“When it comes to people in crisis, communications can be the bridge between life and death,” tweeted Erin Reilly, vice president of social impact at Twilio and general manager of its social impact arm, Twilio.org, earlier this year, as she described the drive behind Twilio’s social mission that is intertwined with its core business.
Today, Twilio.org pledged to dedicate 50 percent of its resources to nonprofits working in crisis response related to substance abuse, sexual assault, mental health, domestic abuse and disaster relief. This is in addition to the $5 million in grants Twilio.org will commit to nonprofits from its Impact Fund by the end of 2019. Twilio.org also has 3,500 Impact Access program members, which are nonprofits that have received $500 of credit in donated product, representing an additional $1.75 million in product donations. This adds up to $11.25 million in Twilio.org grants and product donations since 2017.
Twilio is a $16 billion cloud communications company that facilitates communications by enabling phones, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and messaging to be embedded into Web, desktop and mobile software. Launched in 2008, today Twilio has 64,000 customers across 180 countries, with a revenue of approximately $650 million in 2018. Some of its customers include Match.com, Airbnb, American Red Cross, Whatsapp, Salesforce and the New York Times.
“Early on, we saw a trend of nonprofits using Twilio to help advance their missions, so we wanted to make sure that our technology is easily accessible to them," Reilly told 3p. "That’s why we launched Twilio.org in 2013 by providing $500 credit and 25 percent discount to qualifying nonprofits. We generate revenue from nonprofits that pay us to use our product, albeit at a discounted rate. That gives Twilio.org resources to reinvest into social impact."
Twilio.org gained more momentum by participating in the Pledge One Percent movement, committing 1 percent of the company’s equity to fund Twilio.org for 10 years. “Prior to taking the pledge, we knew we wanted to prioritize social impact, but we hadn’t committed a number to the cause," Reilly explained when asked about the rationale behind participating in the program. "We had already donated and discounted our product, and engaged our employees, but we wanted to step it up by committing our equity. Pledge One Percent provided a clear precedent that we could follow. Even when we acquired Sendgrid, who was also a Pledge One Percent member, we added the value of one percent of its equity to Twilio’s pledge.”
Twilio.org’s commitment of 50 percent of its resources for nonprofits working in crisis communications also includes the establishment of the Crisis Response Technology Network, which will bring together organizations delivering crisis response at scale via technology. Engineers and program specialists will convene quarterly to identify barriers and opportunities to utilizing technology to improve response times and serve more people who are in crisis.
Charter members of the network as announced at Twilio's Signal conference are nonprofits RAINN, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (Center on Addiction), Child Helpline International, Tech Matters, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the Trevor Project. The Network is open for membership to nonprofit organizations that are utilizing communications technology to better serve communities in times of crisis.
Twilio’s venture into social impact has not only strengthened the value proposition of the company, but also its relationship with clients and employees: “Our commitment to Twilio.org has also reassured our for-profit clients," Reilly told us. "When a business sees our commitment to supporting a suicide helpline and staking its effectiveness on the reliability of our networks, they know that we can handle big challenges. For our employees, the Twilio.org commitment has a similar effect. Employees are going to do the extra work to test the platform because they know that every message matters.”
“At the end of the day, social impact will not be successful if it’s a ‘nice-to-have,'" she concluded. "I believe that the success of the ‘for-profit’ and ‘for-good’ arms of Twilio are intertwined. As one grows, so does the other. Creating a virtuous cycle between the two and actively making them inextricably tied is important for the sustainability of both efforts."
Image credits: Twilio.org; Arseny Togulev/Unsplash
Abha Malpani is a writer and communications professional who works towards helping businesses grow in Dubai. She is a strong believer in the triple bottom line and keen to make a difference. In her endeavor to start something of her own, she co-founded Start with Something, a website highlighting stories of people and organizations that are changing the world. She hopes that what she writes will inspire her and others to start something that has an impact. She is also a volunteer member of +Acumen Corps. One day she hopes to have her own social enterprise.