The 10 Most Innovative Nonprofits of 2021


This year’s finalists in the Most Innovative Businesses nonprofit category persevered through the 2020 trials, finding original and effective ways to reach those in need, to tackle the complex crises that emerged during the pandemic and make voices heard that for too long have not been heard.

1. Do your shift

To fight both job loss and hunger by paying hotel workers to fill food bank shifts

Seeing pantries and shelters struggling to meet the growing needs of unemployed Americans during the pandemic, Patrick Brandt, president of Shiftsmart, and Anurag Jain, president emeritus of the North Texas Food Bank, had an idea: to pay workers at the hotel industry moved to fill the food. Bank transfers. Thanks to private donations, they launched a local effort which was only to last 12 weeks. It has since spread to a dozen cities, including Washington, DC, El Paso and New Orleans, and has been activated in 110 nonprofits. More than 20,000 people who have been laid off or fired from their hospitality jobs are now registered on the Shiftsmart app, working for nonprofits to provide food to others in need while by earning an income themselves. So far, workers have worked nearly a million shift hours, serving more than 60 million emergency meals. And they were paid almost $ 15 million for their work.

2. United Nations World Food Program Innovation Accelerator

To use big data and artificial intelligence to reach those most vulnerable to food insecurity

There are 690 million undernourished people in the world, and by 2030, 840 million people could go hungry. But the World Food Program (WFP) Innovation Accelerator wants a different reality by 2030: global hunger and food insecurity eliminated. To get there, he’s testing all kinds of solutions, from blockchain technology that provides money to virtual wallets, so refugees can buy food in remote locations, to an online store that allows vulnerable people in Tanzania to order food online. The latter started in March 2020 and by July it was already reaching $ 1.4 million in monthly sales. Throughout the year, WFP scaled up 11 projects that directly affected more than 1.4 million people the previous year. WFP also unveiled HungerMap Live, a tool to monitor both COVID-19 outbreaks and food insecurity in real time, enabling a more effective humanitarian response.

3. Color of change

For pressuring Facebook to stop profiting from hate

In response to hate speech and disinformation plaguing Facebook, Change color– with other civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League – launched #StopHateForProfit, a campaign that pushed over 1,000 major advertisers to stop spending money on ads Facebook to demand justice and accountability from the tech giant. Verizon, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Starbucks were among the companies that suspended their advertising on Facebook, which represents millions of lost profits. The effort may not have crippled the company, but it was a step towards empowering Facebook.

4. UNICEF United States

For providing financial guarantees so that low-income countries can obtain PPE

When the pandemic began, low- and middle-income countries could not cope with the sudden cost of supplies like PPE, which would be crucial to keeping their populations safe. Unicef stepped in, creating a quick fund to help its procurement division secure PPE and other large-scale COVID-19 supplies. The Fast Fund provided guarantees for all upfront payments needed for such deliveries, so more than 90 low- and middle-income countries wouldn’t have to wait to get what they needed. By assuming this financial risk, UNICEF could quickly deliver PPE directly from manufacturers to frontline workers in the most vulnerable communities.

5. Tilt

For bringing the telethon to TikTok

Since 2015, tilt has partnered with Twitch to enable content creators like gamers to fundraise while streaming. In 2020, it expanded with an exclusive integration with TikTok, bringing its updated telethons to the fastest growing social media app. A sticker to be donated to a TikTok user’s charity of choice can appear on their videos or live broadcasts, allowing viewers to donate with just the press of an on-screen button and without leaving the application. When entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk broadcast live for Meals on Wheels, he raised $ 2.3 million (of which TikTok matched $ 1.15 million) in 12 hours.

6. Project feedback

For helping former prisoners re-enter society during the pandemic

Project feedback has long helped formerly incarcerated people find employment upon release. During the pandemic, however, jobs were lost, making it more difficult for people to re-enter society. To create employment opportunities, the nonprofit expanded its real estate solutions company PROPS – which provided landscape and commercial cleaning services – into a COVID-19 cleaning company called PROPS Disinfecting. People released from jail during the pandemic could work to clean the offices of other nonprofits and disinfect apartments and businesses around Nashville. And with these jobs, they have a chance to live life to the fullest and for free after imprisonment.

7. Pillars Fund

For amplifying the voice of Muslims by creating their own story

Muslim representation in the media is still limited; viewers can only see Mulsim characters if they represent a terrorist or are completely veiled. Pillars Fund strives to change this public perception of what an extremely diverse community is by allowing Muslims to tell their own stories. In 2020, the nonprofit launched two new initiatives: the Muslim Narrative Change Cohort, a group of 10 artists, academics and others working to change the stories of Muslims in the public eye; and The Muslim List, a partnership with The Black List and the Muslim Public Affairs Council to highlight Muslim screenwriters.

8. The Kind Foundation

To match businesses looking to donate goods with first responders

In April, TYPE wanted to donate snacks to essential workers, but quickly ran into obstacles: decision-makers in hospitals and health facilities were too overwhelmed to facilitate such donations. KIND wasn’t the only company struggling to distribute their products, so they decided to make the process of donating anything to nurses and doctors a little easier with The Frontline Impact projectt. On this platform, donors – from frozen meals from Saffron Road to Zico coconut water – are matched with first responders, depending on geography or other factors that facilitate the donation. Nurses, doctors and paramedics can also use the site to request resources. The project has expanded from food to things like personal care items and even accommodation and transportation. As of March 2021, 80 brands had signed up, including Mary Kay, Glossier and Sakara Life, and they had donated more than six million products. And the KIND Foundation has also extended beyond the pandemic, to secure donations to those on the front lines of natural disasters like wildfires and floods.

9. Donate directly

For increasing its direct cash payments as global poverty is on the verge of rising

For years, Give directly made cash payments directly to those in need. In 2020, as global poverty is expected to rise for the first time in 20 years due to the pandemic and its economic impact, that need has skyrocketed – and GiveDirectly has responded by providing more money than ever before. In 2019, the association had committed around $ 34 million in cash transfers. Even before the end of 2020, it shipped over $ 132 million, reaching over 256,000 people. In the absence of physical contact, some of these donations were made possible thanks to new technologies: in Togo and Uganda, to find out where this money was most needed, GiveDirectly used satellite imagery, telephone data and machine learning to find the most vulnerable. and pay them remotely.

10. New story

To collect data to understand who needs rent relief

When the pandemic forced New story To suspend its homebuilding efforts, the nonprofit has focused on rent relief in order to continue its mission to end homelessness. The first step in helping people stay in their homes is finding those in need of rental assistance. With its data collection tool Felix, New Story surveyed communities quickly and safely, measuring changes in income, emotional health, family size, rent rates and whether they were eligible for government assistance. . With this data, New Story built the Neighborhood, a platform for people to donate for a family’s rent.

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