TeletonUSA: A Direct Response Fundraising Success Story

by Tom Sheppard on Dec 1, 2015 12:00:00 AM DRTV, Support Services

Listen_Up_Espanol_-_TeletonUSA_Charity_Event_2014-066926-edited.jpegAs the holiday season approaches, let’s bring focus to how the direct response industry not only facilitates a massive gift-giving tradition, but how it is also an instrumental tool to help people in need. This is a case study showing how powerful storytelling can transcend countries and move the masses to support a cause that makes a significant difference.

For the last three years, Listen Up Español has had the privilege of working with the TeletonUSA Foundation for its live annual 24+ hours televised fundraising event, which supports the construction and management of rehabilitation facilities for children with disabilities.

This massive live event is broadcast in Spanish and features artists, celebrities, and stars from Latin America and the U.S. who perform, contribute, and rally fans to donate to the Teleton cause.

The funds raised in past years have had a great impact having funded the construction of the state-of-the-art Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA (CRIT) in San Antonio, Texas, which opened its doors in October 2014.

Thanks to the success of its fundraising events in Mexico, where the organization began, the foundation has built there 22 rehabilitation centers, one Autism Center, and a Children’s Cancer Hospital, and launched an educational program to train health professionals in children physiotherapy. In 2012, the live event was produced for the first time in the U.S. for Hispanic audiences and since then it has seen tremendous success.

How can a nonprofit transcend into a different community and in a different country in order to expand the impact of its mission? And what can we learn from its storytelling capacity that captivates the hearts of Hispanics in the U.S.? Here are a few lessons that I’d like to highlight:

Focus on the difference people can make.

The TeletonUSA fundraising event is full of music, celebrities, and exciting content; all things that are good for ratings, while still focused on making an impact for children with disabilities. One of the things that captured my heart and attention was seeing the CRIT healthcare professionals go above and beyond to provide an excellent level of care to their patients. Patience, love, and respect toward the kids in treatment are highlighted to show the challenges and emotions the children and their families experience during their rehabilitation. Although TeletonUSA points out to viewers the immense need for rehabilitation centers—2.8 million children in the U.S. have a disability—it really strives to show the difference such centers make in the lives of the children they serve. I had the opportunity to visit the CRIT in San Antonio and another in Mexico, and it is truly a powerful experience and a direct reflection of what is broadcast during the live event. It shows the reality of the children’s day-to-day treatments and the sincerity from the health care providers is easily recognized.

Connect the dots with local communities.

Even though its roots are in Mexico, TeletonUSA focuses on children here in the U.S. The fact that TeletonUSA’s fundraising efforts make a difference here—and not in another country—is in my opinion, a significant reason for the foundation’s success. Sometimes as Americans, we are not aware of the needs in our own country. By connecting the U.S. Hispanic community to a center that is in their own country is a huge distinction of the mission at hand. The CRIT in San Antonio provides services to children of all ethnic backgrounds, and also shows how the Hispanic community comes together to provide a resource that can serve all types of people. In this day and age where political conversation is full of negative rhetoric towards immigrants, it’s a refreshing reminder knowing that all people have an immense potential for good.

Wow donors and supporters.

TeletonUSA cares very much about creating a positive donor experience. Its multichannel fundraising operation allows Spanish- and English-speaking donors to contribute through whichever platform they prefer. They can do it online or offline, via SMS text, by calling into an automated donation platform to follow IVR instructions or by calling and talking to a live agent. TeletonUSA also understands the U.S. Hispanic demographic and the propensity for Hispanic millennials to communicate in both English and Spanish. As a consistent cheerleader and behind-the-scenes partner to its operations, I am always wowed by the time invested to make sure fundraising operations work with donors in mind. Live agent engagement is vital for TeletonUSA, which is why the organization trains and gains the hearts of agents who will be taking calls from donors and supporters. At the Listen Up Español call center, agents who are involved in this amazing event know the TeletonUSA mission by heart, the direct impact that donations will make and the different ways donors can support the mission. TeletonUSA takes the time and effort to ensure call center agents are highly engaged and actually become true ambassadors of the TeletonUSA brand.

Our team is looking forward to being a part of the fundraising event this year beginning Dec. 4, 2015. We hope you choose to support them, too!

Photo by David Castillo Dominici/

Tom Sheppard is Vice President of Business Development - Direct Response at Listen Up Español.

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