The Power of Data in Wishes: Leading a Digital Transformation at Make-A-Wish
Have you ever thought about how much data goes into wishes? Likely no and neither had I before I joined Make-A-Wish in what was my first experience working with a non-profit organization. Since then, I’ve learned that quite a bit of data goes into wishes – 200 terabytes to be exact. That includes every stage of the wish process from fundraising to execution and as we become even more personalized and sophisticated in our wish granting, that data volume only continues to grow.
What was unique about our organization and this data was that while our 60 chapters across the country had independent IT operations, they were facing similar challenges with data management and availability. In my mind, this was a critical issue because any problems in data access can cause delays in wish granting which affects our fundamental mission of granting every viable child’s wish.
Data Drives Digital Transformationand Wish Granting
IT investments always need to be well considered and justified but that’s even more true with non-profits where any internal spending can take away from wish granting. I felt a personal obligation as CIO and as a Make-A-Wish volunteer to never undertake any campaign that wasn’t 100 percent needed. The problems I saw with our data management were so widespread that I knew a significant change was needed and it would be worth the investment.
I launched a digital transformation to centralize IT and standardize data management. Of course, when you go about a transformation of this size, adoption is a concern and was a priority in our campaign given the nature of our chapters. My mantra became, “leave the operational IT minutiae to us and focus on granting wishes.” By showing the chapters how we could take that burden off their shoulders and create a system that would enable them to grant wishes more effectively, they were more onboard with the centralization.
By showing the chapters how we could take that burden off their shoulders and create a system that would enable them to grant wishes more effectively, they were more onboard with the centralization.
IT Falls Under One Umbrella
We centralized all of our IT infrastructure in a private cloud, that’s hosted and managed by phoenixNAP and deployed Veeam Backup & Replication for Cloud Data Management. This ensured we had reliable access to our data, even in peak periods which are around fundraising (October through January) and wish granting (May through August).
Not only did we have data availability; phoenixNAP and Veeam really simplified the process, which again helped with our adoption. The system saved several hours each week and hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over three years. This savings was really rewarding in being able to show the value of digital transformation and communicate that IT is making the right decisions for the organization’s mission. Any dollars we can redirect to wish granting is a positive for us.
Another factor in this is that since we are dealing with children’s medical cases, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) are incredibly important. Standardizing data management ensures that our data was safe, protected and in compliance. It’s really hard to generate that level of assurance if each chapter is operating in silos from the central organization.
All of us that work in IT can get lost in the many challenges of our day-to-day work but what I’ve felt that is most motiving working at Make-A-Wish, is that I see direct correlations between what we do in IT and the granting of children’s wishes. We strive to create the best possible system where our offices partner together on wish-granting missions. Our digital transformation is proof that when we work together, we do so in the most efficient manner.