As the business intelligence manager at the National Office, I collect reports from our chapters and facilitate research projects – tasks that, to many, sound just plain b-o-r-i-n-g.
But when these tasks are put into the context of using the resulting data to grant more and better wishes, I think it’s just the opposite. Here’s an example of what I mean:
If today were Dec. 17, 2003, Make-A-Wish could anticipate approximately 3,500 wish kids – or about 30 percent of all wish kids – wishing “to have” something, most likely a computer or a shopping spree in the coming year. About twice as many children (nearly 7,000 or 60 percent) would be expected to wish “to go” somewhere, most often a theme park.
Ten Years Later, "To Go" Wishes Lead
Ten years later, these numbers have grown substantially farther apart: Just over 20 percent (now only about 3,000) are wishes “to have,” and nearly 70 percent (approaching 10,000) are wishes “to go” somewhere – and this doesn’t even include shopping spree and “I wish to meet” wishes involving travel.
In other words, wish children are becoming more adventurous; they more often dream of their family together for several days on a cruise ship than of themselves receiving a new computer with the latest and greatest hardware and software. I think we can all agree that computers are becoming less and less of a luxury item, but it is nevertheless interesting – and inspiring – that children are more inclined to wish for a special time with their family than receive something tangible that can certainly last much, much longer than an incredible vacation.
Air Miles Are the New Challenge
With this ongoing trend, however, comes an ongoing challenge for Make-A-Wish: to keep pace with children’s evolving wishes by raising enough money to fund them, and by planning each wish to make sure that each one is truly a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. On average, wishes involving travel are twice as costly to grant as wishes “to have.” Plus, these wishes generally take two to three months longer to fulfill. Thankfully, both of these differences are offset a bit by individuals who generously donate their frequent flier miles. Their help means we don’t have to pay for all airline tickets in cash ... which allows us to get more wishes can get off the ground sooner.
Still, as long as wishes “to go” continue to grow in popularity, it will be increasingly challenging for us to continue reaching a larger number of children year after year. So, the impact that frequent flier mile donations can have on our ability to achieve our vision–to grant the wish of every eligible child–has never been greater.
In short, when children’s once-in-a-lifetime wishes are on the line, data and trends come to life. My curiosity into what we can learn from data to improve our mission delivery is what keeps me coming back to work every day.