A lot of people think about social impact initiatives as purely philanthropic, a side project a company takes on to give back, something that is separate from the financials and commercially driven initiatives of a business. In Twilio.org, Twilio’s social impact program, we don’t take this approach.
In the past three years since launching Twilio.org, we’ve learned that social responsibility must be as critical to our success as a company as any other initiative. We actively build ties so that when we build a better company, we also increase our ability to generate social impact. And when our social impact program grows, so too does our business. Creating a virtuous cycle between the two and actively making them inextricably tied is important for the sustainability of both efforts.
Pledge 1% influenced Twilio’s ability to create this virtuous cycle so that Twilio was no longer “a business with a social impact program” but instead a corporation that does good while creating value. Prior to taking the pledge, we knew we wanted to prioritize social impact, but we hadn’t committed a number to the cause. We had already donated and discounted our product, as well as engaged our employees, but we wanted to step it up by committing our equity. Pledge 1% provided a clear precedent that we could follow of some other great companies that committed 1% equity to social impact.
We’ve seen the impact of our commitment in a few ways already. It reinforced the virtuous cycle between social impact and our business because as Twilio.org generates more impact with nonprofits using our platform, the company does better and our equity is more highly valued, so we have more resources for social impact. Our commitment to Twilio.org has also reassured some of our for-profit clients. When a business sees that we are willing to stake our reliability on a suicide helpline, they know that we can handle other big challenges, too. 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. The platform you’re building may be the one that connects someone in crisis with a counselor on Crisis Text Line, brings a doctor to the aid of a child on the verge of drowning through Trek Medics, or connects a victim of a natural disaster with help via the American Red Cross.
At the end of the day, social impact will not be successful if it’s a “nice to have.” Put the full weight of the company behind your program, and you will be amazed by the impact it has on the strength of your business, your customer’s trust in you as a company, and your employee culture.
The following post was written by Erin Reilly, Executive Director of Twilio.org