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Celebrating 40 Years of Hope with Make-A-Wish Arizona

Celebrating 40 Years of Hope with Make-A-Wish Arizona

Forty years ago, the wish of one Arizona boy led to the founding of Make-A-Wish, an organization that has granted almost a half a million wishes to children around the globe. Since 1980, the founding chapter in Arizona has granted upwards of 6,500 wishes while growing to a team of more than 30 staff members. 

“We truly believe wishes are good medicine, and when you talk to other physicians or nurses and clinical staff who regularly grant wishes, they will agree that a wish is something that provides a positive element when a child is diagnosed with a critical illness,” says Hollie Costello, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Make-A-Wish Arizona. “A wish is something that gives them back a piece of their childhood.”

As the founding chapter, Make-A-Wish Arizona often takes the lead within the organization, and their 40th anniversary happens to coincide with the completion of a major phase in their digital transformation journey with Salesforce and Traction on Demand. 

What’s in a wish?

“A wish is an opportunity to give a child that is dealing with a critical illness something to hope for, something to think about, something to focus on when they need it most,” says Hollie. “Wishes can be a wide variety of things. Typically they fall in four categories: I wish to go; I wish to be; I wish to meet; I wish to have. We also occasionally have a fifth category: I wish to give.”

For children and families that experience it, a wish can seem like magic, with everything taken care of by the organization, from planning to budget. This is by design, intended to provide kids and parents some respite from the stresses of appointments and hospital stays. 

This magic, unlike the kind in fairy tales, is made possible by an immense logistical effort by volunteers and staff. From diagnosis to fulfillment of the wish, volunteers collect a vast amount of data (everything from a child’s favourite colour to whether or not a family has adequate luggage) that wish managers then use to plan intricate wish journeys.

Bringing hope through Salesforce

When Make-A-Wish Arizona began their journey with Salesforce three years ago, they were hoping to build a one-stop shop where volunteers and wish managers could easily track and process all of the information required to fulfill a wish. Fast forward to today and all of this data is centralized and visible, making it easier to anticipate the needs of the child and provide them with a truly personalized journey. 

The Wish and Volunteer Center was built on Salesforce and allows volunteers and staff to record and access information relating to a particular wish. Everything from family contact information to budgeting data is housed in the Wish and Volunteer Center.

The team can easily track required signatures and manage wishes at each stage of the journey.

“Wish and Volunteer Center has helped us plan wishes more efficiently,” says Director of Wish Delivery Marissa Astrain, who has spent three years aligning Make-A-Wish Arizona’s Salesforce instance with their unique processes. “In our old systems, we were duplicating our data entry. We also printed and filed papers. This system has saved us a lot of time that we can actually spend doing what we are meant to be doing, which is planning a wish or working with a wish family.”

Every wish begins with a referral from a medical professional. Once a child is selected, a pair of volunteers will meet with the child and interview them to understand what kind of experience would have the greatest impact for them — what do they really want? 

“A wish is something that gives them back a piece of their childhood.”

Here, Salesforce guides volunteers through the data collection process in a series of Lightning flow screens that allow for a natural interview while ensuring Make-A-Wish Arizona acquires the data needed to delight the child at every stage of the wish. T-shirt sizes, favourite foods, favourite movies — this information enables wish managers and volunteers to tailor the design of every wish to each child.  

“When we have our volunteers gather data about the wish kid and their family, it helps to make a more personal — more significant wish experience,” says Hollie.

Granting more wishes, faster

“Our hope with technology is that it helps us grant more wishes than ever before,” says Hollie. “A typical wish can take anywhere from 3-6 months to move forward, and from 3-9 months to actually grant. If we can move that up and make it a little bit quicker, we can actually grant more wishes when the funding is available and therefore have less kids waiting, and they’ll actually be getting the wish experience when they need it most.”

The next phase of the journey will introduce the system Make-A-Wish Arizona has pioneered to the 60 U.S. Make-A-Wish chapters. By connecting all chapters through Salesforce, they will be able to work together to better serve Make-A-Wish kids across the U.S.. That means making every journey as unique as possible while increasing the number of wishes granted.

Autumn (centre) wished to go to Hawaii and shared her Make-A-Wish experience with her brother (far right) who donated the bone marrow needed for her transplant.
Autumn (centre) wished to go to Hawaii and shared her wish with her brother (far right) who donated the bone marrow needed for her transplant. Read more about Autumn’s and other children’s wishes here

“This will really enable us to finally have that 360 degree view of our constituents,” says Marissa. “When we get a new wish kid or a new volunteer, we will know more about them as an individual and as a part of our community. This will enable us to customize the stewardship for each constituent.”

To celebrate 40 years of successful wishes, explore the many ways you can help Make-A-Wish Arizona provide wishes to more children than ever before. With COVID-19 restricting travel and flights, your dormant airline miles could help fulfill the 77% of wishes that involve travel (donated miles do not expire). Click here to donate unused airline miles to Make-A-Wish Arizona. 

Learn more about Make-a-Wish Arizona’s custom Salesforce solution by reading their client story.

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