Smile Train VS Operation Smile :: Smile4dairy

Smile Train VS Operation Smile

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News and analysis

By Doug Donovan

A dispute between Operation Smile’s founder and its board of directors has spurred a splintering of the three-decade-old charity that fixes cleft lips and other facial deformities for children in impoverished nations around the world.

The Norfolk, Va.-based nonprofit’s board of directors voted Monday to start a new venture that a majority of the board and several senior executives from Operation Smile will develop, according to William Fox, the board’s chairman.

The new venture will focus solely on delivering free cleft surgeries, while Operation Smile will continue to offer those same procedures plus its broader suite of other services, such as medical training, dental work, speech therapy, and counseling.

The venture will be operated as a program within Operation Smile with the intention of turning it into a standalone charity, said Wayne Zinn, chief operating officer. The employees of the program, however, will not move with Operation Smile when the charity departs from its Norfolk offices for a new Virginia Beach headquarters in September, Mr. Zinn said.

“It’s going to be up to them where they want to operate from, ” he said.

Operation Smile has not informed its donors about the new venture. Mr. Zinn, who had previously served as chief operating officer for the charity between 2005 and 2008, said he was hired in June to help with this transition. He said that once the program evolves into a separate charity, “they’ll raise their own funds.”

“We’re looking at the best ways to talk to our donors, ” Mr. Zinn said.

A 'Collaborative Agreement'

There had been a growing feeling among board members that, by focusing on delivering free surgeries, Operation Smile could be helping more children more quickly, said Mr. Fox.

The decision was a collaborative one between the board and the charity’s co-founders, said Mr. Zinn, although he acknowledged there had been competing interests within the organization about how best to accomplish the task of helping children with cleft lips.

“It becomes a struggle when you have conflicting interests within an organization, ” Mr. Zinn said. But, he added, “it was a collaborative agreement.”

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