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Birthday Wishes Inc.

 PO Box 590645
 Newton Centre, MA 02459
[P] (866) 388-9474
[F] (617) 340-6518
[email protected]
Lisa Vasiloff
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 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 55-0856553

LAST UPDATED: 12/13/2018
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years No


Mission StatementMORE »

The mission of Birthday Wishes is to provide birthday parties to homeless children. Birthday Wishes recognizes the importance of a birthday in a child's life, and believes that the gift of a birthday party provides normalcy, joy and hope in their otherwise unsettled lives. Our grassroots philosophy fosters the spirit of volunteerism and community service in the adults, children and families who donate their time and resources to the Birthday Wishes mission.

Mission Statement

The mission of Birthday Wishes is to provide birthday parties to homeless children. Birthday Wishes recognizes the importance of a birthday in a child's life, and believes that the gift of a birthday party provides normalcy, joy and hope in their otherwise unsettled lives. Our grassroots philosophy fosters the spirit of volunteerism and community service in the adults, children and families who donate their time and resources to the Birthday Wishes mission.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2016 to June 30, 2017
Projected Income $1,045,120.00
Projected Expense $1,044,120.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Birthday-in-a-Box Program
  • On-Site Party Program

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

The mission of Birthday Wishes is to provide birthday parties to homeless children. Birthday Wishes recognizes the importance of a birthday in a child's life, and believes that the gift of a birthday party provides normalcy, joy and hope in their otherwise unsettled lives. Our grassroots philosophy fosters the spirit of volunteerism and community service in the adults, children and families who donate their time and resources to the Birthday Wishes mission.

Background Statement

Birthday Wishes was founded in August, 2002 by Lisa Vasiloff, Karen Yahara, and Carol Zwanger – three friends and colleagues who wanted engage their own children in a volunteer project to help improve the lives of children living in poverty.  Having volunteered in several homeless shelters, it occurred to the trio as they attended one of their own children’s birthday parties, that at the shelters children’s birthdays often came and went uncelebrated. Their subsequent research indicated that no organizations existed exclusively to provide birthday parties to children living in homeless shelters. After speaking with local shelters and state advocacy groups, they found that most homeless shelters do not have the personnel or resources necessary to hold birthday parties for the children who stay there. Furthermore, the parent (usually a mom) is often unable, both economically and emotionally, to organize a party for her child. Some parents, embarrassed that they don’t have money for cakes and presents, don’t even tell their children that they have a birthday. For homeless children, birthday parties are a luxury that neither the parent nor the shelter can afford. Yet a birthday is an important event in the life of a child. Birthday Wishes was founded on the belief that every child, regardless of their living situation, should have their birthday recognized and celebrated. During the 12 years we have been providing birthday parties for homeless children, we have found that something as simple and ‘normal’ as a birthday party has the power to make these children feel both special, and like a “regular kid”.
The first parties were held at the Second Step shelter in Newton, MA. Within the first year, 8 more shelters were added, and within three years growth had doubled. Today Birthday Wishes serves more than 200 shelters and transitional living facilities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, NY and is slowly expanding into Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine. This growth has been fueled by both the rising number of homeless families as well as from community interest in volunteering.

Impact Statement

Over the past year Birthday Wishes reports the following achievements:
1. Our Birthday-in-a-Box Program delivered 3,377 boxes to birthday children and their families. 
2. We provided 971 on-site birthday parties at which 14,667 children participated
3. In total we served 33,736 Children, 5,414 of whom were birthday celebrants
4. We partnered with 218 shelters in four states: Massacusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, NY, and New Hampshire
5. More than 500 volunteers of all ages, participated in making these accomplishments possible.
6. We received nearly $400,000 in donated party suppulies
7. We partnered with the Boston College Center for Social Innovation which conducted a one-year social impact study on the impact of the Birthday Wishes program.   
In the coming year, Birthday Wishes will focus on program improvements and enhancements based on recommendations from the impact study including:
1. Increasing parent involvement
2. Strengthening communication with shelter staff
3. Enhance volunteer Party Coordinator Trainings
4. Consolidate regional offices (in progress) and identify large warehouse and office space for state-wide headquarters.
5. Create an inventory management system
6. Develop guidelines for developmentally appropriate gifts for all age groups  


Needs Statement

Birthday Wishes' top five needs:
1. Financial contributions: Despite our tremendous growth and success in reaching so many children, our organizational infrastructure has not kept pace with our growth in reach.  We need to increase our capacity in the areas of staffing and physical space in order to remain a leader in service that keeps families strong and kids confident while in shelter.  Our goal is to increase our cash budget by $500,000 over three years.
2. An Inventory Management System:  Once our office and inventory consolidation is complete at the end of 2016, we will be looking for assistance in identifying, purchasing, and implementing an inventory management system that will integrate with our Sales Force database. We have tens of thousands of party supplies that need to be more efficiently tracked coming in and going out of our program. 
3. Volunteers: We need dedicated volunteers to become Party Coordinators and BIAB Delivery Drivers.
3. Board Committee members: Fundraising & Development; Strategic Planning; Succession Planning; Finance and Risk Assesment
5. Sponsor CakeWalk: Participate in our signature fundraising event, CakeWalk in May. Sponsorships are essential to underwrite the cost associate with the event and to contribute to our fundraising goal. A sponsorship commitment brings with it a wide range of volunteer opportunities for employees, and their families, as well as many other benefits.

CEO Statement

Twelve years ago it was unimaginable that I would be writing a statement as the Executive Director of Birthday Wishes. This organization was born of a simple desire to engage children in helping other children. What started with a couple of families throwing parties at one shelter as a family volunteer project has grown into a program which served over 28,000 homeless children last year.
It is a testament to our grass-roots support and simplicity of mission that Birthday Wishes has been able to bring joy to so many homeless children using an all-volunteer run party model. Every month, hundreds of volunteers participate in supplying, planning, and running birthday parties. Half of these volunteers are children and young people.
Birthday Wishes greatest strengh is its simplicity of mission. If you ask most kids what their favorite day of the year is – Christmas & Halloween will get their share of votes – but their birthday will most likely trump all others. Children love that feeling of excitement and anticipation as their birthday approaches. But for a child living in a homeless shelter, this important childhood tradition is often overlooked and rarely celebrated with a real party. 

Because of the myriad complex and traumatic problems faced by these children, programs created to address them often overlook the simple act of providing joy and making a child feel loved and special, especially on their birthday. Yet this is essential to the healthy development of a child. 

Through our birthday parties, we foster a sense of stability, security, and self-worth in at-risk children; we provide role-modeling for parents; and help support a sense of community at the shelter. Our program touches all members of the homeless family, from infants to teens, as well as the parents, for whom being able to provide a birthday party for their child is as important as it is for any parent.  

Board Chair Statement

Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
In addition to Massachusetts, Birthday Wishes serves homeless families in Rhode Island, Long Island NY, New Hampshire, Hartford, CT and Waterville, ME.

Organization Categories

  1. Human Services - Children's and Youth Services
  2. Human Services - Family Services
  3. Human Services - Homeless Services/Centers

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



Birthday-in-a-Box Program

The Birthday-in-a-Box (BIAB) program serves "safe" and domestic violence shelters, scattered-site programs, hotels and other sites which cannot accommodate volunteers. Party supplies and individually wrapped birthday gifts are carefully packaged inside a brightly wrapped box and delivered to the program or agency for distribution. Each BIAB includes party decorations, goody bags, a craft and game, party hats and blowers, paper goods, juice boxes, and birthday cake mix, frosting and cake pan. Contents are customized to serve 5-10 people, depending on the request from the program, so that families can invite friends or other family members to celebrate.
Budget  $448,000.00
Category  Human Services, General/Other Children & Youth Services
Population Served Homeless Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Families
Program Short-Term Success 
Since 2008, demand for our Birthday in a Box program has tripled in size as a result of the expanded use of scattered site facilities by the state.  In addition to serving scattered site facilities, over the past two years, Birthday Wishes has successfully identified and provided Birthday Box parties for children who are living with their families in motels across the state. 
Program staff have shared that the Birthday-in-a-Box model has been particularly empowering for the moms, who bake their child's cake, and with the supplies provided, decorate, plan and run the party.  
Program Long-Term Success 
The Birthday in a Box program enables us to reach homeless children who are not in congregate or emergency shelters, and in many cases lack the support, cohesion, and structure of a more traditional shelter environment.  In these cases, the parent creates the party for the child using the supplies provided in the Birthday Wishes Box.  This makes feedback and tracking more challenging, but, when successful, provides an empowering experience for a parent and an opportunity for family strengthening.
Program Success Monitored By 

We use an annual survey to our BIAB Agency contacts to get feedback on the program.  Recently we began including an insert in our boxes which provides (in three languages) instruction on how to use the contents, and on the the reverse side, an e-mail address to which parents can send their feedback directly to Birthday Wishes.  This will help tremendously in knowing what supplies are being used, what might be missing, how supplies are being used, as well as stories from the parties.

Examples of Program Success 
In 2002, Birthday Wishes served one shelter. Today, we serve over 32,000 children in more than 200 agencies. Following are a few testimonials from shelters and children we serve:
"Piel loved her party and her gifts. I wish I could have captured the look in her face when she entered the room for you. The other residents put the party together for her, and it was lovely—we saw amazing group interaction. Birthday Wishes does amazing work! THANK YOU!  Jeannette YMCA Teen Living Program
"I recently moved out of a domestic violence shelter. I was there for 2 months with my 6 year old son. While we were there he celebrated his birthday and birthday wishes came to throw a party. It was amazing. I can not explain how much it meant to me. We are now in our own apartment and getting back on our feet.I am writing to ask how my son and I can volunteer and contribute to this amazing organization. I would like to help in any way possible.Thank you! Stacey


On-Site Party Program

On-Site Parties are held once a month at each of the shelters we serve, to celebrate all of the children with birthdays that month. All shelter residents are invited to attend. A typical party includes gifts for the birthday children, decorations, games and activities run by volunteers, goody bags, and a birthday cake with the birthday kids names written on it. Our parties are by design very simple, to demonstrate to parents that it does not take much to create a joyful and meaningful celebration, something they can take with them when they move out of shelter.
A volunteer Party Coordinator (PC) is assigned to each shelter and acts as a liaison between Birthday Wishes and the shelter to help plan, coordinate and run each party. PC's must make a commitment of at least 12 months, as it provides consistency to the parties and allows the PC to become familiar with the shelter culture, as well as the residents and staff.
Budget  $450,000.00
Category  Human Services, General/Other Children & Youth Services
Population Served Homeless Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Families
Program Short-Term Success 
This year, 32,000 homeless children will experience the joy of a Birthday Wishes birthday party.  This is made possible with the help of hundreds of volunteers, many of whom are children and young people. The children we served experience (many for the first time) the security and joy of being celebrated, and knowing the day they were born was a special day. Birthday Wishes is the first, and only, program in New England to provide this important experience to homeless children. Without our program, most shelters and families will not be able to fill this void. 
Program Long-Term Success 
The On-Site Party program addresses the debilitating effects of trauma experienced by homeless children by providing the necessary experience of play, joy and recognition of a child's special day. The gift of a birthday party provides normalcy in the otherwise unsettled lives of homeless children by making it possible to celebrate their birthdays joyfully, surrounded by family, friends and others who care. By contributing to their healthy development and self-esteem, these children will be less vulnerable and more resilient to the challenges they face.
Our goal is that through our parties, we can provide all the children we serve with a sense of stability, security, and self-worth; provide role-modeling for parents; and help foster a sense of community at the shelter, helping these children to better cope with, and mitigate, the trauma they experience as a result of being homeless.  
Program Success Monitored By 
We conduct annual shelter surveys which give us feedback on program quality in 8 different categories, as well as impact statements from each shelter staff liaison.  We also conduct volunteer surveys annually, which help ensure that we are training, coordinating, and supporting our key volunteers in the best way possible. Volunteer demographics, numbers, and retention are tracked, as are donations of party supplies, which help us evaluate cost effectiveness.  Since our founding, our primary and strongest measure of success has been overwhelmingly positive anecdotal evidence from the families and shelters we serve.  This comes in the form of personal thanks, written thank you notes, and a growing number of families coming back as volunteers after moving out of shelter.  However, we recognize the necessity of measured outcomes that can help us track our progress and improve our program.  In 2016, the Center for Social Innovation at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work completed a 12 month exploratory study of the impact of the Birthday Wishes program which provided qualitative results 
Examples of Program Success 
Birthday Wishes frequently receives cards and letters of gratitude from shelter staff and from the homeless families that we have served. Here is one such letter:
"Dear Volunteers at Birthday Wishes,
I was so taken back by the love and generosity that all of you showed not only myself and my grandson, but to all the other families in need. I never thought I would end up in a shelter, when just four months ago we were living in our own home. This has been a humbling experience. You've given me a new perspective to the meaning of better to give than to receive. It has also strengthened my faith in people. You all made my grandson happy and for that I am grateful."

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Birthday Wishes is committed to reaching every child in Massachusetts who doesn’t have a home, and making that child feel special on his or her birthday.  Collaboration with public and private agencies is instrumental in helping us identify and reach these children. 
Because of our unique mission and organizational structure, Birthday Wishes believes that collaboration with other organizations is an essential part of optimizing service delivery, increasing impact, and bringing together those with much to give with those in need. The Birthday Wishes program has proven to be an effective tool in engaging the communities in which it operates and over the past 14 years we have grown from serving one shelter to more than 200.  Despite our success in reaching so many children, our organizational infrastructure has not kept pace.  This gap in capacity needs to be addressed so that we may remain sustainable, relevant and impactful.  The recently completed Social Impact Study, along with an internal analysis identified program strengths as well as areas for improvement. Our focus now is on program and organizational improvements based on these findings that will result in a deeper and lasting impact on children experiencing homelessness.  Capacity building funding will be critical in achieving these goals.


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Lisa Vasiloff
CEO Term Start Oct 2007
CEO Email [email protected]
CEO Experience LISA VASILOFF, Co-Founder, Executive Director, Birthday Wishes, Inc. From 1992 until 2005, Lisa co-managed a Japanese bookstore in Cambridge, MA.  Prior to opening the bookstore, Lisa spent four years at the Japan Society of Boston, first as Program Director, and later as Director of Development. In this capacity, she organized cultural and educational events, managed fundraising and public relations activities, and produced the Society’s annual reports and monthly newsletters. In November 2002, Lisa founded Birthday Wishes and has been running the organization, first in a volunteer capacity, and since March 2007, as Executive Director. Lisa holds a Master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s Degree in History from University of Wisconsin,Oshkosh
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
-- -- --

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Denell Nuese Sr. Program & Operations Manager --


Award Awarding Organization Year
Community Impact Award Old Colony YMCA 2016
Volunteer of the Year St. Ambrose Family Shelter 2016
Family Advocate of the Year The Boston Parents Paper 2012
Second Step Founders' Award The Second Step 2010
Heroes Among Us Boston Celtics 2009
Organization of the Year Newton/Needham Chamber of Commerce 2007


Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --



CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 5
Number of Part Time Staff 4
Number of Volunteers 500
Number of Contract Staff 1
Staff Retention Rate % --

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 8
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 9
Male: 0
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 3
Management Succession Plan No
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Under Development
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Exempt
State Registration Exempt

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? N/A
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually


Board Chair Mr. Bob Boudreau
Board Chair Company Affiliation CEO, WinterWyman
Board Chair Term Sept 2015 - Sept 2017
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mike Albert Bain & Co. Voting
Mr. Bob Boudreau Winter Wyman Voting
Ms. Danielle Flynn Senior Associate Event Management, JP Morgan Chase Voting
Ms. Mojgan Lefebvre Liberty Mutual Voting
Mr. Robert Pagano VP of Brand Development, The Boston Beer Company Voting
Ms. Jamie Rapfogel Birthday Wishes, Long Island Voting
Mr. Glenn Ricciardelli Matson Driscoll & Damico Voting
Stephanie Taubin Biogen Voting
Ms. Lisa Vasiloff Birthday Wishes, Inc. Voting
Ms. Suzy Willard-Rosenthal Community Volunteer Voting
Alexis Wintersteen Community Volunteer Voting
Ms. Carol Zwanger President, Carol Zwanger CPA Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 11
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 1 - Iranian
Gender Female: 8
Male: 4
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 4
Board Meeting Attendance % --
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No

Standing Committees

  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Marketing
  • Technology

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Revenue $1,127,369 $975,771 $922,399
Total Expenses $1,215,126 $892,280 $797,370

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$155,757 $234,298 $227,167
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $204,113 $181,521 $181,285
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue -- -- --
Investment Income, Net of Losses $69 $284 $415
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events $185,204 $141,613 $148,045
Revenue In-Kind $568,035 $418,055 $365,487
Other $14,191 -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Program Expense $1,027,148 $734,610 $681,107
Administration Expense $43,844 $48,428 $48,026
Fundraising Expense $144,134 $109,242 $68,237
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 0.93 1.09 1.16
Program Expense/Total Expenses 85% 82% 85%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 26% 20% 12%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Assets $582,371 $671,080 $580,910
Current Assets $488,673 $602,306 $564,157
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $26,934 $27,886 $21,207
Total Net Assets $555,437 $643,194 $559,703

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value $0.00
Spending Policy N/A
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 6.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 18.14 21.60 26.60

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in charts and graphs are per the organization's audited financials.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


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