Something to Smile About
Shawyer adds, “It’s much more holistic now. We took a really good look at integrating.”
The power of television
One of Operation Smile’s most successful channels has been direct-response TV, which it tested in 2003 and rolled out in 2004.
The DRTV program hinges on 30-minute or one-hour segments featuring Operation Smile spokeswoman Roma Downey, the actress best known for starring in the television show “Touched by an Angel.”
But Downey isn’t the organization’s only star power. Singer Jessica Simpson is its international youth ambassador, and “Access Hollywood” co-anchor Billy Bush is on its international board of governors.
“We’ve seen so many additional benefits to being on TV. We’ve expanded our donor database — our reach and awareness — and the funds we raised,” Shawyer says, adding that the organization’s donor database has grown by 560 percent since it added DRTV to the mix.
Shawyer says DRTV is an important tool, especially for Operation Smile, because the compelling stories of children struggling with facial abnormalities — and the families who struggle right along with them — elicit a lot of emotion. The DRTV medium allows potential donors to witness the incredible transformational power of their donations, Shawyer says.
“Just the stories and voices of the [children] — there is an emotional connection,” she says. “It stays with everybody.
“Donors call daily and want to do extraordinary things to help the cause after hearing these stories,” Shawyer adds.
She explains that the benefits of television far outweigh the costs for Operation Smile.
“TV is much more cost-effective than direct mail,” Shawyer says. “The long-term donor value of television is exceptional. There’s a really careful balance between generating as much revenue [as you can] and looking at the long-term value.”
In addition to the powerful stories and images that are inherent to Operation Smile’s mission, Shawyer attributes much of the organization’s DRTV success to careful attention to call-center training and oversight.
Related story: Operation Smile Facts