campaign to watch: smile!

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campaigns: Smile Generation’s Get CAD/CAM, Give Clean Water
raising the money: The Smile Generation/Pacific Dental
raised so far in the last 18 months: $310,178.80 (WOW.)
mission:
The Smile Generation performs more CEREC CAD/CAM crowns than anybody in the world. So we think it’s fitting to help transform the world in return and we’re looking for anyone that wants to join us… having access to clean drinking water can change lives for generations.

free clinic

Smile Generation is a group that lives up to its name. As dentists, they restore and improve smiles on a daily basis. They also make their employees smile by making fundraising fun. And they’re bringing clean water to people in need — which we know inevitably induces smiles, too. We caught up with Kyle Guerin, the We Serve manager of Smile Gen, to find out how this group has made the world a happier place by fundraising for water.

The Smile Generation is a dental referral network that connects people with great dentists and has more than 225 approved offices in six states. All locally-owned Smile Generation approved offices are supported by Pacific Dental Services.
smile gen logo

Which did you hear about first: the water crisis or charity : water?
I first heard about charity: water. I knew there was a water crisis going on around the world but I can’t say honestly I gave it a lot thought. But when you think about it water is so simple but can create such an impact. I think we really take it for granted.

What drew Smile Generation to charity : water?
The branding is spectacular. The creativity is contagious and it just sucks you in. I’ve never seen a non-profit create such a compelling story.

You guys were some of the first mycharity: water campaigners, right?
When I first got in contact with charity: water in August of 2009, I had expressed that the company as a whole wanted to get involved. Well, once we started explaining that the organization wanted to do $1 for every CAD/CAM in the month of August, employees wanted to find a way to donate and get involved.

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Hold up — what’s CAD/CAM?
CAD/CAM is technology that allows us to make a digital impression of your tooth and mill the crown right in the office. If you’ve ever gotten a crown, you probably had to put this yucky impression material in your mouth, then the dentist created a cast of your tooth, gave you a temporary crown while the impression was sent out to the lab… and in two weeks, you’d get your permanent tooth and hopefully it would fit. With CAD/CAM, we do all those steps in the office without the gross impression material and you leave that day with your crown in about two hours. It’s incredible.

So you started off by donating per CAD/CAM procedure?
Yes. And we used mycharity: water for the donations because we wanted to track the them in real time and show what our organization could do together.

This was when September Campaign 2009 was launching, so mycharity: water was just about to go live… I kept calling charity: water, hoping you’d be able to launch on time so that we could use it as part of our campaign! In the first one, we raised $12,000 but half of that came from the company, not from the employees, but it gave us a hint at what our organization was capable of.

And 18 months, five successful campaigns later… how do you keep it going to strong?
charity: water has really become the Smile Generation charity. Every idea someone has here usually has some sort of a component that can help charity: water. It’s always, “How can we help our patients, and how can we help charity: water.” As part of our campaign, we donate $1 for every CAD/CAM crown or filling and we have had a number of doctors that have agreed to match the donation.

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Once one doc said they would match it, it began to catch on like wildfire. Now we have all sorts of docs do it. Not only did it help charity: water but it also helped them focus on doing more CAD/CAM dentistry to better serve their patients.

At Christmas last year, people looking to buy gifts for loved ones decided to buy people charity: water cards. We’ve taken donations for charity: water at community events and BBQ’s. We’ve had patients write checks in our offices to have us donate it to charity: water. I get e-mails now all the time about, “we saw Scott Harrison on this” or “did you know charity: water is doing that?” People had no idea who charity: water was before we started working with you and now people absolutely love it. We’ve had people instead of gifts at parties, say they are giving donations to charity: water. All sorts of things.

We love your Smile shirts… everyone in your offices seems to wear them! How do your shirts tie into your campaign?
When we (Pacific Dental) launched a new service called the Smile Generation, our company and affiliated dental offices provided every team member a Smile Gen t-shirt. In order to wear the t-shirt and jeans on Friday’s during June and July in the offices, we encouraged team members to donate $20 to charity: water. We know times are tough and $20 can be a lot — so we asked our team members to rally together and raise money as an office or a department. It became a competition between offices and departments to step up and provide clean drinking water to people around the world. People loved the cause and were stoked to help. We have a culture here at PDS — “We Serve.” All we needed to do was send out the call and the team responded.

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It’s been really cool because on the shirts it says “Smile” on it, so we’ve had people wearing their shirts to everywhere from Disneyland, to local restaurants, to one of our team wearing it for jury duty. The best part about it is when people ask about the shirt and the “Smile;” we tell them that we get the privilege to wear them because we made a donation to charity: water.

Was it difficult to collect funds across multiple states and offices?
The mycharity: water site makes it super easy as the organizer. It’s a great tool to communicate to people and to just direct them to the site. It also provides info to the person donating which allows them to connect even more to the cause.

LOUIS

Let’s flash back to last year — Smile Gen did some amazing stuff to help Haiti in our Unshaken campaign. Tell us about that.

The Unshaken campaign was really impactful for our organization. We sponsored the village of Kampech, which we hand-picked because we loved the story of Louis and his mother’s relative who was taking care of him. She had said, “I’m not his family but I’m taking care of him because that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

That’s how we feel we use the parable of the faithful servant: much has been given, much will be required. We put up posters in all of our offices showing the people of Kampech; we showed the Unshaken video in all of our offices and in meetings to all of our employees. The village of Kampech became our people. We can’t wait until the water project is finished and we get to travel to Haiti to meet them.

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Earlier this year, you teamed up with Groupon to really leverage your fundraising. Explain how that turned out?
Our promotion is $29 for an exam, x-ray, cleaning and a take-home whitening kit. Of the $29, $5 goes to charity: water. We have sent this out to all of our regions within California (Northern Cal/Southern Cal), Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas…

And how it turned out? It’s been incredible. So far we have donated $125,000 to charity: water since the beginning of 2011. We will continue to include it in all of our future Groupon promotions. So we’re excited about donating more the rest of the year.

How could another organization or office start something similar to Pacific Dental’s campaign?
Find someone passionate about it to drive it. Even though we as an organization have a servant’s heart it takes a cheerleader to keep people excited and keep them donating. Also, don’t set your sights to small and don’t sell yourself short; each donation makes a huge impact in the lives of someone else. I can’t wait to see what charity: water has in mind next.

Bike. Run. Sell baked goods. Challenge your office to get on board. You can do anything to raise funds for clean drinking water. 100% of donations go directly to water projects in developing countries. Learn more here >

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