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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Smile Train, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Birth Defects & Genetic Diseases, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Health, International, International Development

Mission: Smile Train is an international children’s charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate. Many children with clefts around the world live in isolation, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing, hearing, and speaking. Cleft repair surgery is safe, and the transformation is immediate. Our sustainable model provides training, funding, and resources to empower local medical professionals in 85+ countries to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own communities. We use the “teach a man to fish” model focusing on training local medical professionals to perform cleft repairs in their communities. Those medical professionals then go on to train others creating a long-term, sustainable system. Patients see their forever smile for the first time, parents cry tears of joy, lives and communities are changed forever. As a result of our efficiency and with the support of our donors and partners around the world, Smile Train has transformed the lives of more than one million children by giving them the power of a smile. Join us and change the world one smile at a time.

Results: Since its beginning in 1999 Smile Train has provided more than 1,000,000 free surgeries for children who would otherwise never have received it.

Target demographics: children living with cleft lips and palates

Direct beneficiaries per year: one child received cleft surgery every five minutes.

Geographic areas served: 90+ of the countries around the world

Programs: Children born with clefts need more than just surgery. They may also need dental care, orthodontic treatment, and speech therapy. Where these services are available, we do everything we can to make them available to our patients. While our cost per cleft surgery varies across the 85+ different countries we have worked in, our contribution per surgery is as low as $250. This amount reflects the contribution per surgery that we provide our partner hospitals. They also cover a significant portion of each surgery as part of our cost-sharing agreement. Most children who are born with a cleft lip and/or palate develop normal speech once their palate is closed, but a significant amount will need further surgery or speech therapy. Communication problems that are addressed include language delay, articulation problems, and hypernasality. In the developed world, cleft repair is typically provided by multidisciplinary cleft/craniofacial teams comprised of professionals from a variety of healthcare backgrounds including surgeons and orthodontists who work on the child’s total rehabilitation. Smile Train provides vital dental and orthodontic treatment in countries where they are available. Smile Train provides essential free training and education to cleft surgeons and related medical professionals around the world. Since 1999, we have provided more than 66,000 free scholarships, surgical training resources, workshops, and symposiums for doctors and medical professionals from 140+ countries. Smile Train provides financial support that has been used for a wide range of applications, including new operating rooms, cleft surgical instruments and supplies like scalpels and sutures, crucial safety equipment like pulse oximeters, and much more. All of these investments make not only a significant number of incremental cleft surgeries possible, but also make these surgeries safer and of higher quality. Smile Train has played an integral role in developing some of the most cutting-edge advances in cleft care, including the award-winning Virtual Surgery Simulator, which makes complex cleft surgical techniques seem simple to understand, and our Speech Therapy App, which helps children gain confidence in their verbal abilities in their own language. Smile Train's Medical Advisory Board (MAB) is comprised of the best and brightest cleft experts in the world, from maxillofacial surgeons to anesthesiologists to speech pathologists. The MAB compiles information for Smile Train to disseminate in an effort to raise awareness and change public attitudes about clefts. Smile Train is active in launching patient outreach campaigns in an effort to reach patients even in the most remote of areas. These include radio advertisements and programs, fliers, print advertising in local newspapers (with pictures so that even people who are unable to read can be reached), collaborations with other organizations for patient referrals, SMS/text message alerts, and much more. Some of our patients are so malnourished they are not healthy enough to receive cleft surgery. In these cases, they are provided with food for one to two weeks before surgery. We also have patients that are so poor they have no money to get home after surgery. We have special programs that give small stipends to the poorest of the poor that allows them to receive their cleft treatments.

Community Stories

373 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experiences witnessing the barriers to dental care motivated me to become involved with the organization Smile Train. I have fundraised for treatment for children with clefts and provided literacy to the community about cleft conditions. My involvement with this organization not only fulfilled me deeply, but also gave me a background in oral and maxillofacial terminology while also improving my communication and teamwork skills. This experience will inevitably prepare me for a career as a dentist and help me reduce health-care disparities.

Sade L.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the pleasure of working with the Smile Train for over 1 year and absolutely adore this organization. All the staff and volunteers are very professional and passionate about providing cleft care to children all over the world.

Donor

Rating: 5

The Smile Train staff are very compassionate and make it clear that donations are making a difference in the lives of children.

Ava Lerner W.

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train, Inc. has long been one of my favorite nonprofits to support. Their work is absolutely guaranteed to bring smiles. I appreciate the frequency of their arranged "matching" grants so that I know my contribution can offer as much as possible.
The surgeries they provide to children all over the world have so many levels of impact, physical and emotional. A cleft pallet can affect the nutritional status of a child, their self a worth and self-confidence, and their speech abilities. What a tremendous boon to each child and their family and community this change offers. Please keep Smile Train in your heart and give what and when you can. It truly will make a miraculous difference in the world.

Donor

Rating: 5

I’m consistently impressed by the resources put out by smile train, as well as the dedication of the staff. Much of the team has been around for over a decade which speaks volumes to the culture.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Smile Train does the most amazing work to treat clefts and engage with people around the world. There are so many opportunities for people of all ages to get involved and make a difference!!

Asha N.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From my visits to three partner hospitals in India this year (as part of my induction as a volunteer), I saw first-hand the excellent work undertaken by highly qualified and dedicated Smile Train care professionals. The cleft care pathway was tailored for every child spanning several years and including a total package of surgical, orthodontic, nutritional, speech therapy and care in the community support.
There were good quality control systems and effective checks and balances to ensure high quality results and effective use of resources.

Donor

Rating: 5

I first starting volunteering for Smile Train when I was in High School 16 years ago. I've supported them over the years with donations. I've now gone a step further and am fundraising for them. They are really well run organization who makes great use of the donations for an amazing cause.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Since my son was born with cleft lip and palate I started to following Smile Train. I had the chance to involved through my son´s surgeon here in Ecuador with Hospital del Dia Niños de la Mano de María from where I can have the opportunity to meet lot´s of mothers who suffered what I did years ago. All the experience I have reached from ST I am able to share with families that need help and support. At ST kids can have support before they are born, at ST you can have support on feeding, nutritions, all the needed surgeries, orthdontichs, speech therapy, etc. Throughout the years and after al the support you receive fron ST is more than your own family.

Noga Peled R.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Smile Train is an amazing organization that is so committed to its cause. The team managers are amazing at helping you with your fundraising efforts and it always feels good to make a difference. This organization makes a HUGE difference!

Donor

Rating: 5

Amazing organization doing amazing work! Cant say enough great things about SmileTrain, it's people, and the work they do.

Donor

Rating: 5

I’ve seen firsthand how Smile Train changes the lives of not only its patients but their families and their communities. Keep up the great work!

6

Donor

Rating: 1

We gave $60,000 over 12 years. That means 240 pallets fixed! I think of what that meant to the Moms. That is my emotional connection.

But something changed when they separated from the founder. I don't know. They lost track of me. I called and talked to a "head guy" who said he would fix. Nothing. So this year instead of a gift I sadly mailed back a special credit card sized card that showed pallets we fixed. I cherished that card, but they cut off our relationship. And even with the card back, no response from them. Very sad.

DR

14

Donor

Rating: 3

I love the work they do. I have contributed for several years.
They do not publish an IRS 990 form with useful information. The salaries of management are not even listed.
I'd like a simple summary of (%) of donations used for programs. ($programs/$donations).
They seem to make it too hard do discover. Are they hiding something?
You can check the 990T at:
https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/133661416_201806_990T_2019061016396533.pdf
ST is a terrific charity. I don't know about the organization.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

I've been donating to Smile Train for a couple of years, and have visited some of the hospitals they support in Mexico and Central America. I must say it is an amazing job they do, they have created a Cleft Community: doctors, patients, families, donors and staff, they are all a big family changing the lives of the children, their families and their entire communities.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

There are many charities doing amazing work in the world, but I believe this to be one of the best.
I want to encourage any size donation no matter if its a $1 to a million whatever you can afford, this group will make the most of they money they are given.
But if you can donate $250 you have forever changed a life, more than just a meal or clothes, its lifetime of effects, its social acceptance, for friends, school, work opportunities. Also its about thriving, some of those children can feed properly and if every calorie counts this can be the difference between life or death.
There is no single gift of that amount that impacts a life long change in another human in all aspects of their life from how they feel to how they are treated, and the ability to live a normal life.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

Nothing feels better that you are able to put a smile on someone's face.

6

Donor

Rating: 5

This is a life-changing organization that gives the gift of a smile and social peace to every child it serves. It restores them as important members of their community and builds confidence to live with joy and enthusiasm. The doctors and medical staff that provide this care are brave, competent and selfless. The peace that these surgeries create is felt by all humanity. Smile Train is a fiscally responsible and transparent non-profit. Their website is user-friendly and it makes it easy to update information in seconds. I love this uplifting organization, the children they serve and the opportunity to give the gift of smiles of joy. Cheers to a lives of happiness and connection!

5

Donor

Rating: 5

"When you have done for one of these, you have done it on to Me" Smile Train might be secular but they make an impact on the lives of children that we will only know the true magnitude when we meet the Lord face to face. I can't imagine having a child with this condition and not been able to provide the means to change his/her life for the better. What a blessing is to live in the US. What a Blessing is to have organizations such as Smile a Train that have a commitment to do what ever is possible to give a helping hand and change a life for the better. May God Bless them always as they continue their work.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is an incredible organization having helped provide over a million cleft surgeries to those in need. After seeing how their work can change a child’s life, it is impossible not to get involved. I have had the privilege of meeting some of their staff and their passion and dedication is infectious.

3 Ryan S.6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Smile train does so many nice things for people that would otherwise go untreated. The treatment they facilitate changes lives.

3 Chickie80

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train has literally transformed the lives of children the world over. It is because of Smile Train’s incredible work, my husband and I are proud to be members of the ‘Frequent Smiler’ program. There is no sweeter sight than the beautiful smiles on the faces of children; especially those who have been touched by the work and dedication of the doctors and medical teams of Smile Train. Since 1999, Smile Train has supported more than one million cleft surgeries. Translation: Over one million smiles of children the world over!

4 Phillip J.1

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is one of the only not for profits that I've found which truly changes the life of the person helped - Donations are put to use in programs and you can see the end result so quickly, at least the smile! The long term effects have been proven to have very high and positive global economic impact, and that will surely only continue to grow! Definitely recommend supporting this charity.

3 Meredith P.1

Donor

Rating: 5

I am blown away by the work that Smile Train does. As a Registered Dietitian, it warms my heart to know that the free health care and surgeries that they provide allow children to properly nourish themselves through eating. That to me is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a child and that's what Smile Train does every single day.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The work that this great organization does around the globe warms my heart. Being able to give a child not only a smile, but to give them confidence is something that lasts a lifetime.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

The pictures tell the story- when you see the faces of the boys and girls with their new smiles - you feel good that you were able to help.

1 Tom M.5

Donor

Rating: 5

Great Charity that do important work, helping kids with Cleft palate . I've donated a few times (one off donations) and they've never nagged me or solicited for more donations, unlike other charities I've donated to in the past.

Smile Train get an A+ from me!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is doing great work for kids who are born with cleft palate. I recently came to know that one of dry wall guys who are working on our new home in India, has son born with cleft palate and he is 9 month old now. My dad told me about it, so I recommend that ask them to contact the Smile Train affiliate doctor in near town. With all my surprises, my dad told me that they already got in touch and the operation is scheduled later this month, and everything will be paid by Smile Train. I was very happy that someone like Smile Train is out there to make sure every child has a Smile on his/her face and making sure that poverty cannot be a reason for it.

Great work Smile Train and please keep doing it.

Donor

Rating: 1

I was told I would get an email notification after my first donation asking me to opt into monthly donations. I never got that email but they took my money monthly. This is a poor business practice.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

Quite simply I think this one of the very best charities that a person can support. I can think of no other where you get so much satisfaction for your investment. The difference that these surgeries make in these peoples lives is beyond my comprehension.

3 tflood1431

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

Deadbeat organization with past due bills of over two years. Keep demanding unnecessary documents to delay paying the past due bill. Over $30,000 owed . Shameful behavior.

Review from Guidestar

Previous Stories
7

Volunteer

Rating: 2

Smile Train has past due bills that are 2 years past due!!!

Review from Guidestar

6 Ellyn H.

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is the largest sustainable children's cleft charity in the world. Smile Train permanently transforms the lives of poor children born with cleft in 85+ countries worldwide and I have witnessed their work first-hand in Mexico and Argentina. Smile Train is the real deal!

5 Lloyd N.

Donor

Rating: 5

This one of a handful of charities that I support. I have donated to them repeatedly. The work they they perform seems unmatched.

Previous Stories
5

Donor

Rating: 5

We have been a donor for many years. They perform a service that is second to none.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

The very day I was led, by our Lord, Jesus, to support Smile Train, I saw a little girl that had undergone numerous surgeries for a cleft lip. Her parents had insurance but this still did not relieve all the expense of travel, loss of work, and emotional stress for all. Surgeries have given this little girl a beautiful smile that shines beyond all costs. That same day I saw a "Smile Train" semi-truck with a large portrait of beautiful smiling children, it could not be any clearer what is dearest to our Lord's heart & now mine, Children Smiling!!! :)

Previous Stories
7

Donor

Rating: 5

No greater way to give than to sow a smile into a child's life!

5 Jenna S.6

Donor

Rating: 5

SMILE TRAIN IS AN AMAZING ORGANIZATION WHO HAS HELPED OVER ONE MILLION CHILDREN /ADULTS ACROSS THE GLOBE GET ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTHCARE. THEY ARE A DEDICATED GROUP OF PEOPLE WITH HEARTS OF GOLD.

7 gfrankone

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train, Inc. has been my charity of choice for many years now. I picked them as my smile.amazon.com recipient of 1% of whatever I spend on purchases. I have asked them to provide me with a supply of their very motivational and inspiring video and I give these away wherever I can. It is so amazing to me that for something like $250 I can literally give one person a new life. Where can you find a charitable gift like that! It's a real bargain.

Previous Stories
6

Donor

Rating: 5

I have contributed to this charity since the first story I read describing their free surgical cleft repair efforts, over five years ago now. I watched their video and was very moved by it, made all my friends watch it, etc. I am a Monthly Donor and named them as my charity on smile.amazon.com. What a coincidence, Amazon's use of the word "smile" --but I promote Smile Train wherever I can. I am proud to say that it is my favorite. Where else can a $20/month donation actually give one person a whole, new life? For, in parts of the world where having a cleft damns a child, a Smile Train trained local doctor can undo the fear, pain and isolation in less than an hour --thanks to me!

6

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train does something no ordinary charity can. It raises a child's self worth. It makes an outcast child an acceptable member of the community. It thereby creates another possible creator of a cancer vaccine, or genius engineer, or philanthropic leader. The possibilities of a recipient of cleft pallet repair are innumerable.

Previous Stories
4

Donor

Rating: 5

5 ⭐ because nearly 100% of my donation is used for surgeries. I have personal knowledge of the stigma that comes with a facial imperfection.
I know that Smile Train CHANGES LIVES.

8 sioux4u

Donor

Rating: 5

There is a history of congenital cleft lip in my family and my affected relatives have been fortunate to live in a place where their clefts were corrected at birth. This organization makes it possible for people around the world in less fortunate circumstances to have the same life changing corrective surgery and they do it at no cost to the recipients and with almost nothing that is donated going for administrative costs. It is an amazing organization and I intend to continue my monetary contributions now and into the future. I hope you will consider supporting them as well.

Previous Stories
2

Donor

Rating: 5

It has been great to contribute to a charity that does so much good for children around the world. One of the big selling points is that 100% of donated money goes to fulfill the mission of repairing clefts in local communities using local doctors, making it possible for so many children who were previously outcasts to lead normal lives .

8

Donor

Rating: 5

Every time we give to Smile Train, we help restore a child’s face. And, that’s a very good feeling; we donate monthly.

Previous Stories
9

Donor

Rating: 5

We donate for a selfish reason: My wife and I feel great every time we donate on a continuing basis and for a one-time special occasion, knowing that we made a difference in a child's life. It's a very gratifying experience.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Charity will not stop sending donations requests. Repeated requests have been ignored. Multiple requests a week for person who has been dead for five years and for another person who is in a rest home. Pure harassment to continually be bombarded with unwanted donation requests

5

Donor

Rating: 1

According to Give.org, this charity sends out misleading information about the percentage of revenue used for their actual medical practice compared to payments to staff. They also hound you with solicitations, as is also mentioned in the Give.org report. I gave to them a few times in the past and then asked to be taken off their mailing list when I got phone calls and mailers hounding me for donations several days in a row. The solicitations stopped for a while until I got this email request AND another mailer on the same day.



4

Donor

Rating: 1

I started making donations to Smile Train in response to mail solicitation. Within a short period of time I started receiving an unending stream of telephone solicitations on Smile Trains behalf from something called "Donor Services Group". Multiple requests to them to cease phone solicitations went unheeded. Smile Train has received its last donation from me.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

Excellent organization does a fantastic job helping poor children around the world.

3

Donor

Rating: 5

This charity is wonderful. It changes the life path of these children. Before the surgery, they are likely to live miserable lives , being ostracized by society, having low self esteem, and filled with self-loathing. After the surgery, the trajectory of their lives changes dramatically. They will fit in with society. They are more likely to have higher self esteem., and the sky is the limit for what they can accomplish. I can't think of any other charity that can have such a marked and positive effect on children' lives. It's incredible!

5

Donor

Rating: 5

Love this charity. My wife and I have donoted to Smile Train for over 5 years.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

This is a phenomenal organization! Their work is far reaching and helps children to go on to have normal, productive lives. Their site is easy to navigate of you plan to donate online. They have a lovely DVD about a little girl, Pinkie, who has greatly benefited from their tremendous work. This DVD can be used as a fundraiser for your organization to inspire others, as I did with my 3rd grade class. We smiled when we could help other children to finally SMILE!

3

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been donating to Smile Train every year for many years. A smile means everything to a child and with this wondrous surgery, this is a gift of enduring value.

6 Simon M.1

Donor

Rating: 5

While in the Military I saw first hand how this organization makes an immediate and life changing impact on a child's life. It made me an instant supporter.

6 Kevin D.1

Donor

Rating: 5

Growing up in the privileged US, I saw a friend of mine with a cleft palate be teased for his appearance. In these countries where Smile Train does their great work, these children are too often shunned by society for a physical abnormality. Our donations give these beautiful children a shot at life. I love this charity and their good works.

6 JP C.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have known Susannah for over 35 years, she is a great person and does a tremendous job for the kids helped by Smile Train.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great charity to help kids. I am glad to donate to help these children. Will one day get rid of impoverishment and its inability to heal and foster goodness.

Wickedness is a problem that we can all take care of by 1 thinking better thoughts and 2 helping others.

3 Ashley G.1

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is a fantastic organization that aids children from all around the world! I donate whenever I am financially able. Smile Train is great about sending a before/after picture of a child who has been helped through donations. I love keeping these. The photos inspire me to give more and to pray for the children featured in each letter. Smile Train is a great organization which provides free surgeries for children with clefts. If you are looking for an organization to donate to, I would highly recommend this one!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 3

This is simply a wonderful organization that provides life-affirming medical care.

6

Donor

Rating: 5

I watched a video of someone different and my Dad told me about Smile Train and I loved it.

Thank you for helping people that are different.

Love, Ari

2

Donor

Rating: 5

Smile Train is so easy to use, and despite the fact that I rarely see Smile Train advertising, I am always drawn back to it. Good luck!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I've been doing this for a while because a friend's child was born with a cleft palate. What I like about Smile Train is that I know exactly what my gift is doing. It's a simple thing, but it changes, perhaps even saves, a child's life. It's something that here in Australia, we take for granted - that any child born with a cleft palate will have the necessary corrective surgery. This is not the case in many parts of the world. If my gift can make a difference to child's life, to that child's family, then I've actually done something worthwhile. I will never meet these kids. They will never know who gave money to help them. And that's a good thing, because the message sent is that we don't have to know you to care about you. All we have to know is that they need a little help. I don't care what colour these children are, nor do I care how they worship their God, or if they worship at all. I care that they are given a chance to have a decent life and know that people they will never know cared enough to help.

3 Robert S.3

Donor

Rating: 5

Great organization that helps a lot of people in need

1 Natalie Nimick V.

Donor

Rating: 5

Our true purpose on earth is to love and help one another. Thank you for giving your time, talent, and money to forever forward change the lives of others in such a positive way. May good in the world spread like wildfire that never ends

2

Donor

Rating: 5

Every Christmas my family buys a smile for someone child in the world. We have been doing it for so many years my children look for the card on our Christmas tree every Christmas morning!

1

Donor

Rating: 4

Great sign-up page on the website. Easy to sign up and contribute. Happy to help!

1 paschkem79

Donor

Rating: 5

We have given a smile every year for Christmas in our Aunts' and Uncles' honor. It's amazing to receive the picture of the child whose life was changed. My own kids get excited to see that sweet smile.

Previous Stories
1

Donor

Rating: 5

We love the personal connection of this organization. Every year we give to Smile Train in honor of our relatives at the Holidays. My kids just LOVE seeing the picture(s) of the children that our donations have helped. They now choose Smile Train regularly when asked where they'd like to donate money on their birthdays or from other earnings.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

A great nonprofit charity to help kids around the world feel confident with their smile.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Doing GREAT work for so many less fortunate children around the world!!

1 Debbie B.1

Donor

Rating: 5

Do wonderful work and help hundreds of children with a terrible problem that is not often talked about

1

Donor

Rating: 5

"it is through people like this and acts of charity, that hope and the love of God in good and generous people shines in this world", God Bless!.