Impact Heroes: Innovating for good through the pandemic and beyond

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    Jannet Park
  • Feb 23, 2021

In a time of unprecedented crisis, nonprofits across the world helped millions of people through efforts ranging from crisis helplines, to food distribution, to resources to reach loved ones, and much more. See their inspiring stories below.

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In 2020, we highlighted the organizations that rose up during a time of unprecedented crisis, providing outsized impact to help people in need.

We called them our Community Heroes, and shared how these teams drove real, positive change during the pandemic. Some are Twilio customers, and some are recipients of our grant program, facilitated through the nonprofit arm of Twilio,

As the pandemic has worn on, the unfailing efforts made by these and many other nonprofits has shown no signs of slowing down. If anything, they’ve amplified their response. 

To recognize these ongoing innovation and efforts, we’ve updated our campaign and invite you to meet a new group of Impact Heroes driving positive change through’s three impact focus areas: responding to crisis, inspiring action, and building better lives for others. Then, dive deeper into the stories behind their efforts in our newly-released Impact Report.

Responding to crisis

With the multitude of crises in the past year, nonprofits have innovated to scale their ability to help people in acute crises, or those facing an immediate threat to their wellbeing. Many of our partners provide these services through crisis helplines and hotlines.

The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth, saw a 22 percent increase in the number of callers served in the six months of relaunching their platform. To better engage those in need, they adopted Twilio Programmable Messaging for their text messaging program and cut a 10-second delay for every message sent on their old platform. That saves 10 minutes per conversation on average, allowing them to serve more people and provide critical support to LGBTQ youth.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) developed the Digital Community Hub, an omni-channel community engagement solution, and is using Twilio Flex to provide two-way communications to people who have been displaced from their homes.

Their Hub uses Twilio in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Myanmar, and Libya to expand the reach of humanitarian response beyond in-person contact. The contact center in Colombia alone has managed more than 8,500 calls since July, and supports Colombian communities as well as Venezuelan refugees. In Libya, the NRC contact center there managed more than 20,000 in its first two weeks of operation.

In the first quarter of launching its helpline in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the International Rescue Committee helped more than 3,400 people and powered more than 25,000 messages. They launched Signpost, a mobile website for life-saving information on legal aid, housing, food, and healthcare, at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. Following that successful launch, IRC wanted to expand the program to address needs of displaced people in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. 

IRC learned that people in the region would prefer to engage over WhatsApp to get trusted information instead of reviewing a website. They chose Twilio’s cloud contact center, Twilio Flex, to build their helpline. Using Twilio Flex, IRC was able to engage refugees over WhatsApp, build chatbots, and integrate their internal case management system.

Now, when a refugee or displaced person reaches out to the Signpost Twilio-powered WhatsApp number, they get an immediate response. The return message provides a series of topics the refugee could learn more about, from COVID-19 health information, to legal support, women’s health, food security, housing, and more. When they ask about a particular topic, the bot responds with more resources for that topic. If a refugee has a unique question or wants to talk to a person, the chatbot seamlessly connects them to a trained moderator.

At TrekMedics, Twilio's suite of communications solutions has helped the team build and strengthen emergency response networks in nearly 20 countries, making it possible for networks of all sizes to alert, coordinate and track emergency responders using SMS, push notifications and voice calls. 

In 2020, community responders used TrekMedics’ Beacon emergency dispatch platform to respond to 305 victims of opioid overdoses in Hartford, CT, and 1,640 victims of domestic violence in Las Vegas.

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Inspiring action

These organizations have engaged and inspired people around the world to take action for good. Our Impact Heroes mobilized people for positive social change by organizing communities, advocating for causes, or contacting public officials.

Democracy Works, a voter advocacy and get-out-the-vote nonprofit, provided millions of voters with the information they needed to vote and ensure their voices were heard in the 2020 U.S. election. Powered by Twilio, they sent nearly 7 million election reminders and helped nearly 200,000 voters with custom, one-on-one support.

DoSomething also drove voter engagement in the historic 2020 election, using Twilio Programmable Messaging to power its text messaging program and inspire millions of young people to create change in their communities. In 2020, DoSomething members turned out to the polls in record numbers while also working to dismantle racism, respond to the pandemic, and more. More than 8,500 members made personalized voting plans via the organization’s SMS program, and on election day itself, the organization provided key resources to more than 800,000 members.

DonorsChoose is a United States-based nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects. Email is a key component of their operations, accounting for 34 percent of revenue coming in from citizen donors. Using Twilio SendGrid, DonorsChoose helped 95,000 teachers get the supplies they needed to teach during the pandemic. 

Building better lives

While many organizations readily tackled acute crises, these Impact Heroes set their sights on improving the long-term outcomes and well-being of people. They connected those at risk with resources to build better lives through education, financial resources, healthcare, and more.

Year Up's mission is to close the opportunity divide by ensuring young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. Since its founding in 2000, Year Up has served more than 30,000 young adults across the country through its year-long intensive program. In 2020, it furthered its mission to close the Opportunity Divide with support from a Impact Fund grant. By combining technical and professional skills training, an authentic work experience, and wraparound support services, Year Up positions students for success in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the community.

SMASH, a STEM-focused college preparatory program that has served more than 1,600 scholars, has received support from Twilio for seven years, and in 2020, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson personally toured the SMASH UCLA site to speak with scholars and staff. Twilio also donated $100,000 in 2020 to help SMASH leaders make the transition to an all-virtual program in response to COVID-19.

NPower—which helps move people from poverty to the middle class through tech skills training and quality job placement—used Twilio grant funding be nimble and adapt to the changing needs and challenges our students face. The organization is enabling individuals across all NPower regions to enroll in its Tech Fundamentals program, preparing them for tech careers and placing them on pathways towards economic prosperity. In the midst of the pandemic, NPower shifted gears to virtually train and support nearly 1,000 veterans and young adults from underserved communities in 2020. NPower graduates earn an average of 361 percent more when they start their tech careers.

Black Girls CODE received grant support from in 2020 to help expand the organization’s reach, particularly as they transitioned the entire program to an all-virtual experience. It’s leaders said Twilio’s support will help the organization reach its goal of teaching one million girls to code by 2040.

In 2020, Mount Sinai Health Partners (MSHP) launched several initiatives leveraging programmable messaging to better serve patients. They used texting to engage patients through a new program, Connected Hearts, to help patients better manage their hypertension and answer questions as they arise. Also in 2020, the team used Twilio to send nearly 10,000 unique patients text messages with critical resources to address food insecurity, mental health crisis, medication needs, and COVID-19 support. 

Learn more about the organizations driving positive change through communication and technology in our newly released Impact Report, with in-depth stories of customers and grantees and a behind-the-scenes look at how they helped more than 266 million people last year—or get in touch, at

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Jannet Park

Jannet Park is a solutions marketer for, working alongside mission-driven organizations using technology to create positive change and action in the world.