Frequently Asked Questions

About Smile Train

  1. Here at Smile Train, we use an effective business model that allows us to provide a full surgery for a child at a minimal $250 cost. By focusing on partnering with local hospitals and empowering doctors within those respective communities, we can offer free training and better supplies at an extremely low overhead cost. Our method helps build the relationships between doctor and patient, allowing for follow-up care and a full recovery. When a cleft team is only available in a certain location, for a certain period of time, there are only so many people that they can help. All too often, poor families travel to the cleft site and are not helped because supplies or time has run out. Establishing a permanent program in a local hospital, like we do here, allows every person to get the help they need.

  2. Smile Train was founded in 1999. Since then, Smile Train has grown into the world’s leading cleft charity, helping more than 1,000,000 desperately poor children with clefts, training thousands of medical professionals and establishing hundreds of programs in the world’s poorest countries.

About Donating

  1. It’s easy. You can download our Annual Report or 990 from our "Financials" page.

  2. You can visit our "Monthly Giving" page here.

  3. YES! If you'd like to make a donation using PayPal, please select it as your method of payment on our donation page.

  4. For vehicle donations to Smile Train, please visit Donating​ Is Easy.

  5. Visit our donation form and select "Yes" for the tribute or memorial gift option.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Smile Train routinely utilizes face-to-face fundraising to acquire monthly supporters. 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.

    Smile Train is currently conducting both door-to-door and street canvassing campaigns in a few cities throughout the U.S.  You may find certified fundraisers around the streets of Washington D.C. or Miami, Florida. We are also operating retail fundraising booths at Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas and Greenwood Park Mall outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.  The fundraisers are qualified professionals who complete a comprehensive interview process and are trained in Smile Train’s work.

    This face-to-face communication allows you to engage one-on-one with a Smile Train fundraiser. A Smile Train fundraising representative will speak to you on the street, at your door, or at designated retail booths in order to explain more about our work. These representatives will also collect donations via credit or 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 efforts. 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 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, at your door, or at a retail booth. You will need to provide your name, address, contact information and donation information.

  10. Please call us at 800.932.9541.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. US Tax ID #: 13-3661416
    UK registered charity #: 1114748.

  15. We are a 501 (c) (3) charity and 100% of all donations to Smile Train are tax deductible in accordance with the IRS regulations.

  16. Smile Train is registered with the federal government and with every state in the US where it is required. The Smile Train UK is a registered charity in the UK.

  17. 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.

  18. Our World Headquarters is located at 41 Madison Avenue, 28th Floor, New York, NY 10010.

  19. Smile Train, PO Box 96231, Washington, DC 20090-6231

  20. Checks or money orders should be made out to Smile Train.

  21. We are grateful for all donations, no matter what amount and we promise to use them to help the world’s poorest children.

  22. We always welcome visitors to our New York office. If you will be in the NY area and would like to stop by, simply notify us in advance by calling 800.932.9541.

  23. For as little as $250 you can provide free surgery that will change a child’s life forever.

About Fundraising and Volunteering

  1. Yes! We're on most popular social networking sites, such as:

    Please "Like" us on Facebook, and you can mention us in tweets by typing @SmileTrain.


  2. 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.

  3. 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 [email protected].


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 there are many factors, including genetics, family history, environment and nutrition which may increase or decrease the likelihood of cleft lip/palate. A few studies have found a potential link between folic acid and cleft lip and/or palate, whereas others have found no correlation. What we do know is that folic acid plays a critical role in embryonic development, before and after conception. Clefts develop very early in the first trimester, and many women may not even know they are pregnant when the cleft is formed, making early intervention difficult. While Smile Train does not have a folic acid distribution program, we work to raise awareness about cleft and treat cleft through surgery and ancillary treatment such as speech therapy and orthodontic treatment.

  4. Smile Train was established as an internationally-focused (as opposed to domestic) organization, and while we have provided funding for US cleft programs, our focus is on supporting programs in underdeveloped countries. While we do not currently have any direct programs in the United States, we do have several US partner centers and clinics, each of which have received grants from us.

About Clefts

  1. 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
    • Once a cleft is repaired, it never comes back!
  2. Babies are born with clefts everywhere in the world including the US, but you seldom see untreated clefts in the US and Europe because they are treated soon after birth. Clefts are usually NOT treated in developing countries because most of the families are too poor to afford surgery and the government will not provide free surgery.

  3. 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.

About the Children

  1. 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.

  2. Smile Train does not release contact information for the children that we help to maintain their privacy and uphold their patient confidentiality.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 display the picture in your home as a happy reminder that there is a child smiling today thanks to you.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.