When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, many changemakers had to come up with creative new ways to engage their teams in social impact work, now that in-person volunteer days and fundraising events were off the table.
But others, such as Sueli Shaw from DoorDash, found that their companies already had the right systems in place to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic. The challenge was making these systems bigger — and adjusting them to the new circumstances.
Delivering to Doorsteps
Sueli joined the DoorDash team as the head of social impact back in 2018. She spent much of her time during her first few months on the job sorting out the logistics for Project DASH, an initiative the company had recently started to partner with governments and nonprofits on last-mile delivery initiatives.
For the first two years of the initiative, Project DASH primarily supported food recovery organizations, and most Project DASH deliveries were delivered to gathering places, such as soup kitchens and food pantries. But once the pandemic hit, DoorDash expanded the initiative by building technology that allowed drivers to pick up multiple packages from community organizations and deliver them on a route directly to the homes of seniors, the immunocompromised, and people facing food insecurity.
Sueli says that, during the pandemic, more nonprofit and government partners have been reaching out to her team than ever before. In 2020, DoorDash facilitated over 400,000 deliveries of items including food, mental health kits, diapers, and school supplies through Project DASH.
Sueli says that helping the social sector with last-mile delivery is more than just a “pandemic solution.” Representatives from food banks have been telling DoorDash that, pandemic or no pandemic, the delivery help has given them the ability to provide food to more people, with more efficiency and dignity.
“We know that last-mile delivery has changed the game for businesses, right? Well, I think that last-mile delivery has the power to transform the way that the social sector supports communities too. And the pandemic has just accelerated that, right? So I’m really proud that I can say DoorDash is invested in this work for the long term, and we’re just at the beginning.”
The Work Behind the Wheel
Project DASH deliveries wouldn’t be possible without DoorDash’s community of delivery workers, or “Dashers.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dashers have been frontline essential workers. They’ve ensured that restaurants can keep serving their communities and that people, particularly those who are vulnerable, continue to have access to food and other supplies.”
Sueli also says that DoorDash employees are “huge champions” of DoorDash’s social impact work, and her team works to get them involved by incorporating employee resource groups into decision-making processes. Employee hackathons are responsible for some of DoorDash’s impact initiatives, including Project DASH and Kitchens without Borders — a DoorDash program that supports restaurants owned by immigrants and refugees.
A big part of DoorDash’s social impact work involves supporting restaurants. Once COVID-19 upended the food service industry, DoorDash launched a series of relief programs designed to support restaurants, which included a 50 percent reduction in commission fees for local businesses in April and May of 2020.
In March, the company selected 100 businesses to take part in the first-ever Main Street Strong Accelerator. The program is providing 100 small businesses with a $20,000 grant and eight-week training course. Many of the businesses are owned by immigrants, women, or people of color.
“[Restaurants] are just so important to our cities. … They’re critical to our culture and who we are as a society.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, DoorDash launched #OpenForDelivery, a marketing campaign designed to acknowledge the importance of restaurants in their communities and encourage people to continue supporting them through the pandemic.
Earlier this year, DoorDash ran a Super Bowl ad featuring Daveed Diggs and the Sesame Street gang teaching Big Bird about all of the businesses he could support in his neighborhood. A portion of DoorDash’s sales from Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday went to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street and several other educational kids programs.
Sueli says that the commercial was created from a combined effort between Sesame Workshop and DoorDash’s brand team.
“This is one that I absolutely love, but I can’t take credit for it. … I think it’s yet another example of how social impact isn’t just confined to my role or my team. It’s ingrained across the business.”
Listen to the full episode to learn more about social impact at DoorDash and hear Sueli’s advice for those looking to get involved in social impact work>