Operation Smile

Operation Smile Improves Donor Retention 25 Percent and Donor Reactivation 71 Percent with Help from Target Analytics®

Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., is a worldwide children’s medical charity whose network of global volunteers is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children and young adults. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has treated more than 160,000 children born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. Today the organization has a presence in more than 60 countries. In addition to contributing free medical treatment, Operation Smile trains local medical professionals in its partner countries and donates crucial equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency.


In spring 2008, Operation Smile was awarded Nonprofit of the Year by the Direct Marketing Association. With this honour, Operation Smile wanted to see how its operations stacked up against other international relief organizations. The decision to join like organizations in industry benchmarking conducted by Target Analytics® was easy.

In its first meeting with Target Analytics, Operation Smile was provided valuable information, which was dissected from its own database, that would eventually lead to a shift in strategy. This analysis enabled Operation Smile to see how it compared to peer organizations and better determine its overall effectiveness.

“I actually expected us to do much better than we did,” said Jann Schultz, director of donor relations for Operation Smile. “We were able to clearly identify gaps in our strategy.”

Additionally, the organization had never done a true donor analysis. For years, poorly maintained data had prohibited Operation Smile from embarking on such a project. After a data quality initiative focused on cleaning up its data, Operation Smile was ready to gather a deeper understanding of its donors, how they gave, and begin work to improve its donor retention.


DonorCentrics’ benchmarking solutions provided Operation Smile with an assessment and full analysis of its donor pool along with data compiled from peer organizations. After a thorough review of the data, Operation Smile discovered that other nonprofits were effectively using telemarketing in their donor retention and reactivation programs. With the need to boost its donor retention and lapsed donor numbers, the organization began to include telemarketing as an additional tactic in its donor engagement, retention and reactivation strategy.


Operation Smile tested this theory by first incorporating a telemarketing component into its lapsed donor program. In fiscal year 2010, after incorporating telemarketing, the retention rate for new donors improved 25.8 percent. This resulted in a 24.2 percent increase in revenue from these donors.

Additionally, from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2010, donor reactivation rate improved 71 percent.

Over the two years since utilizing Target Analytics’ donorCentrics benchmarking solutions and analysis, Operation Smile has:

  • Increased recapture of 1-5 year lapsed donors by 40 percent.
  • Increased recapture of lapsed donors of six years or more by 260 percent.

“Using the data and in conversations with the Target Analytics team, I was able to identify gaps and discover opportunities for Operation Smile. The results have been astounding! We are going to continue to look for ways to improve. The data from these analyses is the key leading us to these discoveries and ultimately, helping further our mission,” Schultz said.

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