and disease in more than 60 countries around the world each year. On behalf of MSF volunteers, staff, and, most importantly, the people whom we assist, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to you for your belief in our humanitarian work and your ongoing support in making it a reality.
In return for your support, we would like to offer this document as an expression of our commitment to you, our supporters, on how MSF uses your donations to reach people in need in the most effective and cost-efficient manner, while adhering to stringent fundraising ethics.
A commitment to financial efficacy
- From 1995 through 2014, MSF-USA allocated more than 85 percent of its expenditures to MSF's social mission–programs and public education activities. Maintaining this standard is a high priority. In 2014, more than 88 percent of our spending was directed toward our program services. More financial information can be found here.
- MSF-USA has consistently met all standards of watchdog agencies and is awarded the highest rating for charitable agencies from the American Institute of Philanthropy.
- In the field as well as at headquarters, MSF compensation levels are moderate and transparent. At MSF-USA, for example, the salary of the executive director will not exceed three times the salary of the lowest paid full-time position in the office. MSF-USA strives to limit administrative expenses—for instance, travel is economy class and hotels are budget.
- MSF-USA seeks to maintain available cash and reserves equivalent to six months of operating costs, allowing us to respond to emergencies and to ensure continued funding of our field programs even in the event of a downturn in contributions.
How funds are raised for MSF
Doctors Without Borders requests funds from donors and supporters through various media including phone, email, and telephone throughout the year. Our supporters also host events to raise funds on our behalf. Doctors Without Borders is grateful for the support of all of our donors and we are firmly committed to safeguarding the security of your personal and financial information. We take many measures to ensure that your transactions are secure and that our name is not used under false pretenses. If you have any reason to suspect, however, that you have been approached by a third party posing illicitly as an associate or affiliate of Doctors Without Borders, please contact our Donor Services Team immediately at 212-679-6800.
How programs are chosen and implemented
Medical humanitarian action seeks to save lives and alleviate the suffering of those most at risk as a result of an acute crisis. Armed conflict has a devastating impact on ordinary people—direct violence, forced displacement, epidemic outbreaks, starvation, and psychological trauma are common consequences, as is the collapse of local health services. Providing life-saving medical and nutritional assistance to victims of armed conflict is MSF's main priority. The mounting death and suffering associated with infectious diseases, fueled by the neglect of governments, is the other main area of MSF's programmatic focus, and the organization aims to effectively provide treatment and care to vulnerable people affected by such diseases as HIV/AIDS, TB, human African trypanomiasis, and visceral leishmaniasis. MSF also responds to the needs of people who are excluded from access to essential health services, and assists victims of natural disasters.
MSF's decision to intervene in any crisis is based solely on our independent assessment of people's needs—not political, economic, or religious interests. MSF does not take sides or intervene where governments or warring parties tell us to—we go where the medical needs are greatest. MSF's single-minded mission is to help those most in need, to the exclusion of any other agenda and without taking sides—this is the meaning of the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence to which MSF is deeply committed. Each year, MSF doctors, nurses, logisticians, water-and-sanitation experts, administrators, and other medical and non-medical professionals depart on more than 7,000 aid assignments. They work alongside more than 33,800 international and locally hired staff to provide medical care in more than 60 countries.
Experienced MSF teams determine medical humanitarian needs by conducting independent assessments of the situation on the ground. The teams focus on assessing the condition of the affected people as well as their vulnerability to the crisis. Local medical professionals are important sources of information that MSF may complement by carrying out independent epidemiological and nutritional surveys. The existing capacity of local medical staff and facilities as well as the response of other outside parties are all key factors in determining whether MSF's intervention is required. The local authorities' acceptance of MSF's action and adequate safety conditions for our volunteers are critical prerequisites for any intervention. Projects are outlined in detail before they are launched and evaluated throughout their operation. Clearly defined quantitative, as well as qualitative, objectives are revised if necessary. The duration of our intervention is determined solely by those needs that are defined and reevaluated over the course of the mission. Projects and needs are evaluated on an ongoing basis through a standardized data collection system, plus ad-hoc epidemiological surveys.
MSF is committed to ensuring that its assistance actually reaches those it is intended to help. For this reason, we insist that our field staff must be free to communicate with the people we seek to help; to travel and independently assess needs; to determine how our aid will be allocated; and to be involved in the actual delivery of assistance. This is also why MSF directly manages all aspects of our field programs and does not delegate management responsibility to third parties. When it is the only effective way of reaching patients, MSF may provide medicines and medical materials to existing health facilities, particularly in highly insecure contexts. On rare occasions, MSF may also provide financial support to other private humanitarian organizations, community groups, or health facilities we are working closely with in a specific field, and we exercise close oversight over these activities.
MSF takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that all of its assets—whether resources or services—exclusively serve humanitarian purposes. Accordingly, rigorous program funding and personnel procedures are in place to prevent the diversion of assets. Excerpts of our program funding and personnel procedures are available for review upon request. MSF does not knowingly employ individuals who use any of its assets to engage in or support conduct that contravenes MSF's humanitarian mission, including violence or other conduct that seriously endangers the health or welfare of others.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA, Inc. ("Doctors Without Borders") is strongly committed to protecting the privacy of our donors, website visitors, and other individuals who communicate with Doctors Without Borders.
Our fundraising ethics
MSF operates in a manner consistent with the Association of Fundraising Professionals' (AFP's) Donor Bill of Rights, E-Donor Bill of Rights and the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.
MSF's Corporate Gift Acceptance Policy ensures that the organization will not accept contributions from corporations/industries and their respective corporate foundations whose core activities may be in direct conflict with the goals of the medical humanitarian work of MSF, or in any way limit MSF's ability to provide humanitarian assistance. Please read our our Corporate Gift Acceptance Policy.
The importance of your contribution
To maintain its operational independence and flexibility, MSF relies on the general public for nearly 89 percent of its operating funds. The remaining 11 percent of funds come from international agencies and governments. MSF has not received or solicited US government funding since 2002.
In 2014, MSF's worldwide income was $1.3 billion, to which US private donors contributed more than $332 million.
In recent years, your contributions have enabled MSF to significantly expand funding for programs in the field: reaching more people in need, responding more quickly to emergencies, broadening the range of medical services we provide, and improving the quality of our interventions by using more effective medications. With your support, MSF is committed to improving the impact and expanding the reach of its programs in the years to come.
Also, the financial independence provided by your contributions allows MSF to:
- Choose freely where to intervene based on medical needs alone.
- Intervene quickly, particularly in emergency situations, without waiting for political actors or the media to mobilize.
- Decline government funding that may compromise our ability to implement effective programs.
- Commit resources and teams to innovative projects to improve the lives of those individuals we aid, and demonstrate their appropriateness in specific interventions. In this way, MSF was able to treat patients living with HIV/AIDS with antiretroviral medicines well before governments started allocating funding for this activity.
The information we provide you
- Our information and first-hand accounts come directly from our field projects, thus guaranteeing their integrity.
- We make every effort to respond to specific questions regarding our programs and operations. Our Donor Services' staff is available to answer your questions about your contributions or our field programs: 212.679.6800
- We will honor your wishes about the amount of information you wish to receive from us in mailings.
Transparent and accountable financial management
MSF exercises rigorous fiscal controls over our field programs and offices.
- Every MSF field project has a detailed budget that is reevaluated on a regular basis. Program managers review program budgets throughout the year to ensure they are implemented responsibly and in keeping with project objectives. All budgets are reviewed and subject to approval by the Board of Directors of the MSF office responsible for implementing the field programs.
- MSF-USA's Board of Directors exercises fiduciary control over the use of all funds collected in the United States. It allocates grants to MSF field programs based on detailed narrative and financial proposals, and requires narrative and financial reports upon completion of the grants. External financial audits are conducted annually. Both the MSF-USA Annual Report and IRS Form 990 are available on our website and upon request.
- For transparency to our donors worldwide, MSF combines the accounts of all of our offices internationally. The result is a thorough and transparent picture of the full range of our activities. International combined accounts are consolidated and certified by an independent auditing firm each year. International figures are made available as soon the certification is completed.
What principles determine how your contribution is used?
Private donations are essential to our ability to operate independently, and allow MSF to respond at a moment's notice to the most urgent emergencies, often in countries and regions that are otherwise forgotten.
Through our mailings and publications, we keep donors informed of our current activities and the situations we believe are of highest priority, while asking you to provide general support for our activities so that we can allocate your contribution to where the needs are greatest. However, if you decide to designate your contribution to support MSF programs in a particular area, we will honor your choice. Please be aware that MSF uses a portion of all gifts, including those restricted to specific programs, for fundraising and administration costs, always striving to keep these costs to a minimum and allocating at least 85 percent of your donation to our programs.
If we are unable to use a designated contribution in keeping with your wishes (in the case of a program closure, for example, or contributions exceeding needs for a particular program), we will contact you to discuss what you would like us to do with your gift. MSF will never prolong an intervention for the sole purpose of spending allocated funds.
Doctors Without Borders USA, Inc. (MSF-USA) is recognized as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are tax-deductible in the United States (Exempt identification number: 13-3433452). MSF-USA is a member of an international network of private not-for-profit MSF associations. Funds collected by MSF-USA support field programs implemented by its MSF partner organizations, which are headquartered in Europe, and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, of which MSF is a founding member.