Ross Perot Jr. was late getting to North Texas Food Bank (NTFB)’s Jan’s Garden late yesterday afternoon. He admitted that he’d “never really liked traffic ‘til currently, but now I see traffic and think ‘Wow, we’re getting back to normal.’”
The occasion that drew Ross and other philanthropists and non-profits to the Plano site was the first anniversary of entrepreneurs Patrick Brandt’s and Anurag Jain’s brainchild “Get Shift Done.”
The two co-founders of the non-profit initiative recalled those early days just as the pandemic officially got underway on Saturday, March 14, 2020. At the time AccessHealth Chair Anurag was NTFB’s board chair and voiced concern about NTFB’s loss of volunteers and the growing needs for its services. On the other hand, Patrick, who had co-founded the “labor management platform serving the modern workforce,” Shiftsmart, was receiving calls from customers like Google that were reducing their programs in retail.
There they were — one man with technology for workers; another who was in need of workers. Using their noggins, they came up with a plan creating non-profit — Get Shift Done — as the philanthropic arm of Shiftsmart to connect a mammoth number of suddenly out-of-work restaurant workers with the in-need non-profit schools and food banks/pantries.
Between the two of them and their network of contacts, they got to work placing calls that Saturday and Sunday to area philanthropists and influencers with the goal of supporting the project to connect laid-off restaurant workers with area non-profits in need of help.
Within a matter of four days, they were not only up and running but exceeding their own expectations despite the pandemic’s impact growing dramatically. As a result, Get Shift Done coordinated 28,000 workers to earn nearly $15M to handle 1M shift hours for 110 non-profits providing more than 60M meals.
Patrick admitted that there was an “Oops!” in locking down the organization’s name. It seems that the domain name “Get Shift Done” was a bargain going for $9.99. What they didn’t know was another group had trademarked the name and they were suing. “The best part of that story is they turned around and not only granted us a license but became a national sponsor.”
And what would an anniversary celebration be without gifts? NTFB President/CEO Trisha Cunningham surprised Anurag and Patrick with a proclamation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott saluting their program by recognizing it as “the best company, most innovative not-for-profit organization.”
This proclamation joins other accolades, including Fast Company’s double recognition in its “World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021” — #1 Not-For Profit and #28 in the overall list.
Everyone seemed to have their own story of how they became part of the Get Shift Done success story.
Ross was one of the first to receive a call. He fessed up that he was an easy target for Anurag’s and Patrick’s project, since his aunt Bette Perot had been “one of the team that founded the food bank of North Texas” more than 40 years ago. “If I hadn’t said ‘Yes” to your request, my aunt Bette would have been upset.”
In addition to having been a business partner with Patrick for almost 20 years and more recently with Anurag, Ross recognized the contributions that Anurag and his wife Gunjan Jain had provided since “they’ve been part of our country for four years ago and having moved their family from India.”
With a twinkle in his eye, Ross looked in Patrick’s direction and said, “Patrick, your idea of going from a for-profit to a not-for-profit… as one of your early investors, it may be time to get back to being a for-profit.”
Patrick responded, “Ross, there is no coincidence that the shareholders letter went out today.”
Another guests who had flown in from California for the anniversary festivities was NTFB Co-Founder Kathryn Hall. The diminutive blonde recalled how she and Bette had provided 300,000 meals that first year and thought “We would take care of hunger in about a year.” She laughed at that thought. During this past year the NTFB provided nearly 120M meals to North Texans.
Proving that she’s still a loyal supporter of fighting hunger, she told how when she and husband Craig Hall received the email request for support, they responded with one word — “Yes!” Why, they even provided the wine for the anniversary’s festivities that included Paige Westhoff, Regen Horchow, Sejal Desai, Chad Houser, Erica Yaeger and more than 75 other guests.
In appreciation of Ross’ and Kathryn’s support, they were both presented with custom-made “shift-kicker” boots.
Another one who came on board was George W. Bush Institute Executive Director Ken Hersh, who said it was an “easy yes because it was such a great idea.” Ken told the crowd that instead of Get Shift Done’s success story taking place in four days, it had actually been 40 years and four days because of the relationships built over the years. Ken recalled how when the Institute initiated the Bush Institute Trailblazer Citation in 2018, the late Jan Pruitt, who had led NTFB for decades, had been the first recipient.
Due to the Institute’s policy limitations in support of local programs, Ken walked the idea around the halls and found creative ways to get promote Get Shift Done (i.e. The Stratergist, social media, The 43 Club, etc.). He himself couldn’t resist his Hersh Foundation getting on board and providing financial support. Ken even managed to get “a secret check” by “a certain former federal official” because “his wife, a former first lady, was elbowing him under the table.”
Like Ken, Communities Foundation of Texas President/CEO Dave Scullin received a call from Anurag and went beyond the original “ask.” He was “stunned” by the idea. So much so, “That before I could restrain myself, I blurted out, ‘We’re in!’” He was so impressed that he immediately “started mobilizing his network nationally, resulting in 11 other smart community foundation CEOs deciding they wanted to do something with it. And, by the way, they were helpful in bringing in initial money for it.”
He pointed out that, “We have one of the top-giving communities not just in the country but in the world. People who live here on the average give 4% of their income to help others, mostly here. That is almost unheard in other communities. Similarly we are steeped in entrepreneurship and innovation to support each other and all these elements, when you add to it we have a propensity to jump in and help each other when it’s needed… Those elements are in spectacular visibility for Get Shift Done.”
Minnie’s Food Pantry Founder Cheryl Jackson gave a firsthand report on how her well-known program was on the verge of disaster due to lack of help. Before the pandemic started a year ago, they were providing 1.4M meals to the community annually. That number skyrocketed to more than 5M in 2020. Cheryl and her staff of 17 were at their breaking point as the calls from churches, senior citizens organizations and schools reached out to her for food assistance. “Then somebody mentioned something about a company called ‘Get Shift Done.’” She got on the internet, applied for help and got approved. Her immediate response: “Oh, my God, life is changing!” Then she admitted that without Get Shift Done, she doesn’t think the Pantry would have survived.
Patrick added to Cheryl’s story by saying that among the key supporters who weren’t able to attend, like United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Lyda Hill, Mark Cuban had played an interesting role in regards to Cheryl. “She was getting close to the end of being able to have workers show up and she sent an email and within three or eight minutes, he responded, ‘’This is how much I’ll pay to keep you going until the end.’ And he’s done it over and over for her and you can see why.”