For us, leadership is more than guiding employees to achieve their goals, managing performance, and making decisions regarding key work. To us, leadership is about connecting ourselves as leaders, and the employees we guide to our mission and purpose. We know that meaningful work is a primary reason people decide to join the Make-A-Wish America team, but the mission of delivering life-changing wishes to deserving children can get lost in our daily work activity.
We sustain and build our connection to our mission and purpose through a weekly Mission Moment. Every Monday one of our Chapter CEOs joins the Make-A-Wish America team to share an experience their Chapter has had delivering a wish to a critically ill child. These mission moments are up close and personal. They include a personal account of the Chapter’s experience with the Wish Child and his/her family. The moment includes sharing the experience of building and granting the unique wish, as well as the experience the Wish Child and family had through the wish itself. Since all wishes are granted at a Chapter, this is a real-time and personal way to connect a group who works hard in support of Chapters, but does not otherwise have a direct connection to the granting of a wish. It has proved to be not only the best day of the week for the National Oﬃce leadership team and staﬀ – but a way for that group to understand what they have done to make it possible.
Once a year, National Oﬃce staﬀ and Chapter staﬀ join forces at our Annual Conference right here in Phoenix. This is an opportunity for all Make-A-Wish employees to collaborate, share stories, network, and learn from one another. This week-long experience is a unique and fun way to showcase our hard work and commitment to the mission.
At Make-A-Wish America, we transform lives by enabling our people to realize their full potential. We are dedicated to continuously building and improving our employee experience. We support employees as they follow their passions and connect employees and their families to the Make-A-Wish mission. Our Wellness Committee reinforces healthy living within our workplace, providing opportunities for employees to focus on mental, ﬁnancial, and physical health. We understand it takes a community to grant a child’s one true wish, therefore via our Community Committee we value connecting employees to the community in which we serve. With our Learning Committee, we support our employees with resources, opportunities and challenges to help them learn and develop in their career. We create a learning environment and approach our work through an innovative lens. Leaders within our organization have won numerous awards for their commitment to nurturing a positive culture.
Our Values Champion Awards are given quarterly to ﬁve employees who consistently display behaviors and actions in alignment with each of our values – impact, innovation, integrity, community, and child focus. Recipients are announced at an All-Staﬀ Meeting, where they are publicly recognized through the Values Champion Award certiﬁcate and $500.
Around the oﬃce, you will ﬁnd “Values Cards”, which are an opportunity for staﬀ to jot down a thank you note and drop it on a peer’s desk for them to collect. We also have a Values Wall where we recognize our Values Champion Award recipients and post inspiring quotes from employees. We utilize an online Kudos tool to electronically recognize one another for a job well done. Employees earn and give Kudos points to other National Oﬃce employees. Kudos come in four diﬀerent recognition levels with corresponding points to redeem for gift card awards.
This year we will be kicking oﬀ a Group Mentoring Pilot program to provide employees the opportunity to build connections with others across the organization, while strengthening their skill sets, broadening their mindset and working together to solve problems. We provide frequent development opportunities throughout the year with monthly Learning Forums for all National Oﬃce employees. This program provides learning opportunities around a variety of topics. Additionally, we oﬀer resources for leaders through our Leadership Excellence, cultivating individual and collective leadership excellence at Make- A Wish, enabling us to grant more wishes while improving employees through continuous growth and development.
Corporate and Social Responsibility
Our employees are active members of the Arizona community through internal and external opportunities. From actively engaging on Parent Teacher Associations, coaching sports, sponsoring a family over the holidays, or stuﬃng essential item bags for foster children at our All Staﬀ Retreat, we foster a philanthropic environment. Several departments even participate in team building events to give back, such as volunteering at a local Phoenix food bank! We have a strong relationship with the Make-A-Wish Arizona chapter, assisting them with several opportunities to raise funds and grant wishes for Arizona wish kids. Several departments at Make-A-Wish America create teams to participate in the Phoenix Walk for Wishes and Allstate Hot Chocolate 5k/15k, which raises funds for Make-A-Wish Arizona. Employees also serve at the Make-A-Wish Arizona Wish Ball, setting up the ballroom, assisting with guest registration, silent auction coordination, and event cleanup. To allow our staﬀ time to volunteer, we have an informal policy that if an employee is granting a wish through the local chapter, they have the ability to ﬂex hours rather than taking paid time oﬀ. The Make-A-Wish Arizona chapter also comes into our building to oﬀer insight on volunteer programs, so employees do not have to take time oﬀ to attend a training. We are a nationally recognized nonproﬁt committed to serving the Arizona community and beyond. Employees have an opportunity to participate in our Employee Giving Campaign, which had a participation rate of 96% in 2018. The National Employees’ Gift for Wish Excellence Fund award is funded entirely by the National Oﬃce employees through the Employee Giving Campaign. This award is presented to winning chapters that have exhibited exemplary amounts of passion and drive to enhance their wish granting capacity. Employees who donate to the fund are eligible to participate in the chapter award voting process in the upcoming year. Typically, two $20,000 awards are given to the winning chapters and are presented at our Annual Chapter Awards Luncheon during our Annual conference. While we are located in the heart of Phoenix, our community is national. Every year, Make-A-Wish America hosts a national conference where employees from our Chapters across the nation come together, network with one another, and collaborate on best practices.
Make-A-Wish America is embarking on a “digital transformation” to positively impact the lives of our wish kids, families, our community of extended stakeholders. Wishes provide hope, resilience, and joy to everyone involved in that journey and we are positioning technology uniquely to help accelerate our organizational mission to reach every eligible child. Given the unique nature of our organizational mission, it’s critical that we adapt our technology without impacting the quality of the wish experience.
We are doing that by developing a cloud-based, secure ecosystem of tools that will enable our chapters and fundraising teams to connect donors and their contributions to the wishes they fulﬁll. There are multiple business initiatives underway with the concepts like “Stakeholder 360”, Donor Connect, and others where we are looking to transform Make-A-Wish to a more data-driven organization. We are partnering with Microsoft / Azure to leverage Artiﬁcial Intelligence / Machine Language features in surfacing the right insights at the right times.
These tools will also create eﬃciencies in day-to-day work eﬀorts to ensure that teams can dedicate as much time as possible to reaching every eligible child. We have already realized the beneﬁt of creating unique experiences through Virtual Reality wishes (e.g. – Zayden’s wish to visit the planet Saturn and Keanu’s wish to play football again after he suﬀered a stroke and became wheelchair bound) and are looking to further explore possibilities in VR capabilities, as well as augmented reality models to create more curated experiences and wish journeys. Adapting this type of innovation into our services and storytelling is going to be key for achieving this noble mission. Our eﬀorts over past couple of years have already helped us to reduce wish journey cycle times, to create consistent models for medical eligibility, and to create a secure, centralized, consolidated and resilient Enterprise IT shared service model across our headquarters and 60 chapters.