Something to Smile About
Forty-five minutes and $240 can change a child’s life forever.
That’s about how long it takes and how much it costs for Operation Smile to fix one child’s cleft lip.
The organization has been fixing smiles and changing lives for more than 25 years.
The worldwide medical charity, based in Norfolk, Va., has been providing free surgery to children in developing countries who were born with facial deformities since it was founded by Dr. William P. Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen, a nurse and clinical social worker, in 1982.
With the help of a crew of volunteer doctors and the generosity of donors, the couple has treated more than 120,000 children and young adults around the world.
Operation Smile knows none of that would be possible without the generosity of donors. And it knows what it takes to engage those donors — to the tune of $57.1 million in contributed income in fiscal year 2008.
In August, Operation Smile was named the winner of the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation’s 2008 Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award, which is bestowed to nonprofits for excellence in direct-response fundraising.
Though the DMANF recognized Operation Smile for its direct-marketing skills, the organization’s fundraising strategy includes much more. Over the years, Operation Smile has built its strategy around direct mail, DRTV, cause marketing, online marketing and a presence on social-networking sites.
Those initiatives — along with good communication, hard work and a push to integrate — have helped Operation Smile earn something of a fundraising powerhouse status.
“Over the past few years, we have found the answer to be integration — and having a consistent message across every channel,” says Kyla Shawyer, the organization’s senior vice president of response marketing and development.
Jann Schultz, Operation Smile’s director of donor relations, says the organization has come a long way, adding, “There was a point when you didn’t know we offered payment by credit card, and [our direct mail] didn’t reference the Web.”
Related story: Operation Smile Facts