Shankwitz: Yes, there are now 62 national chapters and 36 international chapters on five continents. During our first year, we told our board members that someday we were
excited about all of that. I am flattered and humbled that they want to do this, but they have kept me involved the whole way. And I have had a lot of fun doing that.
From the beginning, I wanted to base the foundation on accountability, integrity, and transparency. I wanted to make sure that every dollar that was donated went directly to the mission, so none of the board members received any type of salary, including myself, the first president and CEO. The media picked up on that: here is a foundation where they are not thinking about how to make a profit, but everything is going directly to the mission. Ballou: In a nonprofit, you don’t distribute the profit to the shareholders because you don’t have any. It’s really a tax-exempt charity. Nonprofits generate profit for the cause. Many people give up because they can’t easily find people who agree with their idea.Tenacity is needed to make it work. Everybody has an idea. Only three out of 100 people will do anything about the idea. Then 90% of those 3% fail because they are not persistent enough to actually follow through and not let other people rob them of their dream. You had people tell you it wouldn’t work, but you knew it would.What conviction inside of you drove you to complete this? Shankwitz: Our mutual friend, Greg Reid, taught me a word a few years ago: stickability. While I was putting the foundation together in Phoenix, I learned how many children in the children’s hospital there had leukemia. In the 1980s, leukemia was a death sentence for children. I realized that there were other children out there who needed to have their wish granted. Unfortunately, starting the foundation was all about terminality, and the children did not survive. Fortunately, today about 70% of children survive leukemia and the majority of cancers that are life- threatening illnesses. Our national board members came up with a great idea about 20 years ago to change our mission from terminal to life-threatening be- cause, through the graces of God and modern medicine, more and more children were sur- viving. It was a great decision for the current management of the Make-A-Wish Founda- tion because that way they could impact a lot more children, granting a lot more wishes. Ballou: Another good leadership principle is developing a consensus with your team, your board. The Make-A-Wish Foundation will supersede you for who knows how long; it will go on indefinitely because it is an idea that you have transformed into an institution which has sustainability. Are there chapters of Make-A-Wish around the world?
going to be national and in- ternational. They all laughed at me, but I think I had the last laugh on that one. Ballou: I commend you for that. Leaders are people of influence, and you influenced that to happen by your power, your presence, and your stickability, continuing to make a difference in the world. Bob Proctor says that he doesn’t have the word retire in his vocabulary. A few
My book Wishman is out. It is my personal journey from five years old to what helped me create the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Ballou: What would you define as the most important leadership decision that you showed in this initiative? Shankwitz: I realized in later years that I was more of a dictator than a
years ago, he was asked when he was going to slow down. He said, “I am 77, and I have to speed up. I have more to do.”You and I are in another phase. I am in my third career. I had my career as a merchant and as a conductor for 40 years. The last ten years I have been working as a leadership strategist, helping people launch their ideas and build strong teams and strong organizations as they build their skillset. I commend you for your journey and not only for your wisdom but also your commitment to that passion. Make-A-Wish has gener- ated money to continue doing its work, but the profit is people have benefited in many
leader with our board members. We had so many far-flung ideas, but I demanded that we continue the mission we had established at the beginning. It must have been right because our original charter and by-laws are still in effect 36 years later. One of the biggest decisions we made is that nobody was being paid; we are all novices in this. It was a grassroots effort. We decided we had to start hiring professionals in the nonprofit world. As Greg Reid says, you hire the experts, and none of us are the experts. I was very good in my police career. Another person was very good in their career. But we were not experts in nonprofits. We first started to pay a salary when we hired those experts. I think that
ways. You are in a new phase of your career. I heard a ru- mor that there is a book and a movie coming out. Shankwitz: I’m so fortunate. This is my fourth career. My first career was in the Air Force. My second was at Motorola. My third was as a police officer for 42 years. When you retire, what do you do? There are not a lot of jobs for an ex-homicide detective. Greg Reid started me on a whole new career path with speaking five years ago. That led to Hollywood calling to say that they wanted to do a movie on my life, the movie Wish Man. The screenplay has been finalized and approved. Filming starts in April 2017. I am pretty