Sarah Ford | October 8, 2014

Behind the Scenes at Make-A-Wish America with Justin Schmid

Justin Schmid, Make-A-Wish America Editorial ManagerMake-A-Wish® believes that granting the one true wish of all eligible children can help them feel better – and possibly even get better.

Wish kids, their families and their physicians say that wish experiences can be turning points in their struggles with serious illnesses. Last year, Make-A-Wish granted the wishes of more than 14,000 children – each of them a potential game-changer in their ability to cope with their illnesses. Every day is a new chance to reach eligible children in the hope that the gift of a Make-A-Wish experience can help them cope with or even overcome their afflictions.

In this Q & A, Justin Schmid, editorial manager at Make-A-Wish America, gives you an inside look at his role and experience.

What attracted you to this job & particular cause?

When I heard about the position at Make-A-Wish America 8 years ago, nothing could keep me from applying. It appealed to me as a homegrown charity that became an international phenomenon … it had such a great reputation as an organization that delivers on its promise.

Walk us through a “typical” day in your shoes. How are you making an impact through your work?

My typical day is a juggling act. I shift constantly from the creative tasks – writing, editing and brainstorming – to project management and back again. One of the highlights is publishing the Wish Nation blog.

I see my job as establishing a voice for Make-A-Wish America. And not a cutesy, saccharine voice. Wish kids go through a trial that’s far beyond their years, and I want people to fully understand the scope of their challenges. And how they find something in their wish that helps them cope or overcome the obstacles in their life. I think that shows the long-lasting impact wishes makes for them. I hope it encourages people to realize that every kid with a life-threatening medical condition needs a wish … and that they can help.

Here’s something else really important to me: I want kids who have their wish come true this week to, 10 years from now, read a story we wrote about them … and feel proud of their wish experience. When I approach their story from that frame of mind, it helps me get past the cute factor and into the life-changing effect of their experience. I think that approach also appeals to people who are drawn in by a good story rather than just our cause; I really want to appeal to those who aren’t supporters yet. 

What do you find most rewarding about your job at the end of the day?

I’ve heard and read amazing things from wish kids. One said something like “chemotherapy cured my cancer, but my wish cured my chemotherapy.” Another said “I’m almost glad I got sick … because it gave me a chance to have a wish.”

Wow. I still can’t believe any kid would say that. That tells me what a wish can do to make life better for wish kids and their families.

I need to remember this every time I have a tough day.

If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ [tools, books, processes] you’d recommend to anyone with a similar position, which would you include and why?

I’ll tell you a secret I had forced on me. Left on my own, I am chaos and mayhem personified. Over the past few years, though, my creative team has worked hard to establish structures and processes for how we deliver our work.

I grumbled the whole time, but I gave it a try. And it worked. We’re more efficient. We’re more accountable. We have more time to be creative. We are way better at what we do. So establish some procedures. Stick by them, but change them if you find something about them that doesn’t work. You’ll be better off for it.

Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in your industry?

I expect to connect more with younger supporters, whether as donors or volunteers. I believe today’s college student is tomorrow’s first-time donor is 2030’s major donor. I really think donors who realize our gratitude when all they can give is $10 will remember us when they can do even more. 

Our thanks to Justin Schmid for sharing his time and expertise with us!  To learn more about the impact Make-A-Wish is making, click here to visit their website. Click here to support their work with a donation.

The primary goal for any nonprofit is to get people to support that nonprofit’s cause so they can make an impact. But, behind each of those causes are hard-working individuals, actively involved in making that impact happen. Through our Making Impact Blog Series, we’re going behind the scenes with America’s Charities member organizations to learn how they’re making impact happen and share insights and advice from the staff and volunteers supporting these initiatives.


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