Like many nonprofit organizations, Make-A-Wish Illinois wanted to create a bigger impact for wish kids - but the 35-year-old organization felt stuck. In order to grant more life-changing wishes for critically ill children and their families, they needed to re-examine their wish granting process. That’s why Make-A-Wish partnered with Highland Solutions to create a customer journey map that’s helping the organization take its mission to the next level.

The Challenge

Make-A-Wish is well-known for its mission of granting wishes that transform the lives of critically ill children and the communities that care for them. 

What many people don’t know is that wishes are more than an uplifting experience for families who need a break from the pain and trauma of childhood illnesses. Great wishes have the power to increase positive medical and emotional outcomes for wish kids and their families. While all wishes have a positive impact on wish kids, the best wishes can deliver truly transformational outcomes for wish kids and their families. These high impact wishes can give critically ill kids a sense of hope and agency, bring families back from the point of despair, and have even been proven to help kids heal. 


The Process

To help Make-A-Wish understand what factors are needed to deliver a wish with the greatest possible impact, they partnered with Highland Solutions to create a customer journey map. These maps show the path of a constituent in relation to the organization, making it clear where the organization can improve the customer’s experience of its product or services. In Make-A-Wish’s case, their “customer” is wish kids and their families. 

David Whited, Highland’s CX Practice Lead, says that Make-A-Wish, “saw this process as a way to bring the actual experience of wish children into the room.” 

“The true gift of journey mapping is distributed cognition,” said David. “Getting what’s in everybody’s head and in everyone’s computer out into the real world feels so good. It gets critical information out of the organizational silos and into the open so you can see it.” 

Make-A-Wish’s customer journey mapping project took about six weeks to complete. Through a series of interactive in-person workshops, stakeholder interviews, and a group mapping exercise, Make-A-Wish identified opportunities for improving the wish experience that they couldn’t have seen otherwise. 

Dina Thachet, Medical Outreach Manager at Make-A-Wish Illinois remarked, “We walked away with many new opportunities to focus on areas we haven't or didn't even realize we should to truly build resilience and promote psychosocial healing. As an organization that values progress, we have even stronger evidence of what we are doing well that we can share with staff and wish granters to validate their hard work and inspire them to continue.” 

David shared, “The most powerful moment for me was recognizing the critical differences between a high impact wish and a low impact wish. The most powerful wish granters form these amazing bonds with wish kids, that relationship became the springboard for increasing the wish kid’s health and resiliency.” 

To help Make-A-Wish apply these insights, Highland worked with them after creating the journey map to distill the recommended changes into a clear plan of action. 


The Outcome

Armed with powerful evidence and a clear path forward, Make-A-Wish will be making changes to their wish granting process that they anticipate will have a positive impact on the medical and emotional healing for wish kids. A physical customer journey map now lives in Make-A-Wish Illinois offices in downtown Chicago, where it reminds staff to consider the holistic experience of wish families and provides guidance on how best to serve them depending on where they are in the process. 


 “The customer journey mapping process gave us ability to visually see the work that we do and to validate the things that we know, believe, or assume to be true. The ability to take a step back and look at where we do well and where we have room for improvement was invaluable and re-energizing.” - Dina Thachet, Medical Outreach Manager at Make-A-Wish Illinois

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