Cover Story: Prospecting for Smiles
After all, children are still born with deformities that can be fixed in "as little as 45 minutes" and for "as little as $250 in the developing world." (The surgeries Smile Train provides are free to the children and their families.)
While Smile Train's work is far from finished—that wish of Ma's that cleft be as invisible worldwide as it is in the U.S. sure wasn't true for Smile Train's 750,000th surgery recipient, Jhoanna Galut of the Philippines who, at 6, was far from 3 months old at the time of her 2012 surgery—donations are definitely growing to help come closer to the goal.
In fiscal year 2009, Smile Train's fundraising efforts brought in $91.5 million in gross contributions. By fiscal year 2010, gross contributions had risen to $121.6 million and, when the prospect database entered the picture, that helped fiscal year 2011's fundraising surpass $126 million.
"When you're saving money, it allows you to devote it other places and grow more," Littlefield says. "It's a very forward way of looking at acquisition programs and Priscilla has really been a trailblazer in the nonprofit sector in this space, and it's growing much faster than the other charities that are in the industry right now."
The faster the charity grows, perhaps the faster it can provide surgeries.
Galut's new smile was announced on May 18 and, as of July 10, Smile Train had already performed another 26,286 surgeries, according to the ticker on its website.
"[Our goal is] addressing the backlog, so there's no more backlog in children and adults having cleft," Ma says, and to be "able to keep up with every newborn around the world that's born with cleft. Providing them with safe and timely surgery."
If that goal is fulfilled and the problem goes away, one can easily imagine the smile that would bring to Ma's face.