Frequently Asked Questions
About the Children
About Fundraising and Volunteering
About Smile Train
6. Why does Smile Train have multiple addresses in the U.S.?
Our physical office is in New York City, New York. We use a mail service in Washington, D.C. where the majority of our donations are received and processed.
8. Is Smile Train a registered charity?
Smile Train is registered with the federal government and with every state in the U.S. where it is required. The Smile Train UK is a registered charity in the UK.
9. What percentage of my donation will go to overhead?
Our goal is to be the most well-managed and cost-efficient charity in the world. To view a percentage breakdown of our total expenses, please visit our "Financials" page.
12. Will I receive a tax receipt for my donation and how long will it take?
If you make your donation online, you will receive a receipt via email immediately after your donation. If you make your donation over the phone or through the mail, as long as you provide an address with your donation, we’ll send you a tax receipt. Tax receipts are generated daily and depending on your location the receipt can take anywhere from 7-10 days from the deposit/processing date to be received. Please call 800.932.9541 if you would like an additional tax receipt.
13. What does the BBB Wise Giving Alliance seal really mean?
The Better Business Bureau seal means that Smile Train meets the strong and comprehensive standards (all 20 of them) of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. It also means that we work to increase donor confidence and strengthen public trust in philanthropy. Lastly, the seal means that Smile Train has addressed accountability and issues like donor privacy and charity.
Please contact Amanda Flowers or call 800.932.9541.
15. Do you accept donations via PayPal?
YES! If you'd like to make a donation using PayPal, please select it as your method of payment on our donation page.
16. What information do I need to include in my will, retirement plan or life insurance policy?
Your attorney or agent will need the following information:
Official Organization Name: Smile Train, Inc.
Address: 41 Madison Ave, 28th Floor, New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212.689.9199, Fax: 212.689.9299
Smile Train is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered with the Federal government and within each State and was incorporated in 1999.
Federal Tax ID #: 13-3661416.
18. Can I become a monthly donor?
You can visit our "Monthly Giving" page, here.
19. How can I update or cancel my monthly donation?
If you started your monthly donation online, you can access your account through our "Service Center" to update or cancel your donation. If you made your monthly donation over the phone or through the mail, please call us at 800.932.9541 and we can make all of the necessary changes..
20. What is face-to-face fundraising?
Smile Train has previously acquired monthly supporters via face-to-face fundraising. We have recruited monthly donors through both door-to-door and street canvassing campaigns. This method of fundraising has proven to be effective in introducing people to our work. We understand that this fundraising technique may raise some questions, and the information below is intended to answer them.
This type of communication allows you to engage one-on-one with a Smile Train fundraiser. A Smile Train fundraising representative will speak to you either on the street or at your door in order to explain more about our work. These representatives will also collect donations via direct debit or credit/debit card. This type of communication allows you to speak directly to a knowledgeable Smile Train fundraising representative about ways to get involved with Smile Train, and will allow you to donate with confidence – knowing that your gift will be put to use to help provide children with new smiles.
Is my information confidential?
Yes, all financial information is confidential. Donating through our face-to-face fundraising program is an effective way to support Smile Train’s mission. Smile Train and our vendors are all compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) regulations for financial data security and meet industry regulations related to face-to-face fundraising.
I donated through the face-to-face fundraising program. How do I make a change to my donation?
Please contact us at our New York headquarters at 212-689-9199 and ask to speak with one of our Donor Engagement Associates. Be sure to mention that you donated either on the street or at your door. You will need to provide your name, address, contact information and donation information.
Who is conducting fundraising on behalf of Smile Train?
Our previous campaign fundraisers have been supplied by Appco Group U.S., Inc, and Public Outreach.
21. How do I apply for a Matching Gift donation?
Visit our "Matching Gifts" page. You can use the search tool to find out if your employer participates in a Matching Program. You can also contact your own HR department to find the rules and related forms required to participate.
22. How do I make a donation in someone’s honor or memory?
Visit our donation form and select "Yes" for the tribute or memorial gift option.
23. Can I donate my car to Smile Train?
For vehicle donations to Smile Train, please look online or in the yellow pages for car donation programs near you. Most of them will accept donations to Smile Train.
24. How do I obtain a copy of your Annual Report or 990?
It’s easy. You can download our Annual Report or 990 from our "Financials" page.
About the Children
26. Can I restrict my gift to a certain country?
In order to provide as many surgeries as quickly as possible, Smile Train suggests that all donations be unrestricted. However; if restricting your gift to a specific country is important to you, please contact us at 800.932.9541 and we will do our best to accommodate your request.
27. Can I restrict my gift to either a boy or a girl?
In order to provide as many surgeries as quickly as possible, Smile Train helps every child that comes to us, regardless of sex. We are unable to restrict donations to a specific gender.
28. Can I receive a picture of the specific child I have helped?
A few months after your donation we will send you a picture and a story of a child we were able to help following your donation. Hopefully you can put this up on your fridge as a happy reminder that there is a child smiling today thanks to you.
29. Can I restrict my donation to help the specific child I saw in your advertisement or direct mail?
All of the children you see in our advertisements have received the surgery they need. We will use your donation to help a child who is desperately poor and who would otherwise never be helped. Your support will have a very dramatic, immediate and permanent impact on a life.
30. Can I get the contact information for a child I saw in one of your marketing materials?
Smile Train does not release contact information for the children that we help to maintain their privacy and uphold their patient confidentiality.
31. Why doesn’t Smile Train show after surgery photos in ads?
We test the results of all our advertising and our research and analysis demonstrates that advertisements that include only before photos significantly increases the amount of money we raise to help these children.
About Fundraising and Volunteering
32. Does Smile Train need volunteers?
We would love to involve you as a volunteer so you can hold a special fundraiser for us. We will send you a fundraising kit and give you advice and tips along the way. Whether it is sending an email to all your friends, introducing us to your employer or clients, or hosting a fundraiser, any and all help you can give us is greatly appreciated. To request a fundraising kit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
33. Can I create a personal fundraising page through the Smile Train website?
Completely customizable fundraising pages are hosted on our website. You can upload pictures, descriptions of your fundraiser, see who donated to your fundraiser, post comments and updates, set up a personalized URL to link to your blog or Social Networking web site. To create your customizable online fundraising page, visit our "Community Fundraising" page here, and you will be guided through the process.
About Smile Train
35. What is the mission of Smile Train?
You can read Smile Train's mission, here.
36. When was Smile Train started?
Smile Train was founded in 1999. Since then, Smile Train has grown into the world’s leading cleft charity, helping hundreds of thousands of desperately poor children with cleft, training thousands of medical professionals and establishing hundreds of programs in the world’s poorest countries.
37. Why does Smile Train have such a large cash reserve?
For our most recent Fiscal Year, our combined operating expenses were $133,716,600. Our total net assets (reserves) were $134,601,638. Of that, $128,390,810 was in interest bearing investments.
The reserve is in place so that if we are unable to maintain our fundraising efforts at present levels, we would still be able to fund our programs for one year. When our partners in the field sign-up each year they assume funding for the entire year. In essence, the Smile Train model is dependent on the steady flow of funds to our 1,100 partners.
We run Smile Train like a business and, like any business, it is recommended that you have a “reserve” for when times get tough. Our board closely monitors our cash reserve and we make certain to never “stock pile” your generous donations. As a matter of fact, in order to qualify for the BBB Wise Giving Alliance a charity may NOT have more than three years of operating expenses in reserve. Smile Train has enough in reserve to keep our programs running for one year and meets all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability which assesses our organization’s finances, governance and oversight.
38. Is Smile Train different from other cleft organizations?
Instead of focusing on sending teams of American doctors and nurses on medical missions, Smile Train empowers local doctors, nurses and hospitals to solve the problem themselves. This unique approach not only reduces the cost-per-surgery, but also is a far safer, faster, smarter and more productive way to help children in developing countries. Dollar-for-dollar we help ten times more children than mission groups and we do it every day of the year. By providing free equipment, free education and training and on-going financial support, Smile Train is helping very poor, but very proud communities become self-sufficient one smile at a time.
39. What is Smile Train’s name exchange policy?
From time to time, Smile Train exchanges donor names with other reputable charities. If you do not wish to receive these mailings, or if you would like to change the frequency or types of communications you receive from us, simply write to us at: Smile Train, PO Box 96231, Washington, DC 20090-6231 or email us at: email@example.com.
40. What is a cleft?
A cleft is a birth defect and often the #1 birth defect in most developing countries. A cleft lip is an opening in the upper lip between a newborn’s mouth and nose. A cleft palate is created when the roof of the mouth has a hole in it. Babies can be born with a cleft lip or palate or both.
41. Do only developing countries have a problem with cleft?
Babies are born with clefts everywhere in the world including the U.S., but you seldom see unrepaired clefts in the U.S. and Europe because they are repaired soon after birth. Clefts are usually NOT repaired in developing countries because most of the families are too poor to afford surgery and the government will not provide free surgery.
42. Why does Smile Train focus on clefts?
Instead of doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, like many charities, Smile Train decided to choose one specific problem that affects children and try to solve it.
We chose clefts because:
- By focusing on clefts, we can be much more effective and productive - we work with many cleft surgeons, hospitals, charities, research programs and educational institutions around the world.
- Clefts are a significant problem affecting the lives of millions of very poor children.
- The cure for clefts has already been found: a simple surgery that can cost as little as $250 and can take as little as 45 minutes.
- The impact of cleft surgery is dramatic, immediate and permanent! This is one of the best low-cost, high impact interventions in the world - a true modern day medical miracle that changes a child’s life forever
- We know where every child with an unrepaired cleft is living and how to help him or her.
- Once a cleft is repaired, it never comes back!
43. Where does Smile Train work?
Smile Train works in the poorest countries in the world. View a list of our worldwide medical partners and programs.
44. How can I find help for a child born with a cleft in another country?
It’s easy. Our Smile Train partners and programs are listed here. You can find the partner nearest the child and contact them directly or you can contact our Programs Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
45. Does Smile Train help children with clefts in America?
Yes. Every year, more than 5,000 babies are born with clefts in the U.S. Smile Train helps American children with clefts through training and education for cleft surgeons, providing grants for accredited cleft teams throughout the country and providing a broad range of support for patients and their families.
46. How do I find help for a child born in the U.S.?
Virtually all children in the U.S. are covered by insurance and/or some form of government program like Medicaid. Your local, accredited craniofacial/cleft team (we list them on our Medical Resources page) can help you figure out not only what treatment is needed but also how to cover the cost of it.
47. How can I find a qualified cleft surgeon in the U.S.?
Our Medical Resources page has the names and contact information for every accredited cleft team in America, PLUS we have thousands of pages of invaluable articles, medical information, resources and links for cleft patients and their families.
48. What is Smile Train doing to prevent clefts?
Many of the experts in the cleft world are actively investigating etiology and prevention of cleft. We support their work and hope one day they will find a solution. For now, we know that cleft lip and palate is primarily a genetic condition which is compounded by poor nutrition, lack of prenatal care and environmental factors. Smile Train promotes public awareness and advises all pregnant mothers to take folic acid to help prevent birth defects. The link to folic acid and cleft has not been directly established, but, we hope it will help in some cases. Currently, the best and only “cure for cleft” is simple surgery - costing as little as $250 and taking as little as 45 minutes.
49. How does Smile Train keep track of the surgeries that are performed?
We use all kinds of proprietary technology to save money and do things faster, cheaper and smarter. Instead of mailing patient charts all over the world we built a digital patient database called Smile Train Express that’s on the Web. Our partners upload all of their patient records to us via the Web, which not only saves millions in shipping, handling and storage costs, but also allows us to review and monitor the quality of their work.
50. What follow-up services does Smile Train provide?
When Smile Train was founded we were only able to offer the initial surgery, but as we have expanded and our resources have grown, we are very happy to be able to provide not only free follow-up surgeries, but also speech therapy at a number of our partner hospitals as well as orthodontics programs. As the children get older, they sometimes need follow-up surgery as their bodies and mouths develop and therefore we do provide free surgery for the children that have already been through our programs.
I have more questions, what should I do?
Please contact us!
We would be happy to answer your questions!
PO Box 96208
Washington, DC 20090-6208