The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How To Create Year-End Content Your Supporters Will Share: Q&A with Smile Train

Smile Train is at it again! After the success of their Serious Baby campaign this summer, the Smile Train team wanted to continue to reach a social media-savvy audience with more amazing, humorous content. This time, they are encouraging fans to share their Grouchy Carols videos as a way to shine a humorous (and sometimes ridiculous) light on the stress of the holiday season. These videos are here to make us chuckle and remind us that although smiling through the stress in December is difficult for some folks who are too busy for their own good, there are kids who can’t smile—kids with cleft palates.

I interviewed Shari Mason, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, to find out more about Smile Train’s newest campaign and how they intend to measure success.

Tell me about the “Grouchy Carols” campaign.

Shari Mason: “Grouchy Carols” is Smile Train’s new interactive, humor-driven campaign that raises funds to support children with cleft lip and palate by taking a lighthearted aim at the holiday grouches in our lives.

piano man smile trainThe campaign is built around a simple, universal truth: while the holidays are meant to be a joyous time, there are moments during the season when we tend to lose our smile — especially during the mad dash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. “Grouchy Carols” helps capture the spirit by encouraging viewers to call out their grouchy friends and family members on social media and, in turn, help them get their smile back, all while helping change the life of a child with a cleft. Our goal is to raise enough funds to create 250 new smiles for children in need—a total of $62,500—by December 31, 2015.

Through the campaign, supporters send reimagined, grouchy versions of classic holiday carols —captured in original Smile Train short videos— to their grouchiest friends and family members. Users choose one of five pre-recorded “grouchy” carols that are based off universal frustrations: stressful shopping experiences, awkward office parties, travel woes, hosting horrors and, last but not least, social media feeds overflowing with photos of food. In the final week of the campaign, a special New Year’s-themed video will be unlocked that makes light of the back-to-work blues.

Once selecting the carol that best applies to their recipient’s source of grouchiness, users craft a customized message and share the video via social media or email, at which point they have the option to make a donation to Smile Train. After getting their smile back, recipients are encouraged to craft their own customized carol for a grouch in their own lives, to help share more smiles and foster donations.

“Grouchy Carols” is the latest in a series of efforts we are initiating to use interactive storytelling and multimedia tactics to drive engagement around the serious issue of cleft lip and palate, with the goal of maximizing support for our cause.

Who is your target audience for the grouch campaign?

SM: The campaign is part of a larger initiative to engage a younger, more tech-savvy donor audience through interactive storytelling and social content sharing. The initiative advances our goal to spread awareness about our 100% free cleft repair surgeries and our sustainable model of empowering local doctors among Millennial audiences, who can leverage their own social platforms to activate others around our cause.

How are you getting the word out about the shareable videos?

SM: We are continuing to share the campaign microsite smiletrain.org/givesmiles across our social platforms, spanning Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, to drive views and encourage participation far and wide. The goal of the campaign is to create a ripple effect of smiles and good cheer and, in turn, donations to the cause, and we look forward to seeing participants continue to help grouchy friends and family get their smiles back while raising awareness for children with clefts.grouch carols 1

To put the initiative front-and-center, Smile Train is also featuring the campaign on the homepages of our US website. Beyond our social and digital tactics, we are continuing to spread awareness through email communications, mobile messaging and other forms of direct outreach to our donor and supporter base.

Taken together, we are confident this integrated approach to communications will enable us to rally the broadest possible audience around the severity of cleft lip and palate and our global repair work.

How are you incorporating the call to action in this campaign? What will make people want to donate?

SM: The grouch campaign advances our larger call to action to audiences and supporters this holiday season: “Give a Smile, Get a Smile.”

Our “Give a Smile, Get a Smile” campaign, which launched on October 7, calls on audiences to help give a smile to a child with a cleft and, in exchange, get a smile of their own. In this spirit, the grouch campaign encourages audiences to call out friends and family members on social media who may have lost their smile and uses comedic tactics to help them get it back, all while donating to Smile Train and helping provide a new smile to a child in need.

Cleft is far more than cosmetic – children with clefts have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking, are socially isolated, may not receive an education, and are unable to fully participate in their communities. A cleft surgery costs as little as $250, and the impact is life-changing for children, families and communities at large. When supporters learn that their donations can help give a child not just a new smile but a fresh start at a full and productive life, they are empowered to jump on board.

How will you measure success?

SM: The goal of the campaign is to sustain momentum through year-end by amplifying awareness and giving in support of our cleft repair work; and to continue the tradition of using multimedia storytelling tactics to engage new and existing supporters alike.

To measure success as it relates to our goals, we are focusing on the following metrics:

Donations
Video views
Site visits
Content shares
Campaign mentions
New prospects
Social reach

What will you hope to learn that will apply to future campaign efforts?
SM: Through this initiative and others launched this giving season, we are continuing to test out new, creative approaches for engaging tech-savvy audiences and widening our donor base. We are very pleased with the positive engagement we’ve seen so far – a sign that we’re reaching target audiences in the right places, and that the tactics are enabling us to tell our story in an impactful way.

grouchy carols 2We plan to use these learnings to continue to challenge ourselves to reach audiences in new and strategic ways, with the goal of deepening engagement and maximizing support for cleft-affected children across the world.

Is this the main theme for your year-end fundraising push or will this be in addition to your annual year-end appeal?

SM: “Grouchy Carols” is the final stage of a series of holiday initiatives launched throughout the season to drive awareness and engagement around our cleft repair work. The “Give a Smile, Get a Smile” campaign succeeded in introducing audiences to our campaign premise while building momentum leading up to giving season.

To ring in Giving Tuesday, Smile Train joined with Supermodel, Actress and Smile Train Goodwill Ambassador, Christie Brinkley, to illuminate the Empire State Building in its signature red and blue, with the goal of rallying support in New York City and globally. Landmarks in ten cities across the country, including Houston City Hall, the Parthenon in Nashville and Minneapolis’s 35W Bridge, also joined the celebration by illuminating in Smile Train’s colors.
Staging the launch of our holiday initiatives has allowed us to build on ongoing efforts while creating new waves of excitement around the cause.

Through its seasonal relevance and comic twist, “Grouchy Carols” will allow us to sustain momentum for the cause through year-end while also relating to audiences’ experiences and sentiments this time of year. We look forward to continuing to see supporters engage with our campaign and cause, and, in turn, play their part in changing the lives of children with clefts around the world.

Thanks to Shari for telling us how Smile Train is thinking outside the box with their content and fundraising strategy. And check out all the Grouchy Carols!

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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