Friday, March 19th, marks the one year anniversary of Get Shift Done, a non-profit initiative that was launched in response to COVID-19 to pay a living wage to newly unemployed hospitality workers to fill the gap of volunteer shifts in hunger relief organizations, such as food banks, food pantries, and school systems. Created and in action in four days by serial entrepreneurs Patrick Brandt and Anurag Jain, the program rapidly expanded across the country with over 28,000 workers, 12 regions, and 110 non-profit agencies. In just one year, workers have completed almost one million shifts, served 60 million meals, and have been paid nearly $15 million wages for their work. Get Shift Done was ranked No. 1 under the Not-for-Profit category in Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021. The initiative was also named No. 28 in their World’s Top 50 Most Innovative Companies list. It was a milestone first year by any industry standard.
The initiative’s ramp-up period was short, beginning with a phone call on March 14, 2020 between Patrick Brandt, Co-founder of Get Shift Done and President and Co-founder of Shiftsmart, and Anurag Jain, Co-founder of Get Shift Done and Chairman of AccessHealthcare. At the time, Jain was serving as Board Chairman of the North Texas Food Bank and concerned about the non-profit’s loss of volunteers due to COVID-19 health safety concerns just as the demand for food distribution to their underserved communities was spiking. Through Shiftsmart, a labor management platform serving the modern workforce, Brandt saw hospitality and service workers losing shifts due to capacity limitations imposed on restaurants and hotels. Together, Jain and Brandt devised a plan to staff charitable organizations dedicated to hunger relief with unemployed hospitality workers by utilizing Shiftsmart’s technology.
“I will never forget that week in March. From Anurag’s phone call on Sunday afternoon to the first shift on Thursday, we were in a full sprint for four days,” said Brandt. “In less than a week there were workers at North Texas Food Bank earning supplemental income packing food boxes to be placed on the tables of North Texans in need. It is inspiring to be part of such a powerful collaboration of community organizations, philanthropists, businesses, and hunger relief providers who all mobilized quickly to impact so many negatively affected by the pandemic.”
As workers were arriving at North Texas Food Bank for the first day of shifts, Shiftsmart’s Founder and CEO, Aakash Kumar, was on the floor of the food bank’s warehouse managing the Shiftsmart platform to ensure all was running smoothly to register and schedule additional shifts. At the same time, North Texas Food Bank was working to implement all CDC health protocols to screen every Get Shift Done worker that arrived at the food bank.
Within days of the initial North Texas commencement, other municipalities were contacting Get Shift Done requesting assistance in meeting the needs of the food insecure in their areas. The organization began identifying strong partners in those communities to direct them to food relief providers with solid infrastructures in order to scale the model nationally. Get Shift Done for North America was soon launched to partner with regions beyond Dallas and Fort Worth. The program expanded to Austin, Central Arkansas, El Paso, Houston, New Orleans, Northwest Arkansas, Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio and Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia.
“What a year it has been. We never dreamed that what we thought would be needed for 10-12 weeks in North Texas would grow to an entire year and reach thousands of Americans,” said Jain. “ 'How will I feed people?' was my immediate concern when the government mandated stay-at-home requirements and I was serving as Board Chairman of the North Texas Food Bank. Get Shift Done allowed us to quickly provide meals to vulnerable populations. It has been an honor to help serve our neighbors in need through this initiative.”
Get Shift Done was able to help bring stabilization to economies by putting skilled workers back to work in their communities. Matching the workers with the food access providers was accomplished using the Shiftsmart platform, which was provided at no cost to the non-profit groups. Shiftsmart’s operations team, leveraging its technology platform, wasinstrumental in launching the inspired program in multiple regions among more than 110 hunger relief organizations by managing the entire program end-to-end including onboarding, matching, scheduling, dispatching, routing and paying workers to perform shifts with the various non-profits. The initiative has surpassed its mission by not only providing income for adversely affected hourly workers in the hospitality industry but also a sense of purpose and community for those displaced from their jobs.
“The beauty of this initiative is the alliance of communities and the unity of working toward the common good,” said Jain. “Two groups of people needed one another: the displaced workers and those who manage the food banks and pantries.”
Get Shift Done was launched with the help of founding supporters that include AccessHealthcare, Communities Foundation of Texas, Mark Cuban, Craig and Kathryn Hall, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Margot Perot and Family, Sarah and Ross Perot Jr. Foundation, Katherine Perot Reeves and Eric Reeves, Shiftsmart and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas who were soon joined by national supporters Capital One and When I Work.
What’s on the horizon for Get Shift Done? With hopes that the pandemic will soon begin to trend downward, and food access providers can return to their pre-COVID-19 volunteer schedules, organizers see this model as an ongoing solution to future community needs. The dramatic and sudden decrease in volunteers at non-profits during the coronavirus crisis created an opportunity to reassess if that structure is sustainable through the near future and future generations.
“This movement marked a fundamental change in community service and was built to provide economic stabilization for workers and to support food insecure populations. We have been humbled daily by those who worked in the food banks and by those who financially supported the initiative. We hope to see the Get Shift Done model continue to offer assistance to hunger relief in our nation,” said Brandt.