A New Challenge: Ain’t No Smilin’ on the Smile Train

9 Aug

As I was belatedly going through mail this evening, I found two letters coming from Smile Train.  I was about to get out my checkbook and write out a check for $10.00 (it’s less than the minimum suggested donation but it’s hard times all around, folks).  Were it another charity that I usually get letters from – my alma mater (law school), my other alma mater (undergrad), my other alma mater (community college), or my other alma mater (Catholic high school – though I wouldn’t get it from them, they went under due to lack of funds – sorry BCHS!) – I may have passed for now.  But I feel obligated to open nearly every piece of mail to enters my box, and this one really tugs at your heart with the big dark doe eyes, staring pleadingly at you above a gaping cleft palette.  In a sign of these tough financial times, I ran a quick search on the organization that would be taking my measly $10 that might otherwise be going to bring down personal debt in the Revel household.

After discussing the organization’s questionable claims of model efficiency, the website charitywatch.org, in an August 2010 Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report noted that the organization continues to tout claims such as the following by the organization’s president: “I run the most cost-efficient charity on Earth.”   Charitywatch.org goes on to note that

“Brian Mullaney, the President and Co-Founder of Smile Train, moderated slightly his boast in his appeal letter inside the envelope by saying “…in spite of the downturn in the economy—we’re probably the most cost-efficient charity in the world.” The letter does not tell you that Mullaney’s total compensation skyrocketed 61% from $420,210 in fiscal 2007 to $678,058 in fiscal 2009—also in spite of the downturn in the economy.”

I printed out the two-page article and am returning it with the above passage highlighted.  It really burns me when organizations use kids as pawns to pry money from families who face their own financial challenges.  I have a challenge for Mr. President Mullaney.

I will match dollar on the dollar for up to $25.00 that Mr. Mullaney pays out of his personal whomping package for the “free treatment for poor children with clefts.”

I challenge each of you to do the same.

UPDATE: I just noticed that the two notices came from two different organizations: Smile Train (subject of the above post), and Operation Smile.  Although I couldn’t find coverage of Operation Smile on an online search of charity reviews (or the president’s compensation package – anyone? anyone?), a quick Wikipedia read tells me they were once affiliated but went through what Pres. Mullaney of Smile Train calls “a messy divorce,” but that there were attempts to reconcile.  Guess they didn’t.  I’m revising my challenge, since I don’t like acrimony and even less appreciate that it’s playing out in the public arena with kids as the pawns and our pocketbooks as the points.  Sorry, SmileTrain, but you just lost the opportunity to pry $25.00 away from me.  This happened right about when I noticed that Operation Smile came with a postage paid envelope (and polite request to provide your own postage to make more smiles), while SmileTrain came with a self-addressed envelope with a cute logo on the front but no postage paid.

NEW AND IMPROVED CHALLENGE:  I will match one dollar on every dollar, up to $20.00, that Mr. Mullaney pays out of his personal money for the free treatment for poor children with clefts, and one dollar for every dollar, up to $20.00, that the heads of Operation Smile (includes any officers of the organization) contribute for the same.  I also saw on Wikipedia that Stephen Colbert is a supporter of Smile Train.  I will contribute one dollar on every dollar, up to $5.00, that he contributes to either organization.  Re-post this anywhere you like if you commit to do the same.

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