Make-A-Wish Shanghai Charity Foundation is a locally registered NGO that is committed to grant wishes for children and youth (age from 3 to 18) with life-threatening illness across China. With limited number of full-time staff, and the focus on serving minor beneficiaries, this 3-years old organization established a strong, and passionate volunteer base to support its causes. As to date, Make-A-Wish Shanghai had granted wishes to 125 children and youth with serious illnesses.
To take a closer look at Make-A-Wish Shanghai’s work, and to understand how this young NGO delivers on its mission, Collective Responsibility interviewed the organization’s CEO Zhu Jie and Operation’s Head Elynn Wang to learn more.
Could you tell us about the mission of your organization?
Together, we create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
What would be a typical wish? And how long is the “production” time usually?
A typical wish could be a simple gift, a visit by a celebrity, be a princess for the day, or go to a bakery and learn to bake cakes with family.
Depending on the complexity of the wish, a typical wish usually would take between 3 to 6 months from initial discussion to completion.
The wishes can take place inside or outside of the hospital depending on the wish itself and the child’s health condition.
Are parents concerned about your organization or the program itself? How do you address their concerns?
When parents initially meet with us to discuss our programs, they usually have two different concerns.
Their first concern is that since we are relatively new, and small, they don’t know about us or our programs. So they are worried that they might be putting their child at risk, and that reduces their interest to participate. To address this concern, we find that the best approach is to seek the hospitals’ and doctors’ support to communicate with the parents about our program’s positive impact on the children, which really help us to gain trust from the parents.
Another big challenge is that the children’s health condition changes often and might even get worse over time, so the parents would naturally become very concerned about adding any potential risks by participating in our program. When this happens, we would respect their decision, and make sure the family know that they are always welcome to participate later when they are ready.
How do you limit your legal liabilities if something unfortunate happens when a wish is being delivered?
In addition to getting fully support from our board member AIG to get insurance for all the participants, all the parents also need to sign a legal waiver that they are fully understanding the wish journey and they will not be holding us responsible if the child’s health is impacted.
During the COVID-19 period, all the participants will also need to sign a separate acknowledgement to the risks of COVID exposure, and confirm that they have not been to any COVID affected cities in the past 14 days.
How many volunteers do you have so far? And how does the structure work?
To help support our volunteers, we communicate with them by WeChat groups as well as host bi-weekly meetings to discuss their projects.
Usually how many volunteers do you need for 1 case?
Normally 2-3 volunteers would form a working team to manage two “wishes” at the same time.
If the “wish” is easy and simple to execute, then we only need to review and approve their proposal and budget. However, if more resources are needed, we would encourage more volunteers to join and work with our council member companies to support.
Since children with serious illness are more sensitive beneficiary group to work with, how do you train and develop your volunteers to work on these projects?
While other volunteer activities might only need a 20-30 minutes volunteer briefing, for Make-A-Wish programs we need to be more cautious when recruiting and training our volunteers.
First of all, we require the volunteers to submit their CV for an initial screening when they sign up, and then we provide a 2-hours training to new volunteers to introduce our background, mission, and job requirements for the volunteers.
Separately, we have created and printed one manual for volunteers which includes more detailed guidance and references. We also work with hospitals to provide trainings focusing on dealing with different illness, and conduct communications skills training on how to best interact with the children’s parents.
Can you share some important tips for volunteer management you have learned from your personal experiences in the past 3 years?
- Better have a full-time staff in charge of the volunteer teams.
- Respect your volunteers, and be flexible.
- During daily communication and trainings, emphasize the importance of volunteer’s responsibility.
- You also need to have detailed written policies for volunteers to refer and follow.
- When communicating with volunteers, don’t just focus on their tasks. Be friends with them, learn about their life, and their own work.
- Don’t hesitate to say “No” to volunteers who are not qualified. This will help you to keep your volunteer team both professional and cohesive.
- Develop a motivation system to recognize contribution and dedication of the volunteers.
As a young NGO, you must have many challenges, could you share a few with our readers?
When we were first established in 2017, our biggest challenge was how to identify, and run the first “wishes.” Now, during the epidemic, when hospitals are not opened to volunteer events, our challenge is how to maintain our volunteers’ passion and try not to make the children wait for too long for their wishes.
Like most NGOs, fundraising is another big challenge. So, we are always looking for more stable sponsorships so we can grant more wishes.
Of all your challenges, which one was the most difficult, and how did you overcome it?
Although we could provide donation receipt with tax-deductible benefits to the donors, we are still a private-fundraising NGO with limited options to raise fund.
We are now preparing documents to apply as a public-fundraising NGO so that we could organize more public fundraising activities, and hopefully to raise more fund.
What is your 5 year vision for the organization?
We hope to be a public-fundraising NGO soon, and with the additional funding, we plan to hire 1 or 2 more full-time staff who can focus on fundraising and we also want to recruit more volunteers, so that we would be able to grant more wishes!
In just 3 years, Make-A-Wish Shanghai Charity Foundation, have successfully granted 125 wishes to children with seriously illness.
A remarkable achievement made possible by their group of passionate volunteers who are dedicated to bring joy to those in need by granting a simple Wish.
We hope you were inspired by their program, while also learned a few tips on how to effectively engage volunteers.
To learn more about Make-A-Wish Shanghai, Please visit www.makeawish-china.com or follow their wechat account “上海愿望成真慈善基金会”.