Designing experiences that deliver hope and strength


Snapshots of the Make-A-Wish app, designed by Highland to reduce friction for parents and place the child at the center.

Like many nonprofit organizations, Make-A-Wish 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 knew something needed to change.

We worked with our local Make-A-Wish chapter to help them map their customer journey. Then, we took our organizational knowledge to the national level, researching how chapters across the country were using their digital tools and identifying where there was room for improvement.

Everybody who has worked on our project was really dedicated and loved working on it. When you work with people like that as a vendor, you know you have hit something amazing. A lot of times when you work with vendors, there is an A team, and after the process starts you get something less than the A team. We always get the A team with Highland. It is a very well-managed organization.
Erin Shaffer
Make-A-Wish Foundation of America

Mapping the wish kid journey

Our work with Make-A-Wish started with our local Illinois chapter in our hometown of Chicago.

We partnered with our local Illinois chapter to create a journey map that would help them gather a deeper understanding of the wish kid experience.

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 Illinois staff take in the wish kid journey

A Make-A-Wish team member taking group notes.

In just six weeks, we led chapter staff through a series of interactive in-person workshops, stakeholder interviews, and a group mapping exercise.

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.”
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
Make-A-Wish Illinois

Creating digital connections with families in crisis

Through our journey mapping work, we discovered that wish families often had many points of contact with the volunteers and staff who were working on their wish, this included emails, phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages.

We created a speculative design for a Make-A-Wish application that would streamline communication for wish families, giving them one less thing to worry about.

Designing a digital strategy

After concluding our work with the Illinois chapter, we got a call from Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, the national organization that oversees all 64 chapters. They wanted to better understand how their staff were using digital tools to support the wish experience.

Using our wish kid journey as a starting place, we conducted research by interviewing staff across the country to better understand the challenges and limitations of their current digital infrastructure. We then mapped how each tool plays a part in the wish journey and shared learnings that will shape Make-A-Wish's overall digital strategy.

Highland used our original wish journey research to create a map of the tools that Make-A-Wish uses to make wishes come to life

They’re genuine. I’ve worked with many IT consultants where that isn’t the case...They’re experts in their field, and the entire team is professional.
Bipin Jayaraj
CIO, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America

Partner with us

At Highland, we research, design, and build digital products and experiences for customer-centric companies and mission-driven organizations. For over 20 years, our team of designers, developers, and strategists have helped organizations turn their biggest uncertainties into opportunities for growth.

We've built and launched over 268 digital products, and we'd love to help you take your idea from dream to delivered. Ready to get started? Get in touch.