In 2013, Jeff Lawson’s telecommunications API provider company Twilio had done pretty well appealing to developers. But then he thought about how nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations could benefit from its technology, and this led to the formation of Twilio.org, a foundation to deliver “a billion messages for good.”
And while the company has been working on building out the business, moving closer to what may be a public offering, Twilio is looking to put more structure on its charitable medium. It has named ex-Googler Erin Reilly as the first executive director for Twilio.org and also added Salesforce’s chief philanthropy officer Suzanne DiBianca to its board of advisors.
Formerly the head of access and energy marketing at Google, Reilly oversaw the company’s work around energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green products. She also had a somewhat similar role before that at Yahoo, where she built out the social impact division for the search engine/media/technology company. It’s that social and civic responsibility that Twilio perhaps thinks will guide Twilio.org to the next level.
“Nonprofits want to use technology to further their missions, and developers have skills to help them do that,” she told VentureBeat. “I’ve … noticed a lot of impressive examples of how nonprofits are using Twilio to do good. Many of those use cases could be adopted by other nonprofits on a national or international scale, and I’d like to make it easier for that widespread adoption to occur.”
To date, more than 700 nonprofits — including those researching Parkinson’s, studying mental health, or dispatching emergency response teams to crisis-prone areas — have received discounts on products and services from Twilio. “Twilio.org has also expanded its mission internationally where many nonprofits are now using Twilio’s platform to serve their communities,” Reilly said.
In the past, some of the organizations that Twilio has benefited include the Polaris Project and Thorn, which developed a “BeFree” campaign to help combat child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The concept was to feature a text shortcode in bus shelter advertisements that was only visible to children.
Reilly takes over leadership of the foundation from Twilio senior manager Erika Balbuena. Balbuena had helmed the program since its launch in 2013, and the company said she’ll be working alongside Reilly.
DiBianca’s inclusion in the foundation highlights philanthropic ties that Twilio has with Salesforce. Within the tech industry, Salesforce has been at the forefront of giving back, perhaps most recognizably with its 1-1-1 initiative. It’s because of this that Twilio recently committed to donating 1 percent of its equity toward its own philanthropic efforts via Twilio.org. DiBianca is the one overseeing all of Salesforce’s social good efforts; by having her on Twilio.org’s board of advisors, Lawson likely hopes to guide the foundation to tackle bigger problems and scale as the mission expands.
DiBianca joins other board members, including Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter, Kapor Center for Social Impact’s Mitch Kapor, Catoo Partners’ Judy Levine, and Code for America’s Abhi Nemani.